Bernal Heights is filled with hidden staircases that are lined with native flowers and plants. From Cortland Avenue, the main shopping street, you can you’ll find at least four secret staircases on the way to Bernal Hill. Once you reach the summit of the hill you’re rewarded with the famous Bernal Heights swing that overlooks sweeping city views.
Depending on how fast you walk it could take between 25-30 minutes to get there. Then another 20-minute walk to get to the summit of the hill where you can find a tree swing with the backdrop of sweeping city views
This route has the potential to turn an average evening walk into an impromptu date night. Start on Cortland Avenue by picking up some delicious bites from Little Bee Bakery and a bottle of wine from Epicurean Trader. Then, walk up some of these secret staircases to Bernal Hill.
Here are four sweet staircases you can find on a walk from Cortland Avenue to Bernal Hill.
Ways to Walk to the Hill
There are two sets of Prentiss Street steps that lead to Bernal Heights Blvd where you can get to the summit of the hill.
Starting at Cortland and Prentiss street, walk down Prentiss until you reach to Powhattan Ave.
When you reach Powhattan you have a choice Directly in front you is the first staircase. You can cross Chapman Street and climb those. Beyond there, you’ll reach a second stairway. This is lined with lavender. It leads directly to Bernal Heights Blvd. As you ascend make sure to turn around and get a glimpse of the city views behind you.
Your second option is to turn right on Powhattan. You’ll quickly reach another staircase on Nevada Street that looks like it’s surrounded by a flowering garden. With its own peek-a-boo view, this also takes you towards the hill.
About 800 feet away are another small set of steps on a tiny lane called Rosenkranz that also connects to Bernal Heights Blvd.
Be prepared for a steep hike to the top that will take between 15-30 minutes depending on how fit you are. But it’s a walk filled with wildflowers and California’s poppies in the spring. This is one of the few parks left where dogs and their owners can be off-leash.
As you approach the hill from this direction there’s a fire trail on the side of the hill that leads to the top.
Once you reach the summit you’ll find one of the most photographed swings in the city.
It’s a swing that begs to be swung. It’s one of the most popular places for people looking for great city photographs so be prepared to wait in line on a warm night.
Bernal legend has it that in 1876 a mini gold rush was triggered by con-artists planting gold on the hill. These days there’s the infamous and popular painted rock that is constantly changing colors.
On a clear day, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, downtown and Twin Peaks from the Summit.
Jen Baxter is a content writer and strategist helping companies creatively craft the story of their business online. You can find more of her work at JenBaxter.com