Forest Knolls Stairway Walk – Tony Holiday

One of the charms of our neighborhood are its stairways – or “lanes.” We’ve written about them before, HERE. Recently, hiker Tony Holiday who blogs at Stairways are Heaven posted  about a walk that started with Forest Knolls.  His photo essay is partially republished here with permission and minor edits.


San Francisco’s Mount Sutro has several stairways with over 100 steps. The Medical Center Way stairs that ascend from behind the hospital buildings on Parnassus total about 136. Farnsworth Lane: 149. Around on the south, east, and west sides, the Forest Knolls neighborhood has Ashwood (109 steps), Blairwood (337), Glenhaven (167), and the longest, Oakhurst Lane (353-ish).

It’s 17 steps down from Clarendon and a walkway to start.

17 steps down from Clarendon Avenue and a walkway to start

Ashwood climbs between homes and a school [Clarendon Elementary]…

Ashwood climbs between homes and a school

… and leads up to Warren in Forest Knolls.

Ashwood Lane up to Warren in Forest Knolls

That’s the school to the left.

Thats a school to the left

Nearing the top here…

Nearing the top

…Looking down from near the top of Ashwood.

Looking down from the top of Ashwood

The top of Ashwood Lane

At the top of Ashwood Lane, Glenhaven Lane, my next to-do stairway, necessitated a short walk to the east. Here’s Glenhaven in distance at the end of Oak Park Dr.

Glenhaven Lane in the distance at the end of Oak Park

Glenhaven starts upIt’s a garden by the steps.

stairway garden

Continuing up

Glenhaven gardensteps

Partway up Glenhaven Lane

Glenhaven climbs to Christopher & Crestmont.

Glenhave climbs to Christopher and Crestmont

Here’s Sutro Tower viewed from Glenhaven Lane.

Sutro Tower from Glenhaven

At the top of Glenhaven, I was planning to descend Blairwood Lane from its top at Crestmont.  However, before reaching this, I got distracted by the rough dirt trailhead from Christopher & Crestmont and went up into Sutro Forest .

[You can see the rest of Tony’s hike – and more photographs – on his blog, HERE.]

The Stairways of Forest Knolls

One of the most delightful aspects of our neighborhood – besides the wonderful forest – are its romantic stairways, climbing the steep slopes of Mount Sutro and linking the roads.

What surprised me was that they all have names. They’re lanes:  Ashwood Lane; Blairwood Lane; Glenhaven Lane; and Oakhurst Lane.

Not only are these stairs a convenient short-cut linking our curving roads, they offer great views and good exercise (of which more later). Some of them – like Glenhaven Lane – are well-lit at night, others less so. They’re all steel and concrete, the effect mellowed by green-painted railings, and vegetation growing right beside and underneath the floating steps. (They don’t have risers, so rain and light can get through to the plants.)

Glenhaven Lane

The stairways are all in flights of around 100 -200 steps, though some are actually systems of several flights of stairs. The shortest stairways are Ashwood Lane, which connects Clarendon Avenue to Warren Drive, (109 steps), and Glenhaven Lane, connecting Oak Park Drive to Christopher/ Crestmont (167 steps).

The two longer stairways are Oakhurst and Blairwood. Oakhurst runs from Warren Drive to a cul-de-sac on Oak Park (162 steps) and up to Crestmont (another 193 steps) for a total of 355 steps.

Blairwood Lane  runs in three sections from Warren Drive to Oak Park (117 steps) to Christopher (another 103 steps) to Crestmont (118 steps), and totals 338 steps. (Actually, it’s almost contiguous with Ashwood, so you could almost consider them the same stairway, which would make it 447 steps.)

A Staircase View

I’m not the first to write about these stairs. In ‘Stairway Walks in San Francisco‘ by Adah Bakalinsky with Marian Gregoire, our neighborhood gets Chapter 17. (With the slightly off-putting title, Grading & Sliding, Fog & Drip. They must have been here on a foggy day…)

And our own neighbor Beverly Mack wrote “Steppin’ Up” in the Jan 2010 issue of the Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization newsletter, about the benefits of the stairs as a real-life exercise machine. Here’s the article (published with permission and edited to avoid duplication — all the step-counts above are from that article).

STEPPIN’ UP by Beverly Mack

We are fortunate to have stairways that connect our neighborhood streets as an immediate source for exercise. The advantage of having the stairs is that you do not have to drive to the gym – no gas, no traffic, and no parking problems. The stairs are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no closures because of holidays. And above all else, IT IS FREE.

So, let’s start exercising by stair climbing. Take your dog, children, grab a neighbor, or better yet start a group. Stair climbing uses your quads (front of your thighs) and buttocks. It is an intense exercise because you are carrying your body weight against gravity. It is an intense cardiovascular and leg muscle activity. And it is low impact and safe for your knees. Do not do too much too quickly, and be sure to consult your orthopedist if you have existing knee problems. There is stress to your knees coming down stairs rather than climbing up, so when you reach the top of any level, walk back down along the sidewalks of our Forest Knolls streets.

Depending on your body weight and pace, stair climbing can burn 300 calories in 30 minutes. Make sure to wear shoes with good support. Drink enough water before, during and after your workout. Think about alternating stair climbing with other activities, such as taking a walk in our great forest. Whatever you do, make sure to check with your physician.

Start slowly, wear supportive shoes, drink water, and don’t forget to stretch  before and after exercising. Above all have fun. And besides, it’s a great way to meet your neighbors.