Comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy famously navigated them with a massive piano. They’re hidden all around LA, a city of inclines and slopes, of hills and valleys. In a place known for its concrete roadways, outdoor stairways are a unique, but lesser-known feature of the urban landscape.
“When you think of hilly places, LA isn't the first city that comes to mind,“ says Jeanette Marantos, reporter for the LA Times. “I was just stunned by how many steep hills we have in LA.”
Leading up and down those steep hills are many different stairways hidden in hilly nooks and crannies. They can be helpful for getting you from point A to point B, but also as a source of exercise and a fun way to see the city.
“I'm not athletic by any stretch of the imagination,” explains Marantos, “but I figured if I could do it, anybody who … has mobility could do it.”
Marantos cites the Loma Vista stairs in Silver Lake as one of her favorites. The longest stairway, the Murphy Ranch Stairs in Pacific Palisades, numbers at 524 narrow steps. The most memorable stairway, according to Marantos, are the wooden stairs on the Highland Park/Southwest Museum walk. Those stairs are already at the top of a road with a grade of 33%, making it one of the steepest little streets in California.
“Once you get to the top of that, your heart's already hammering,” recalls Marantos. “And then you've got these wooden steps that go up … it's very satisfying when you get to the top because you can look down at where you started from. I was sitting in disbelief.”
Aside from the cardiovascular benefits the stairs provide, Marantos says they’re a window into the older parts of the city, and how each tells a story of the area through the surrounding architecture and landscape.
“It was just the sense of neighborhoods, and how different they could be, and how magical some of them were … I just got a sense of what it means to be an Angeleno.”