#1 - Mount Davidson


Mt. Davidson from Noe Peak


925 ft. Mt. Davidson, king of the ridge that runs up the San Francisco peninsula. Scraping the sky, oxygen scarce at its peak, menacing above the city's southwestern neighborhoods. Its two distinctive features are the giant white cross at its summit and the bizarre mullet it sports -- tree-free business in the front, eucalyptus forest in the back. Read on...

#2 - Twin Peaks South (Noe Peak)


Noe (South) Peak in the center


910 ft. Twin peaks are what they say they are, no more no less. The most traveled of the ridge-line peaks, they have a figure-8 road looping around the peaks that carries tour buses full of (lazy! unappreciative!) tourists to the bald duo for photogenic 360 degree views of the city, the bay, the Pacific and the majestic Oakland cranescape. Read on...

#3 - Mount Sutro


Mount Sutro and Sutro Tower from Grand View Park, maybe


909 ft. SUTRO. Everything good in this city is named after Adolph Sutro, "mining engineer, millionaire and mayor of San Francisco."  (See #45 - Sutro Heights for the story of Sutro the man.) We're talking Mount, Heights, Baths and -- most important of all, most important of everything -- Tower. Character, poise, color, height, radio mind control, omnipresence. Sutro Tower's got it all, most literally towering above the city. The structure itself is taller than the Transamerica Pyramid (the little itty bitty pointy white building next to the black monolith on the lefthand side of the photo above) and taller than any hill in the city at 981 ft., AND it's perched on top of an 800+ ft. part of the peninsula's main ridge. Oh, right, we were talking about Mount Sutro. Read on...

#4 - Twin Peaks North (Eureka Peak)


Twin Peaks North (Eureka Peak) from the east. Oh hey, Sutro!

904 ft. Being a twin must be tough enough. Poor Eureka Peak is a full five feet shorter than its bigger brother, at least according to Wikipedia. Luckily the little guy gets more than his share of tourist attention as the northern position gives a better view of downtown
SF, the Golden Gate and points north.  Read on...

 

#5 - Unnamed Peak


That's right, someone forgot to name the fifth tallest hill in the city. Or at least its name was lost to time.

750 ft. How did someone forget to name the fifth highest hill in the city? Or maybe it had a name that got lost? No idea. It's one of a string of four peaks on the west side of the Twin Peaks-Davidson ridge (north to south: Grand View Park/Hill, Unnamed Peak, Larsen Peak and Forest Hill). The photo above is taken from what some call Larsen Peak, but others claim it's actually Grand View Hill and that Larsen Peak is on the other side of Unnamed Peak. Starting to see the madness in all this? For good measure, I just climbed them all.


#6 - Edgehill Mountain


The view of the Pacific from the side of Edgehill Mountain. Heed that aviso.


734 ft. Think Forest Hill done right -- less wasted horizontal space and more quirky eccentricities in this neighborhood. A single road loops around the peak of this "mountain". Why do some hills get the "mountain" distinction while bigger ones get stuck with "hill" or "heights"? It might be something about height to width ratio, with "mountains" having a respectable mountain shape while "hills" and "heights" are broad and more poorly defined. Not pretending to have answers here. I'm just the walker. Read on for more photos...

#6.5 - Forest Hill


This is a view from somewhere kind of around Forest Hill. Focus on Sutro Tower being a beast in the fog.

700 ft. (or 778 ft.?) Why is this #6.5? Wikipedia lists Forest Hill's height as 778 ft., but this may be a lie. We're just going to call it 700 ft., attributed to SF Gazetteer. It gets bumped to a half-spot by its neighbor #5 - Unnamed Peak. Still, uncertainty remains on this mess of a ridge.

On Forest Hill: Some hills are just not that great. This is one of them. Its height (tall) and mediocrity (breathtaking) make it the lowest ranking of hills in worthwhileness-per-foot. Forest Hill is its own neighborhood on the western side of the Davidson-Twin Peaks-Sutro ridge. It's a foothill, a suburbanized afterthought with no open space at its water-tower-topped peak. There's some elaborate step action going on at the entrance to the neighborhood on Pacheco St. I even took some photos of those, but they were boring photos of steps so I deleted them. The photo above is from a decent park, Hawk Hill Park, on the southwest end of the hill. It's more of a bump on Forest Hill's shoulder with a dramatic-enough-to-be-cool cliff  facing the Pacific. Nothing more to say about that.

