Exploring SF | Twin Peaks, Sutro Tower, Hidden Garden Steps

A couple weekends ago, one of my friends who had just moved to Oakland visited me in San Francisco. Clement dropped by at a perfect time, since it was a relatively clear day nestled between a series of very rainy and stormy weeks. After a delicious dim sum lunch in Chinatown, we headed west to check out some famous SF landmarks and attractions.

Apart from stopping by the city Costco and taking a quick picture break in front of the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square, Clement and I also had the opportunity to explore the magnificent Twin Peaks, gaze up at the ever-sturdy Sutro Tower, and admire the intricate mosaic artwork of the Hidden Garden Steps in Inner Sunset.

Twin Peaks

View of SF from Twin Peaks after sunset

View of SF from Twin Peaks after sunset

Twin Peaks is perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in San Francisco. From gracing postcards to getting drifted on by Ken Block, Twin Peaks is a perennial favorite for locals and tourists alike. The place gets its name from (no surprise) its two peaks located close to the geographic center of the city. Rising around 925 feet, the peaks are closer to really big hills, but the views the Eureka (North) Peak and Noe (South) Peak provide are jaw dropping.

It was just after sunset when we arrived at the top of Eureka Peak, and the panoramic view of what seemed like the entire city of San Francisco caught us by total surprise. Even in the dimming light the scene was awe inspiring. As lights began to turn on and car lights became visible on Market Street, I couldn’t help but look out in silence. It was so beautiful.

After spending some time just taking in the scene, we walked down the makeshift wooden steps, walked through the middle of the famous figure-eight intersection, and went up Noe Peak. The climbs for both were very easy, and soon we found ourselves again admiring the view in front of us. It was definitely a treat.

Sutro Tower

Sutro Tower standing tall

Sutro Tower standing tall

Throughout our visit to Twin Peaks, Sutro Tower silently stoody nearby. It was a huge tower and pictures do not do it justice – there must have been hundreds of birds perched on its various beams. Clement described Sutro Tower as “an upside-down rocket” which I had to agree with wholeheartedly.

Sutro Tower was built in the 1970s because TV signals blocked by hills led to bad reception. Initially, the public opposed the project and many thought the tower would be an eyesore. However, the tower eventually became an icon of the city – perhaps thankful residents with better TV reception changed their minds and didn’t think the tower was so bad, after all…

Hidden Garden Steps

Pretty mosaic art on Hidden Garden Steps in the Inner Sunset

Pretty mosaic art on Hidden Garden Steps in the Inner Sunset

Earlier that day, Clement and I made a quick stop at the Hidden Garden Steps in Inner Sunset. Located on a non-descript residential street between a bunch of houses, the steps were certainly hard to spot. These steps can be described as the younger brother of the more well-known 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project, also located in the same neighborhood.

Both places are frequently visited because of the bright and colorful mosaic artwork on their steps. We walked the entire length, from bottom to top, and admired the details of the flowers, butterflies, and other plants and creatures in the mosaic art. It was also fun spotting the various dedications and reading about how the project was community-funded, with portions donated by families and organizations and even some portions that came about from Kickstarter campaigns.

Overall, the artwork was both beautiful and inspiring, reminding me of the wonderful pieces created by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona – those were some of my favorite sights from Europe by far! I’m looking forward to checking out more of these tiled steps in the coming years, as I’m sure the organizers will continue to expand in the neighborhood.


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