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 Genesee (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!


Lakewood-Seward Park 

This is one of our very favorite explorations of Seattle stairs, partly because it was one of the first routes we discovered. But there's also a unique, immersive feeling as you walk along hillsides through the heart of the neighborhood, cloaked among the trees. Lake Washington is a big visual presence here too, as it is with the other Seattle stairway walks along the shoreline (check out the map on the Home page). The Lakewood-Seward Park neighborhood also has an interesting history that is closely tied to the level of the lake, which fell 9 feet in 1917. You can learn more about that in the book, which also provides directions for an optional walk through old Wetmore Slough, now high and dry and known as Genesee Park.

The "www" icon denotes additional pictorial content referenced in the book (to see it, click on the slides).

A first view of the lower Ferdinand Street stairway

A Note About Lakewood/Seward Park
Strictly speaking, this stairway walk remains entirely within the confines of the Lakewood Park neighborhood. Seward Park is just next door to the south, but the area is often referred to collectively as Lakewood-Seward Park. In 1907 the entire Rainier Valley area was annexed to Seattle, including the partially developed residential neighborhoods known as "Lakewood" and "Seward Park."

To further confuse things, in 1911 the city bought Bailey Peninsula from the Bailey family in order to create a city park called Seward Park. It's always a great place to visit, and the book has directions from this walk's starting/ending place. Seward Park has miles of walking trails around the peninsula perimeter and throughout the old-growth interior. It has a swimming beach and play areas, as well as an Audubon Center that helps visitors view and understand the local habitat and animal life.  

Thanks to for the following: Lakewood History;  Seward ParkMontlake Cut