#7 - Red Rock Hill



The stunning view from the top of Red Rock Hill.

689 ft.
Walked 10 miles round trip in the pouring rain for this one, and boy...this hill is terrible. Haul yourself 689 ft. straight up from the ocean and you're rewarded with a scenic apartment complex at the end of a dead-end street. Its sibling (#8 - Gold Mine Hill) at least has Glen Canyon Park and a peek of Mt. Davidson going for it. Red Rock settles for proximity to Safeway. Click for the map, but that's about it...

#8 - Gold Mine Hill



The side of Gold Mine Hill forms the western edge of Glen Canyon (of neighborhood, park and BART stop fame)

679 ft. Same trip to neighboring Red Rock Hill in the pouring rain bagged this one. The hill's poor excuse for a peak is pretty weak, sitting in the middle of a quiet suburban street. The houses no doubt have gorgeous views of the city and bay on the one side and the canyon and Pacific on the other. That leaves the public street with a view of a solid row of houses and not much else. The real action's on the west side of the hill, though, with Glen Canyon Park (above) carved into the rock between Gold Mine Hill and Mt. Davidson. It's a wild oasis tucked between humdrum neighborhoods and could easily pass as the Irish countryside, especially for those of us who've never been to the Irish countryside. If you venture here in the pouring rain, steer clear of the swamp that forms in the place of the lower trail, and be careful not to slide off the side of the narrow upper trail to a rocky death or dismemberment. Click for the map, but that's about it...

#9 - "Larsen Peak"



Grand View Park sits atop either Larsen Peak or Grand View Hill, depending on who you ask

666 ft. First a note: It seems the Wiki might have mixed this one up, too. SF Gazetteer notes that the original Hills of San Francisco names the hill underlying this park Grand View Hill, with the 725 ft. Larsen Peak actually located in what's now called Golden Gate Heights Park or Sunset Heights Park. Between Larsen and Grand View is another 750 ft. unnamed peak, inserted as #5 above. Because seriously, how did they manage to name the three shorter hills while forgetting to name the tallest of the set? Maybe because the 750 ft. peak is now bound in by houses, with almost no view off the hill.

Anyway, about Grand View Park: A great example of what a hill should be. Exercise on the way up, payoff in the form of 360-degree views. None of this climbing without reward (ahem, #6.5 - Forest Hill) or being swarmed by buses full of people for a postcard view (lookin' at you, Twins Peaks). A set of municipal concrete steps climb up the peak's side from 14th Ave. The top has sandy soil, true to its duneness, and enough trees to hold the whole thing together. The Inner and Outer Richmond provide a foreground of blandness to contrast the picturesque Presidio, Golden Gate and Marin headlands to the north. To the west, the Sunset stretches out to Ocean Beach. As you take in view of the thoroughly featureless neighborhood, take a moment to remember how lucky you are not to live there (hopefully -- sorry, nothing personal!).  Click for the Sunset, not to be confused with the sunset...


#10 - Tank Hill



Tank Hill's top viewed from its perilous front cliff

650 ft. Pro tip: Take the trail up the back from Belgrave Ave. or from the side on Claredon St. rather than scampering up the half-trail up the front cliff from Twin Peaks Blvd. Well worth the effort to walk around, trust me. But! once you get up to the top one way or another, you're rewarded with an unobstructed 270-degree view all the way from #18 - Bernal Heights to the side of #3 - Mount Sutro, with another dozen hills in between that you can spot for yourself. The hill gets its name from a giant water tank that's waiting there just in case the entire city catches fire again like it used to every couple of years in its early days. As a bonus, you get an up-close view of Sutro Tower. And you may catch a glimpse of the pair of hawks that rule the airspace between #14 - Corona Heights and Dolores Park. Give your respects to Tower and hawks alike. More art-quality cell phone photos await you...


#11 - Mount Olympus



Mount Olympus's...altar? monument? tomb?

570 ft. What is going on here? A quick Googling would probably answer all my questions about this hill, but why ruin the guessing game. Starter questions: Why waste the name "Mount Olympus" on the 11th tallest hill? What is the deal with the non-park at the top? What the hell is that stone structure? Who is buried under there? Is it there just to justify the grandiose name? Is a view of Potrero Hill to the east really what anyone would want for a final resting place / memorial / honorary park / Mayan pyramid? Luckily the weirdness wins out and makes this a satisfying hill -- er, "mount" -- despite the otherwise unremarkable neighborhood that rings the top of the hill. Getting there's half the fun, too, if you take the Vulcan Stairway up from the east side. Again with the weird names, though. Spock? Rubber magnate? No idea.

