Take the Stairs! East Bay’s Secret Steps Will Challenge & Charm
Our hills and coastlines are packed with hundreds of nature hikes, but none offer the gorgeous vistas, unique discoveries, and heart-pumping workouts like the East Bay’s secret stairs.
Follow our guide to roam off the beaten path and climb hundreds of steps hidden in our parks, neighborhoods, and trails.
Your reward? Well-defined calves and spectacular views!
We’re not exaggerating when we say hundreds of “secret” staircases dot our hills. A historic network of hidden neighborhood stairs in Oakland and Berkeley dates back to the days before everyone had cars. They were built as shortcuts from hilly homes down to the old Key System streetcars. Some flights look their age, and some are beautifully preserved in their Beaux-Arts grandeur.
Other stairways are out-in-the-open centerpieces of public parks and are beloved by athletes and trainers.
So, whether you are an exercise enthusiast or history buff, the East Bay has just the right staircase for you. Here’s our list of charming and challenging step workouts you shouldn’t miss, including a few Stairmaster-like trails in Contra Costa County.
1. Orchard Lane Staircase
Orchard Lane is the historic pedestrian entrance to the Panoramic Hill neighborhood in Berkeley and features a grand classical staircase with pillars, balustrades and concrete benches. The stairs date back to 1909 and are located just south of the UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium. Find the 240 steps between Panoramic Way and Arden Road.
2. Cleveland Cascade
Build your buns of steel by running up and down these 139 concrete steps at Lake Merritt in Oakland. The Cleveland Cascade was built in the early 1920s to light up the lake area and once had water cascading down seven levels. It’s still lit up for your nightly runs. 2300 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland.
3. Woodminster Cascades
This man-made cascading waterway and stone staircase was built on the backside of Woodminster Amphitheater in Joaquin Miller Park in the Oakland hills. One Yelp reviewer described the area of stone stairs and high relief sculptures as the East Bay’s own Stonehenge. Take a step back in time, and take on some 200 stairs at 3450 Joaquin Miller Rd., Oakland.
4. Petar Jakovina Trail Loop
We found this killer core workout on the Lamorinda Hikes website. It’s a steep 2.8-mile loop with more than 100 steps. You’ll find the trailhead off Sessions Road in Lafayette. Get detailed directions for the loop here.
5. Morcom Municipal Rose Garden
Head to this little park behind Ace Hardware Nursery on Grand Avenue for winding trails, a lengthy flight of stairs and a magnificent view of the garden. 700 Jean St., Oakland.
6. Bridgeview/Oakmore Path
This steep stairway in the Oakmore Highlands neighborhood of Oakland dates back to the 1920s but was rehabbed in 2005. Start at the small commercial area on Leimert Boulevard, walk up Arden Place, and look for green signs marking the public stairway. Pass by terraced backyards and shade trees, and stop to admire the views along the way. Find the full directions here.
7. Mount Diablo State Park Summit Hike
Even though there are no actual stairs, we had to include this all-day Stairmaster-worthy trek on the Mitchell Canyon trail to the top of Mt. Diablo. It’s about 12 miles roundtrip, with an incline up to 3,800 feet.
8. Berkeley Rose Garden and Rose Walk
In the north Berkeley hills, hike the floral-lined stairs of the Rose Garden, a city park with a terraced amphitheater, stunning views and lots of rose-scented steps. Located at 1200 Euclid Ave., Berkeley. Then head to the nearby Rose Walk between Euclid Street and Le Roy Avenue to climb up and down 50 feet of this landmark double stairway. Deemed a “Treasure of Civic Art,” Rose Walk dates back to 1913 and was designed by famed architect Bernard Maybeck.
9. Yosemite Steps
This staircase in Berkeley rises 95 feet in elevation. Start around 751 The Alameda and step up to 1992 Yosemite Road. Along the way, stop to catch your breath and read local poetry posted on the wooden fences.
10. Combo Climbs
Lots of local stair enthusiasts are happy to share their workout routes from one neighborhood stairway to the next. Check out this Piedmont trek from Weekend Sherpa that starts at Jerome and Oakland avenues and hits seven staircases with about 300 steps. Or try this one from 52 Walks, which includes the Prospect Steps in Rockridge park and the Locarno Path.
More sources for great stair workouts:
- Book: “Secret Stairs East Bay: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Berkeley and Oakland“
Now it’s your turn. Tell us about your favorite stair workout!
Come climb or stroll with any of our Abio Properties agents, who’d love to show you around the neighborhoods! Call at 888-400-ABIO (2246) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.