The Hills of San Francisco, California

categories: USA Travel

San Francisco is built on a series of hills and if your are going to explore San Francisco then you need to tackle some of these hills. As part of my test drive of the Ford Escape we took on some of those hills. My personal escape route to San Francisco starts at Ghirardelli Square near San Francisco’s famous Fisherman’s Wharf.

Ghirardelli Square

When Domingo Ghirardelli came to California it was to strike it rich in the 1849 gold fields. A failure at mining Ghirardelli instead is known for rich chocolate. Ghirardelli not only bears his name but still produces enough chocolate (and ice cream) to make a stop there nearly mandatory.

Cable Cars

San Francisco is the city where “little cable cars climb halfway to the stars” according to the song. This picture shows a cable car climbing up the slope of Nob Hill where some of the most expensive houses in San Francisco were first built. A cable car has no motor. Its sole means of propulsion is a large pair of pliers. The way a cable car works is that each of the 3 surviving cable car lines are a single loop of moving cable. The cable car grabs on to pull it up the hill or to slow it down as it goes down the other side.

Cable Car Barn

Not far from the top of Nob Hill is a point where all the cable car lines meet at the Cable Car Barn and Museum. Come to the free museum to learn how the cable cars work. Here you will see the enormous engines that move the cable and hence power the cable cars. Learn what the markings on the cable car track are. Learn which markings tell the operator to let go of the cable because they are crossing another cable car line. You can also try your hand at ringing a cable car bell.

Grace Cathedral

At the top of Nob Hill is the Episcopal Cathedral for San Francisco – Grace Cathedral. Grace Cathedral is a Gothic style cathedral that would easily fit in in Europe if you added a few flying buttresses.


Grace Cathedral holds two surprises that are popular with tourists. Both inside and outside of the cathedral you will find a labyrinth that you can walk while you meditate. Don’t worry if you get lost in thought because you cannot get lost in a labyrinth. Unlike a maze there is only one very twisty path. Just keep going and you will come out the other side.

Coit Tower

At the top of Telegraph Hill is a tower made to look like the nozzle of a fire hose. It was built as a monument to firefighters. The inside of the tower has murals painted during the Great Depression as part of the New Deal program: Public Works of Art Project. Coit Tower and Telegraph hill offer wonderful views of the Golden Gate Bridge but the parking lot is small and the traffic can be very heavy in the Summer so if you want to visit Coit Tower avoid the middle of the day.

Lombard Street

The most famous or infamous of San Francisco’s hills is Russian Hill which is where you will find the “crookedest street in the world” Lombard Street. While not the steepest street even in San Francisco it is a fun drive and a popular destination with tourists. The following video shows the experience:

Ford Sponsored me to write this post and also let me drive the new Ford Escape… how cool is that?

Share this:

by Chris Christensen

I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

2 Responses to “The Hills of San Francisco, California”

Fredric Ciner


I cannot wait to go there again. Don’t forget a stop at that restaurant that claims to have invented sourdough!

Patrick Moriarty


I’m really looking forward to my trip. Thanks for the insights and excellent photos

Leave a Reply

Tags: , ,