UPDATE: Reader Jym points me to http://foundsf.org/ for the answer to the mystery. Turns out the guessing game was worth ruining after all, as the answer leads us to an epic statue that used to shine its light out to the bay from the geographic center of the city. Kind of a shame to have this converted a nondescript cul de sac these days.

Mount Olympus's former glory, with Triumph of Light statue (photo from foundsf.org)


#12 - Buena Vista Heights



Stone stairway (to heaven) in Buena Vista Park

569 ft. Real-talk time. The view from Buena Vista Park is not so buena any more. Maybe it was at one point, but nowadays its (admittedly cool) trees have grown up to obscure all but a couple of glimpses of downtown, the Golden Gate and Sutro Tower. A carpet of green grass covers the hill, which is almost entirely covered in a micro-forest that has been there long enough to have 'quake stories from 1906 at the very least. Its winding walkways wind pleasantly and give the park a Victorian feel that contrasts sharply with Dolores Park's '70s vibe and Union Square's new-money vibe. But what does Buena Vista Heights look like from afar?!...

#13 - McLaren Ridge



#15 - Candlestick Point (Bayview Park) from McLaren Ridge

515 ft. File this one under "hidden gems." By "hidden," of course, I mean "hundreds or thousands of people probably enjoy this giant space every day, but none of them are people I know." McLaren Park is second in size only to Golden Gate Park, and it destroys GGP in the Heights and Views categories among others. Let's count some key wins:
  1. Dog pond. Yes, there is a pond. For dogs. With a dozen dogs in it on a sunny Sunday afternoon, fetching and playing and enjoying the DOG POND.
  2. Big blue water tank. That's a good looking tank. Easily number two on the list of most iconic non-bridge infrastructure in SF.
  3. Bay views. From San Bruno Mountain over to Hunters Point and the rest of the city, it's a close-up view of the water you don't often get.
  4. Rolling fields of grass. This has to be the most expansive open space in the city, with a mysterious lack of trees on the bay-facing slopes.
There are others, for sure. Go discover them on your own. Maps and links to get you there and in the know...

#14 - Corona Heights


Corona Heights. This is in the middle of  San Francisco, no lie.

510 ft. San Francisco's geography, dominated by its hills, has shaped its development and demographics as the city grew from Ohlone stomping grounds to sleepy fishing outpost to booming gold-rush town to Paris of the West to Land of Aquarius to booming silicon-rush town. Corona Heights' exposed rock outcroppings give a perfect glimpse at the underlying geology that dictates that geography: rocky dunes that we rely on to keep us elevated just enough above the Pacific to the west and the Bay to the east, especially during earthquakes. The rocks and bare open space make for a cool enough park; the stunning view from the top knocks this into the top 5 list for sure. Proximity to the densely populated Mission, Castro and Haight neighborhoods give it additional bonus points. Click on for the view...


#15 - Candlestick Point (Bayview)


Bay view from Bayview Park, as advertised

500 ft. A lot going on here.
  1. Bay view. Looking at a map, this is what the name and location advertise, and the park that covers that hill delivers in a big way.
  2. 0 to 500 ft. elevation change in less than a quarter mile. The climb up the back isn't as steep. Makes for a dramatic view, though.
  3. Bayview Park. There's one paved-but-closed road looping around the park. Other than that, it's all steep hills and mature forest with nowhere to go off the road really. The peak itself doesn't have any real trail access. You can't really do anything here.
  4. No people. Could be due to #3, but there were zero other humans here on a perfect, sunny Sunday afternoon.
  5. Surroundings. To the east, the 49ers' Candlestick Park. To the south, Bayshore built on landfill, with 101 running through it. To the west, the Bayshore neighborhood, which along with Hunters Point has a long history of marginalization, poverty and violence -- almost completely cut off from the rest of the city by 101. To the northeast, the closed Hunters Point naval base, a ghost town and Superfund site with radioactive contamination and a giant structure for loading gun turrets onto WWII battleships.
Given all that, there's some inherent tension on this hill, even when it's just you. That said, the neighborhood was perfectly calm and peaceful on this particular afternoon, with only a few bemused "yoooou don't belong here, do you?" looks from passing cars. Maps and links...

