Seattle Stairway Walks: An Up-and-Down Guide to City Neighborhoods 

by Jake & Cathy Jaramillo

* The only guidebook to stairway walks in Seattle
* Explore Seattle neighborhoods in a new way with these interesting walks in Seattle
* Written for people of all ages who want to get outside, exercise, and explore
*Learn more --> 


Links & Media

* Seattle Channel's City Stream: Seattle Stairways (2016) 

* KPLU 88.1 "Tourist in Your Own Town" - Mount Baker Stairway Walk (2013)

* KING 5 Evening Magazine - Discover the Secret Stairways of Seattle (2013)

* KUOW News - The Hidden Legacy of Seattle Stairways (2013)

* AAA Journey - Last Stop: Stair Attraction (2012)

* Seattle Times - Guidebook Authors Show Ups and Downs. . . (2012)

Feet First - Seattle Walkability Advocates

* Sound Steps - Great Walking Groups for Over-50s!

* WalkOn inBellWa! - Walking Routes in Bellevue's Parks and Neighborhoods

Inventory of Seattle Stairs of 100 Steps or More website by Doug Beyerlein

* All Stairs Seattle Guide website by Susan Ott & Dave Ralph

* Year of Walking Seattle's Parks blog by Linnea Westerlind

*KOMO News - Year of Mapping Seattle's Stairs (2011)

*Seattle Times -  Queen Anne Stairways Map (2009)

* Washington Trails Association Magazine -  Urban Hiking (2007)

* Seattle Times - Seattle Stairways: Taking Time to Learn More About the City (2003)

* Seattle Weekly - Stairway Weekend (1999)

The Mountaineers as well as our publisher, Mountaineers Books

Entries in Electric trolley (2)


Stairways to the Past

A discrete palette of stairway styles and materials tells something about life during various periods of Seattle stairway construction. For example, a lot of stairways in Queen Anne have an unusually classic look: they're much wider than elsewhere, with thick, low-slung concrete sides. These are deeply scored with decorative lines and topped with a broad, rounded cap that extends a couple of inches to either side, like cake icing or a muffin-top. These stairs reflect a "golden age" of stairway construction in the first decade of the 1900s in Queen Anne. This was one of Seattle's great boom periods - the Klondike Gold Rush era - when newly prosperous businessmen and civic leaders built grand homes on this hilltop suburb. With a little searching you can find one of the best examples, the "Grand Dame" stairs along Comstock Street, between 1st Avenue N and Queen Anne Avenue N.

"Classic Era" stairway at Galer Street, between Queen Anne Avenue N and 1st Avenue N

Another kind of stairway construction became dominant in the early 1940s, when the last of the electric railcars in Seattle were replaced in favor of wheeled buses. The City Engineering Department pulled up the old streetcar rails, along with the concrete panels that sat between them. These surplus rails and concrete slabs were gradually recycled back into the city's infrastructure, in the form of new and refurbished stairways and retaining walls:

For stairways, the concrete slabs were stacked and staggered; small concrete bricks were placed under each slab to raise each step to a normal height (SDOT Photo)

The upright posts shown here on the SW Thistle stairs are recycled streetcar rails, most likely put in place in the 1940s

For retaining walls, streetcar slabs were held in place with recycled steel rails driven into the ground (SDOT Photo)

Nowadays not every new or refurbished stairway looks alike, though there is a standard plan intended to make stairways a bit more walkable for a wider range of people. Stair replacements, like the new stairs in Cedar Park, are significantly wider, with double handrails that add a relatively small, 1 1/2 inch "gripping pipe". Some stairways include runnels that allow riders to roll their bikes alongside.

Old-school railing and joining

New stairway construction (SW Genesee Street)

Bicycle runnel leads up to the I-90 trail near the East Portal Viewpoint in Mount Baker  

Thanks to John Buswell and Ainalem Molla of SDOT's Roadway Structures Division for answering our questions and sending us helpful info!



Arguably, the streets of Fremont are alive with more color, energy and visual interest than any other neighborhood. It's a mashup of blue-collar, artsy-bohemian, and high-tech hipster, a direct reflection of the 100-year-plus history of this neighborhood. If you do both routes detailed in the book, you'll come away with a broad view of this hugely varied neighborhood.

The main route starts along the ship canal, then climbs up to the northern border of Fremont at Fremont Peak Park, a very cool pocket park with a mythological theme and big views to the west. After that you work your way back down along the eastern side of the neighborhood. This walk is replete with those characteristic revelatory Seattle stairs - always showing you out-of-the-way nooks and crannies you'd never see otherwise!

The optional route adds a loop past the tourist attractions in the commercial zone, like the Lenin statue and the Bridge Troll, the famous "Waiting for the Interurban" staute and the beautifully renovated Fremont Library, with a new little companion park and curvaceous stairway on the side.

The "www" icon points out additional pictorial content, referenced in the book, that is included here in the form of a slideshow. You can view more pictures below that.

Top of the second flight, N 40th Street stairs

Fremont Peak Park, pictured in the slideshow above, is a recent grassroots creation and a real point of pride in the neighborhood. For the story of its local roots, take a look at this Seattle Times piece, Fremont Peak Park Story. For a fascinating description of the park's mythological and astronomical references, check out the website of the lead artist, Laura Haddad.

"Emergency Phone" whimsy, Greenwood Avenue N in Fremont

Walking down the second flight of Bowdoin Place stairs, toward Fremont Avenue N

Fremont bridge opens for a boat moving along the Ship Canal in early morning