The first step in our journey is to click here to Download Go Disco from the App Store and pull up our featured item in the app.Then, open the article below so you can toggle between the turn-by-turn directions in the app while our breakdown below will help you trace the city's steps back in time to discover where the best secret staircases are located, explain how they got there in the first place, AND make sure you get those 10,000 steps in.
We used to be a metropolis connected by trolleys, buses, streetcars, and light rails until Angelenos declared their undying love for automobiles. So how did residents get from their hilltop homes to public transportation, schools, and the local market? STAIRS! There are a lot of steps. Approximately 450 hidden historic stairways, most of which were built in the 1920s, thread their way through LA's steep hillside neighborhoods, many of which have been forgotten. Whether you prefer a little cardio while learning about history or simply fancy blazing a steep path where few have gone before, the following is a small taste of LA's historic hidden staircases that are well worth the trek. Typically built concurrently with the residential construction of the neighborhoods themselves, these stairways gave residents access to the canyon floors (and very often - public transportation whether it was Pacific Electric trams or buses). The four neighborhoods with the best public staircases (according to us here at LAExplained, at least) are: Beachwood, Silver Lake/Echo Park, Hollywood Heights, and Pacific Palisades.
These four distinct neighborhoods span a large part of LA and feature some of the best architecture and nature spots that the city has to offer. Let’s start with Beachwood – more specifically Hollywoodland which is the northernmost part of the area.
The Saroyan Stairs back when they were first built.
Beachwood Canyon (specifically Hollywoodland)
Driving up Beachwood Dr. with the Hollywood Sign directly ahead means that you’re heading in the right direction. On either side of you is an eclectic mix of apartments ranging in style from Chateauesque, to Midcentury Modern, to Spanish Colonial Revival. Once you pass through the stone gates right as the road veers to the left is when you have officially entered the Hollywoodland tract.
This subdivision, first started in 1923, features some of the BEST stairs in the city. There are so many of them and some that are pretty strenuous – so it can be an all day activity. Of the five listed below: our fave are the Saroyan Stairs (we only wish that the cascading fountains still existed down the middle!) Most of these walkways are covered in lush mature vegetation with incredible architecture on either side.
Saroyan Stairs - bottom located to the right of 2819 Woodshire Dr. PIN/top located between 2950 and 2960 Belden Dr. PIN Two rows of 148 steps built in 1923 that used to have fountains in the middle sections.
The Saroyan Stairs today.
Silver Lake / Echo Park
The public stairs of Silver Lake and Echo Park dot a rather large swath so it’s best to decide on one or two and then check out the shops, restaurants, and other sites around them. One thing you’ll notice is that many of the stairs you’ll come across in this area aren’t as well-maintained as those in Hollywoodland – something that gives them quite a bit of charm.
Silver Lake and Echo Park were both well-served by LA’s streetcar system and, as both are particularly hilly with very tight streets, parking has always been an issue.
Mattachine Steps - located on a particularly steep section of Cove Ave., bottom PIN top PIN Named in honor of gay rights activist Harry Hay who lived on this particular stretch and founded the Mattachine Society there in 1950.
Waverly Stairs - bottom located behind 2301 Fletcher Dr. PIN/top located next to 2601 Waverly Dr. PIN These stairs consist of two separate staircases connected by a long walkway. A fascinating tidbit – there used to be a Pacific Electric bridge over Fletcher Drive right where the steps are (you can still see the concrete foundations on both hillsides covered in graffiti!)
The Santa Monica Stairs
If a light breeze and views of the ocean is your thing – there are a few walks in the Palisades that are right up your alley. Our personal faves are the Santa Monica Stairs if you’re looking to get your cardio in, and the Sage Lane Stairs (known as the Bamboo Steps) if you want to step into paradise if only for a brief moment.
Santa Monica Stairs - bottom located between 460 and 502 Entrada Dr. PIN/top located directly across from 526 Adelaide Dr. PIN THis is the stairs version of hiking Runyon. It is probably the most popular staircase in the city.
Hollywood Heights/Whitley Heights
Hollywood Heights and Whitley Heights are two neighborhoods separated by Highland Ave. as it approaches the Cahuenga Pass. Populated with Hollywood’s first film stars when they were developed – it’s easy to see the old glamor in these hills. As with the other neighborhoods in this article, both areas were built during a time when LA relied more on public transportation and people walked more. In fact, in the case of Whitley Heights, although there were roads – they very rarely came with sidewalks. So the stairways were a method of encouraging people to walk the neighborhood.
Whitley Terrace Steps
Hollywood Heights has what is probably our favorite public stairs in all of Los Angeles – those that make up Alta Loma Terrace and Broadview Terrace.
Alta Loma Terrace
Whitley Terrace Steps - this meandering stairway takes you from a block east of a busy stretch of Highland up to an enchanted world of trees and Hollywood history. Bottom located between 6770 and 6776 Milner Rd. PIN/ top located between 6666 and 6670 Whitley Terrace PIN
Iris Place - this interesting set of steps is on the lesser-known side of Whitley Heights (the result of the Hollywood Freeway coming through the neighborhood in the 50s) takes you through a particularly grand set of 20s homes. Both entrances are located on Iris Circle. Beginning PIN/end PIN
The High Tower