#16 - Merced Heights


Looking westward from Orizaba Ave. Rocky Outcrop Open Space

500 ft. Merced Heights consists of three peaks along an east-west ridge in the city's southwest quadrant. The westernmost peak is in Brooks Park, and the easternmost is located, appropriately, on Summit St.. The most interesting of the three is the middle, though, which rises the highest at 500ft. above the Pacific. Google Maps labels the small space at its rocky peak "Lakeview and Ashton Mini Park," but a sign at the park refers to it as Orizaba Ave. Rocky Outcrop Open Space -- a much more fitting name for the 1,000 sq. ft. of rock that poke up between two houses. Tree-free, the windswept rock has a clear view of the Pacific past Lake Merced and Fort Funston. Cryptic glyphs on the rocks...

#17 - Lone Mountain



Sutro Tower and Mount Sutro from Lone Mountain's faux-Spanish Steps

448 ft.
One of only two full-blown "mountains" in the city. No idea why. Seems like a baldfaced lie in this hill's name. Maybe it just fits with the theme, though, now that there's a set of steps modeled and named after Rome's Spanish Steps, leading up to a thoroughly Catholic Spanish-style building that now houses a USF campus. All those demerits aside, Lone Mountain does redeem itself with a rare south-facing vista of Sutro Tower and Mount Sutro. Sutro saving the day here, no surprise. Click on for the map...

#18 - Bernal Heights



View of everything from Bernal Heights

433 ft.
Hot damn, Bernal Heights, you rock. Grassy hill popping up from seemingly nowhere in the south Mission / La Lengua neighborhood. Corona Heights-style geology with Twin Peaks-style views. Plus a badass microwave dish that comes in a strong third on my list of favorite non-bridge infrastructure, behind Sutro Tower and McLaren Park's Big Blue Water Tower. Map, history and more photos...

#19 - Strawberry Hill



Strawberry Hill, wallowing in its manufactured mediocrity in the middle of Golden Gate Park

412 ft.
Strawberry Hill leaves an empty sort of feeling in the serious hill climber's experience. It's nice. It's ok. But there's so much manufactured nature around it that it has a Space Mountain sort of feel. Stow Lake rings the hill. Stow Lake is man-made. A waterfall runs down the side of the hill into Stow Lake. The waterfall is man-made. The ambiance it evokes says "miniature golf course." Really a shame, considering that so many of the city's other parks achieve quirky perfection just by preserving the top of a hill from development. Stop trying so hard, GGP, and work with what nature gave you. You want to see the waterfall, don't you?...

#20 - Castro (Liberty) Hill



The "intersection" of 22nd and Collingwood at the top of Castro Hill is more of a crazy hairpin turn

407 ft.
Castro Hill forms part of the eastern offshoot of the peninsula's main north-south ridge, along with #27 Dolores Heights a few blocks farther east. The two hills create an imposing border between the Castro and Noe Valley, making residents of those neighborhoods think long and hard before committing to a trip over to the neighboring 'hood. Photos of the view...


#21 - Parnassus Heights


Sutro from the general vicinity of Parnassus Heights

400 ft.
Yeah, so, I found Parnassus St. and went to its highest point. Seemed pretty silly, because the hill just keeps going up to the north side of Mount Sutro. But whatever. UCSF hospital's over there, Cole Valley residential zone. All very cozy. Most exciting part, though, is proximity to Sutro with great south-facing views. The eucalyptus forest from Mount Sutro pokes up into the bottom of the frame above, as viewed from somewhere around 17th and Stanyan on the way to Parnassus Heights. That's it, really...

#22 - Lincoln Heights



The Land's End trail runs along the western slope of what I hope is Lincoln Heights

380 ft.
Again with the ambiguous Heights. This time the location is Lincoln Park, which encompasses the Legion of Honor art museum, a golf course, the USS San Francisco memorial (complete with battle-torn ship hill, see the jump), the cliff-side Land's End trail and overflow parking from the VA hospital. And fog, lots of fog. Somewhere there is a high point that one would generously call the peak. I wandered around in the fog to the top of enough bumps to satisfy myself. Either the Legion of Honor or the hospital seemed to claim the high ground. Whichever. The real concern is how people play golf in this fog. Ship pieces on the click-through...

