16th Avenue Tiled Steps: Tips to Visit this Hidden Gem in San Francisco

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: June 6, 2022

The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps are a set of mosaic staircases in the Inner Sunset District. These colorful pieces of art showcase intricate designs that can be enjoyed from both far away and close up.

The theme of the overall design ranges from the sea to space. You will see lovely spiral designs with small sea creatures all around them. You will also see a set of stairs with a beautiful moon. Another popular one is a yellow and orange sun.

You can visit the stairs all year long. They are free to visit, and you can climb them as many times as you want. You will often find other visitors here, but it isn't often overly busy. 

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More About the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps

The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps project kicked off in 2003. It was a neighborhood grassroots project for the local Golden Gate Heights District (a sub-district of the Inner Sunset). 

The effort took hundreds of hours of labor and officially opened to the public on August 27, 2005.

It has 163 stairs that include fish, shells, and other sea creatures. You will also find beautifully manicured gardens on both sides.

Here is a view of the entire set of stairs.

Full View of the 16th Avenue Steps

You can now see why these stairs are so popular!

As you approach the staircase, you will get to see the gorgeous gardens on both sides.

Gardens of the 16th Avenue Steps

As you start to climb, the bottom section shows you the detail, care, and work that were put into the project. You can see that the stairs are mostly covered in blue tiles with several other colors sprinkled in.

Bottom Section of the Staircase in San Francisco

This picture below shows you how well the artwork transitions from one section to the next.

The transition between staircases in SF.

You can also start to see more of the sea creatures mixed into the design. This is the next set of stairs.

Sea Creatures in stairs in San Francisco

I also love seeing the butterflies on the flowers in the garden. I was able to quickly catch this picture about half-way up the 16th Avenue Tiled Stairs.

16th Avenue Tiled Stairs

Here you will see even more of the beautiful gardens surrounding the 16th Avenue Tiled Stairs.

Gardens around the 16th Avenue Stairs

One of the things you will also notice about the artwork is that several tiles have names. These are names added by the donors that helped fund the creation of these stairs. Some of them are in memory of loved ones and others are names of locals that wanted their own names included.

You can see a close-up of them here.

Names on stairs in SF

As you are climbing and admiring the stairs, make sure to stop and look around behind you too. The higher you climb the better the views. This photo is from the half-way point where you can get a good view of the top of the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge from Stairs

As you reach the top two sections, you will see some of the most photographed sections of the 16th Avenue Tiled Stairs. The first section is a picture of the moon. The top section is of the sun. Here are pictures of both.

Moon on the stairs in San Francisco
Sun on the stairs in San Francisco

Congratulations! You have reached the top. Now it's time to soak in the views. You will get spectacular views of Ocean Beach and the Pacific Ocean from the top.

Views from the Top

Tours and Attractions Nearby in Golden Gate Park

When is the Best Time to Visit?

The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps face west, so they look the most colorful once the sun is overhead. I like visiting it the afternoon. This area also gets quite a bit of fog, so visiting in the afternoon also gives the fog a chance to burn off a bit.

But even if it's foggy, you will still get a great view of these stairs. 

Make sure to bring along a jacket, though, as the Sunset District is a little cooler than the eastern side of SF. It's usually anywhere from 5 to 10 degrees cooler over here.

Click the links below to learn more about what to expect from the weather each month. Note that this area will always be on the cooler end of the estimates.













Other Colorful Staircases Around SF

Hidden Garden Steps: The Hidden Garden Steps are another colorful set of stairs just around the corner from the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps. They offer artwork with a garden feel. You will see flowers, insects, and local animals.

Filbert Street Stairs: The Filbert Street Stairs are some of our most famous stairs. They take you from the Embarcadero near the Financial District to Coit Tower

Greenwich Stairs: Right next door to the Filbert Street Stairs are the Greenwich Steps. This set also takes you from the Embarcadero to Coit Tower. The second half is all brick and they offer a lovely climb to the top.

More of My Favorites: In addition to these, you will find other wonderful staircases all around SF. Find a list of my 8 favorites here.

How to Get to the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps

The best way to get to the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps is on the N-Judah light rail. This Muni train runs all the way from the King Street Caltrain Station to Ocean Beach. 

That's the best way to get here when traveling from Union Square, South of Market or the downtown area. It runs along Market Street, through the Lower Haight, over to Cole Valley, and then to the Inner Sunset District.

You will take the train to the stop at 16th Avenue and Judah. You can then walk up 16th Street, climb the Hidden Garden Steps and continue on. You will reach the bottom of the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps from here. The walk (depending on how much time you spend on the Hidden Garden Steps) takes about 20 minutes. It's only half a mile, but it's uphill the entire way.

If you are coming over from Fisherman's Wharf, the best way to get here is to take the 28 bus. It picks up at Van Ness and North Point (about every 10 minutes) and will drop you off at 19th Avenue and Moraga Street.

This bus takes just under an hour and is an easy ride. Along the way, you will also get to see the Golden Gate Bridge from the windows as this is the bus that will take you there too. 

What to See & Do Nearby

Japanese Tea Garden: The Japanese Tea Garden is one of the top attractions in Golden Gate Park. Inside, you will see a pagoda, a wooden bridge, and other authentic Japanese structures. I also love the Zen Garden and the Tea House (I especially love their green tea latte!). 

Conservatory of Flowers: The Conservatory of Flowers is also located in Golden Gate Park. You will find four climate-controlled areas that are home to a variety of plants and flowers. I love the water lilies, the orchids, and the hibiscus.

More in Golden Gate Park: You will find plenty to do just north of the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps in Golden Gate Park. In addition to the two attractions mentioned above, you will also find one of our most popular museums, the California Academy of Sciences (find skip-the-line tickets). It's also home to the de Young Museum, Blue Heron Lake, and the Beach Chalet.

Tips to Visit the 16th Avenue Tiled Stairs

More Things to Do on Your San Francisco Visit

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

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