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The Moraga Steps: A Hidden Tourist Attraction in San Francisco

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All 163 beautiful Moraga Steps as seen from the bottom.

All 163 beautiful Moraga Steps as seen from the bottom.

What Are the Moraga Steps?

The Moraga Steps are 163 steps that have been decorated with hand-painted tiles to make a beautiful mosaic. Each set of steps creates a picture that ascends up the staircase. The Moraga Steps were inspired by the tiled steps in Rio De Janeiro, which attract many tourists.

The Moraga Steps was built by a group of San Francisco neighbors and artists—including an Irish ceramicist named Aileen Barr and a mosaic artist named Colette Crutcher—over a period of two and a half years. The steps are made of more than 2,000 handmade tiles that are made up of 75,000 fragments of tiles, mirrors and stained glass. The tiles are in the shapes of birds, stars, flowers, fish and many other designs and create an amazing work of art.

This project was sponsored by many local businesses, and if you look closely at the tiles, you can see that many of them have the names of these sponsors painted on them.

Discreet Location

The Moraga Steps are located on 16th Avenue between Moraga and Noriega Street in the Sunset district of San Francisco. The steps are very well hidden and far away from traditional tourist attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 39.

Getting to this location can be difficult if this is your first time in San Francisco or aren't used to the area yet. You can reach the Moraga Steps by either taking the 28 bus line to 19th Avenue and Moraga Street and walking to 16th Avenue or by driving. Walking can be a little challenging because it's uphill and the hills are steep in San Francisco. However, if you have no car, this may be your only option. Driving can also be challenging because to get to the base of the Moraga Steps, you have to drive uphill and some of the streets are very narrow.

The Moraga Steps are definitely worth the visit. The steps are very beautiful and they're something you have to see with your own eyes to appreciate. Most people don't know about the Moraga Steps because they're very far away from the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown and Downtown. The Moraga Steps are relatively close to Golden Gate Park—just under two miles away—if you're in the mood for a healthy walk! The Moraga Steps can get busy, but generally unless you are looking for the steps, you won't even know that they're there.

A view of the Pacific from the top of the Moraga Steps.

A view of the Pacific from the top of the Moraga Steps.

My Experience at the Moraga Steps

The first time I had visited the Moraga Steps was in 2013 with my friends. I had seen my friends posting photos of these beautiful steps but I didn't know where they were getting these photos. I asked my friends "what are the Moraga Steps?" They were shocked I had never heard of them and had never been there.

A few weeks later, my friends took me to the Moraga Steps and I was in shock. I had never seen such pretty steps in my life. I will be honest and say I'm afraid of heights and I don't like climbing stairs but this was worth it. I was really tired when I got to the top but I loved seeing the view. When you get to the top of the steps, you can see almost the entire city. Then I had to come back down and I'm afraid of heights so descending the steps was a little difficult.

Two months ago, I took my husband to the Moraga Steps when we were visiting my family in San Francisco. My husband is from Europe and has been to San Francisco as a tourist on many occasions. However, he has never heard of the Moraga Steps. We drove to the Moraga Steps and parked the car close to the bottom of the steps. He was really amazed at the art work on the steps and we worked our way to the top. When we got to the top, it was really windy and cold but we still got to see the view of the city. We could see almost the entire city and we saw a blanket of fog in the distance starting to engulf the city. It was really amazing! Then we started our journey back down.

Even if you're scared of heights or don't like to climb stairs, getting to the top and seeing the view is worth it. When I visited the Moraga Steps in 2013, it had quite a few people there. The Moraga Steps are an open space and free to visit!

© 2020 Sarah Wong