#23 - Lafeyette Heights



Beautiful day in the bay, as seen from Lafeyette Heights

378 ft.
One great side effect of hill-climbing in San Francisco is that you get to see a lot of the parks that you might never go to otherwise. It happens that a lot of parks are located on hill and hills in parks -- some because wise city planners set aside the best spaces for the public, and others because it would be near impossible to balance a structure on top of these things. At Lafeyette Heights, we also witness the phenomenon of rising money. That is, elevation and household income have a direct relationship on all but a few hills in the city. The Newport-style mansions that border the park make it seem that the gold-rush winners got to the hills first and claimed their real estate stakes before anyone else had a chance. More on the click-through...

#24 - Nob Hill



Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill

376 ft.
Everything on Nob Hill seems to be lacking in humility a bit. Especially being #24 you'd think it would tone it down a bit. Cathedral, hotels, condos, all that business. Some of them quite nice-seeming. Slowly it's running down and polluting the Tenderloin (ahem). All the hubbub takes away the calm and quiet and serenity that make most of the city's hills worth the climb.  Continued...

#25 - Pacific Heights


Big houses overlooking the Big House in the bay, off to the side of Pac Heights (aka Cannon Hill?) 

370 ft.
Pac Heights, Pac Heights. Pretty great bay views and some interesting mansion architecture. The history is something about the city's richest citizens moving from Nob Hill to Pac Heights for some reason at some point. Earthquake probably? Fresh start on their mansions with open land? A few embassies are mixed in now for a true D.C. vibe. Security isn't needed, because no one really wants to make the near-vertical climb up the sides of this ridge. Speaking of, steps!...

#26 - Presidio Heights



The "Spire" sculpture near Presidio Heights. A monument to reforestation efforts at the Presidio, it's made out of chopped-up trees. Hmm.  

370 ft.
Meadows, wildflowers, a forest, an 18-hole golf course and a national cemetery surround Presidio Heights, rising in the southern part of the former military base near the Arguello gate. While pretty much every hill in the city is unlike any other, Presidio Heights' natural setting and sweeping views of the bay set it apart from any other place in the city.

#27 - Dolores Heights


The way up to Dolores Heights and #20 -  Castro Hill, with #30 - Potrero Hill (left) and #33 Hunters Point (right)

360 ft. This is a classic San Francisco hill. Except it's even better than the downtown hills because it's free of all the hob-nob snobbery of Nob and Russian hills, with their fancy houses and hotels and tourists. Dolores Heights has a non-descript intersection next to its peak on Hill St., but the streets make nice openings for views to the east and south. The true peak is sitting under a private house these days. Other endearing features include the subtly named Hill St. and the yellow sign on Hill St. that warns, "Hill." Just in case you forgot you're on a hill. Photos in the fog...

#28 - City College Height



City College, hill, nothing to see here folks

350 ft. Underwhelming, uninspiring. Nice view of 280, and the giant head sculptures on the back of the main building are pretty cool. 

#29 - Excelsior Heights



Sutro from what should be Excelsior Heights but maybe isn't 


360 ft.
Theory 1: Home of the Big Blue Water Tank, Excelsior Heights is on the west end of McLaren Park and the east side of the Excelsior neighborhood. It's a good view with the big water tank bonus. Wildflowers and all that jazz decorate its edges, and all the glowing things said about McLaren Ridge above apply here as well.

Theory 2: NOT home of the Big Blue Water Tank, but instead a shorter little bump in the southern end of Excelsior. But then what's the name of the Big Blue Water Tank's hill? Is it still considered McLaren Ridge?


#30 - Potrero Hill



Potrero Hill's view of downtown 


300 ft.
Potrero sits right in the middle of the city's east side, separating the Mission from the bay and Hunters Point / Portola from Mission Bay / SOMA. The neighborhood on the hill is a bit like mixing all of those neighborhoods together. The Dogpatch on the east side has that SOMA industrial feel with a touch of Mission hipsterdom. The west side is quiet but has a bit of the buzz of the city below -- not to mention the freeway that roars through it. And a set of public housing projects on its south side around Dakota St. plants a block of uniformity among the mishmash of individual houses. Wanna see Sutro from Potrero?...

#31 - Russian Hill



Russian Hill tries but fails to stay above the tourist fray at Pier 39, Ghiradelli Square and Alcatraz 

294 ft.
Why so much contempt for Russian Hill? Not sure. It's something about the fact that most people who live anywhere but SF think of Russian Hill, #32 -  Telegraph Hill and #24 - Nob Hill as the hills of San Francisco when in fact they are bottom-scraping excuses for hills (except I'm cool with Telegraph Hill). One aspect is the tourist problem. Every city needs its tourists, and that's fine, and hopefully they enjoy the indisputably beautiful views from Russian Hill. It's just that I wouldn't want to live in tourist land with people riding up and down the cable car lines for no reason and lining up at the top of Lombard St. to crawl down in their cars and check off something that they think people expect them to do. It all feels like a life-sized amusement park, which really harshes the mellow you find at the top of most hills. Gotta click to see Lombard St.!...

#32 - Telegraph Hill



One of the views from Coit Tower, through its plexiglass windows

284 ft.
This is where it all began, actually. On my first visit to San Francisco before moving here, I had a 12 hour gap between my hotel checkout time and my red-eye flight's departure. Someone had mentioned Coit Tower as a place to go, and without a map or smartphone in hand it was the only clearly visible landmark to aim for after doing the rounds of downtown and the Embarcadero. Up Telegraph Hill from the wilds of Columbus St. I went. The topless bar density drops as the elevation increases (the sketchiest part was that it was apparently SantaCon at the time, so there were rowdy, hammered Santas running all over North Beach). Things get quieter and quirkier, with a series of old concrete stairways etched into the steep hillside -- a novelty for non-SF natives. Coit Tower stands at the top of the hill in Pioneer Park. Five bucks buys you and elevator ride up (you can't take the stairs all the way, so pony up that cash) to the observatory-type deck at the top. It's an open circular "room" with plexiglass windows and a canvas-type excuse for a roof. The views are downtown to the south, the bay to the east, a glimpse of the Golden Gate to the north and Russian Hill to the west. It's worth the walk. Maybe not quite worth the $5 when you know that better views come for free on many of the other hills. Rainbow over the Bay Bridge, nature's apology for quaking its upper deck to pieces?...

#33 - Hunters Point Ridge



The bay from Hunters Point Ridge, with the naval base to the right

275 ft.
Hunters Point has the deck stacked against it in many ways. It's bound in by the freeway to the west and the industrial bay shore to the east and north. Access to the rest of the city is limited to the 3rd St. corridor and the T line Muni that runs up to SOMA. On top of that is the Superfund site at the Hunters Point naval station, where ships came back from Bikini Atoll for cleaning and testing after being exposed to the first close-range nuclear bomb tests in Operation Crossroads. Findings: being exposed to nuclear blasts is a Bad Thing. The neighborhood was born in wartime as black workers were brought in from the south to man the naval stations. After the war, the de facto segregation of the neighborhood from the rest of the city eventually boiled over in the Hunters Point race riots that spread throughout the city after the SFPD shot a black teenager in the neighborhood.

As with Bayview, I got some bemused stares from people driving by that white guy who clearly doesn't live here. But it was a perfectly beautiful and quiet day in the neighborhood, with families picnicking and playing at the park on top of the hill. No one made me feel unwelcomed -- they saved that for the police with whom a "You need to get out of here, now" shouting match taking place between patrol car megaphone voice and Muni platform loiterers. The 3rd St. corridor has been redone with new Muni stops and wide sidewalks that at least make it seem that the city is paying some positive attention besides yelling at people to disperse. The public housing projects are easily identifiable as such, yet the outsides look better designed and maintained than their counterparts on Potrero Hill. One Sunday afternoon walk-through isn't a good indication of life in any neighborhood, but maybe just maybe the negative perception dogging this neighborhood is worse than the reality.
More bay views from the Point...

#34 - Holly Hill


Sutro keeping an eye on things, as seen from Holly Hill

274 ft.
Holly Hill is a classic example of SF's hill + park formula. Take a hill with a decent shape, build a road around the middle of the hill, designate the top of the hill a park, plant some trees, keep the view clear and let a neighborhood spring up on the sides of the hill. Holly Hill Park is more intentionally planned and manicured than Bernal Heights to its north. Not necessarily a bonus, just that it's a shorter hill with a more gradual slope that lends itself to basketball courts and gardens where Bernal Heights' steep and rocky sides demand to be left alone. You don't get the 360-degree view from any one point on Holly Hill, but walking around the park's perimeter of the park gives you vantage points to everything around it. Not really worth listing everything, because like Bernal it's pretty much the whole eastern half of the city ripe for viewing (the Twin Peaks ridge blocks the line of sight to the Sunset, so sad). More...

#35 - University Mound



The northeast corner of University Mound is the only angle that looks like it could pass as a hill. 

265 ft.
Updated: 
Apparently the reservoir is University Mound. It was getting a paint job -- the only hill on the list with fresh paint. 
Outdated: Where exactly is University Mound? Not so sure. Google Maps labels a little neighborhood by McLaren Park as University Mound, but there are a couple of different high points surrounding it, all really just offshoots of the main McLaren ridge. I wandered around for a bit to satisfy the completion of this one, but I won't claim to know which was the Mound itself. There was a a pretty sweet mini-junkyard thing going on behind one house bordering the park. Before I got to take a picture, some rummaging noises came from within the junkyard so I moseyed right along out of there before finding out whether the junkyard's keeper had a shotgun among the rusted out cars. For a more interesting read, check out the city's efforts to upgrade the woefully inadequate structure of the Mound's duel reservoirs: sfwater.org.

#36 - Laurel Hill



Streetview just about says it all (Hi, Sutro!)

264 ft.
Another underwhelming hill, another failure to get a decent photo, so instead here's the Google Streetview view (floating label not present in real life). It's a nice-ish neighborhood, with a strip mall thing going on to the north on California. There's not much of a peak to speak of for this hill, just a collection of apartment buildings and a little park. Yup, that's about it.

#37 - Anza Hill



East from Anza Hill to downtown and the bay.

260 ft. Scoping out this hill beforehand on a map, with its summit in the middle of a neighborhood, it threatened to be another no-view bump in urban suburbia. Happily, though, Terra Vista and Anza Vista Avenues, which frame the hill to the north and south, provide clear lines of sight over the city and bay to the east. Otherwise unremarkable, but at least it's got that going for it.

#38 - Washington Heights



260 ft. Washington Heights was just a footnote on the way to better hills down by the ocean. It's in the midst of the Richmond neighborhood, up a couple blocks from the main Balboa St. drag. Like the rest of the Richmond and Sunset, the neighborhood around the hilltop is a collection of subdued stucco houses, with swirling clouds of fog blowing in from the ocean and through the streets. No photo for this one, sorry.

#39* - Irish Hill



Irish "Hill" -- yes, the tree is taller than the hill.

50 ft. (formerly 250 ft.) This is the sad asterisk hill, the former hill. It now sits inside a barbed-wire fence, with a self storage place to its west. Along the top of the fence fly a variety of flags, including an all-too-appropriate "Don't Tread On Me" flag. Ok, ok, message received, we'll just mourn from afar. Not gonna let The Man wipe a hill entirely off the list to further the military-industrial complex agenda, though. The injustice! Read up on the history at pier70sf.org.

#40 - Mount St. Joseph


Maybe Mount St. Joseph, maybe just the Best Buy parking garage.

250 ft. A picture's worth a thousand words.

#41 - Polish Hill
 


Polish Hill? Precita Heights? One in the same?

250 ft. May or may not exist, possibly under a different name. Some of the most comprehensive catalogs of the city's hills make no mention of it, while others mention it but give no clues as to its location. Best guess is Precita Heights, next to Bernal Heights. Whatever this place is, it has a beautiful, sweeping view of the humming city below.

#42 - Alamo Heights



Sutro Tower, #12 - Buena Vista Heights (left) and #3 Mount Sutro from Alamo Square Park

225 ft.
#40 in height, Alamo Heights makes up for its shortcomings with the beautiful Alamo Square Park and views of Sutro, Civic Center, downtown and the northern half of the city. On a clear day, the park fills up with humans on the east slope and dogs on the west slope. To the east are the Painted Ladies, made famous to generations X and Y in the intro sequence to Full House. Because you already know what they look like, there's no reason to include a photo of them. And they could really use a fresh coat of paint as they're all looking like pretty subtle variations on Easter egg pastels. On not-so-clear days, the fog blows in quickly from the west and swirls around in the tops of the park's trees, asking you whether you're so sure you wanted to check out the ocean today.
 
#43 - Cathedral Hill



Cherry blossoms in Japantown, on the west side of Cathedral Hill


206 ft.
Seem to have failed to snap a photo of the massive cathedral on Cathedral Hill, so instead here's a photo of the cherry blossoms down the street at the Japantown Shopping Center. Cathedral Hill itself is marked by a modern cathedral with two sharp ridges intersecting to form a giant plus sign if viewed from above. It's not terribly striking from afar if you're not looking for it, but once you know what it looks like it'll stick out like a sore thumb from most points to the west and south.

#44 - College Hill



Kinda dangerous to start your store's name with "New" isn't it? 

200 ft. The sign on the market at the top of this supposed hill is the best indication that you've found the right place. Says the SF Gazetteer, "This hill would have been merely the eastern end of Fairmont had it not been separated from Fairmont Heights by the Bernal Cut around 1862. St. Mary's College, for which College Hill was named, opened in 1863."


#45 - Sutro Heights


Cliffs next to Sutro Baths, located down the slope from Sutro Heights where Sutro's estate once stood

200 ft.
While Sutro Heights is one of the shorter hills on the list, its dramatic drop down to the ocean and its odd assortment of late-19th / early-20th century artifacts make it one of the more interesting hills in the city. The area is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which means it sees a bit more love than some city-run parks. Trails cling to the cliffs to the north up to China Beach and extend down to Ocean Beach to the south. Sutro Heights itself was the site of Adolph Sutro's estate. The lions at its gate remain, as do some statuettes, but the rest is now an open park. Sutro Baths at the base of the cliff, like everything else in the city, burned to the ground. Left behind are the buildings' concrete foundations, which could pass as ancient Roman ruins. More on Sutro and his heights...

#46 - Mint Hill



150 ft. Quite possible the weakest hill in the city. The new mint was built on top of it and may have further reduced its definition to the point that we should really just not dignify it with a photo. To read about the mint's history straight from Uncle Sam: usmint.gov

#47 - Rincon Hill



The Bay Bridge launches cars skyward, seen from the east side of Rincon Hill

100 ft.
Rincon Hill, though small in height, earns some respect for being one of the original recognized hills in San Francisco's early days and for acting as the foundation for both One Rincon Hill -- a massive condo tower that will give its topmost residents a wild ride when the Big One hits -- and the Bay Bridge's northern approach. It's kind of hard to notice the hill itself when you're at the top, because the tower shoots up nearly five times as high as the hill itself as a marvel of vertical engineering and the bridge shoots off across the bay as a marvel of horizontal engineering.

San Francisco
has 47ish hills within its city (and county) limits. I decided to go walk up each of them. You should, too, as others have and will. Until then, here are some photos, musings and ephemera collected on the way through the city of hills.

*

Why the asterisk? Irish Hill used to stand proud at #39 on this list at 250 ft. All but a 50ft remnant of the hill was demolished and dumped into the bay some time around 1918. But in its place we've added Unnamed Peak, #5 on the list, which seems to have been neglected throughout history. Some might only consider 43 of these "official" hills. Others count as many as 53 to 70 hills. Whatever the number, let's agree there are a lot.

Pages coming soon

Bonus: Sutro Tower

#1 - Mount Davidson
#2 - Twin Peaks South (Noe Peak)
#3 - Mount Sutro
#4 - Twin Peaks North (Eureka Peak)
#5 - Forest Hill
#6 - Edgehill Mountain
#7 - Red Rock Hill
#8 - Gold Mine Hill
#9 - Larsen Peak
#10 - Tank Hill
#11 - Mount Olympus
#12 - Buena Vista Heights
#13 - McLaren Ridge
#14 - Corona Heights
#15 - Candlestick Point (Bayview)
#16 - Merced Heights
#17 - Lone Mountain
#18 - Bernal Heights
#19 - Strawberry Hill
#20 - Liberty Hill
#21 - Parnassus Heights
#22 - Lincoln Heights
#23 - Lafeyette Heights
#24 - Nob Hill
#25 - Pacific Heights
#26 - Presidio Heights
#27 - Dolores Heights
#28 - City College Heights
#29 - Excelsior Heights
#30 - Potrero Hill
#31 - Russian Hill
#32 - Telegraph Hill
#33 - Hunters Point Ridge
#34 - Holly Hill
#35 - University Mound
#36 - Laurel Hill
#37 - Anza Hill
#38 - Washington Heights
#39* - Irish Hill
#40 - Mount St. Joseph
#41 - Polish Hill
#42 - Alamo Heights
#43 - Cathedral Hill
#44 - College Hill
#45 - Sutro Heights
#46 - Mint Hill
#47 - Rincon Hill


Musings

Contact:
email@47hills.com

Footnote
Many dedicated people have spent time researching and documenting the city's hills and their history. I am not one of those people, just a leech on their work doing the easy job of walking the hills. Links and thanks to the main sources:
SF Gazetteer
Tom Graham, SF Gate
Wikipedia, right or wrong


 

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