Rome isn't the only city famous for seven hills. Although there are officially fifty or more hills in the City by the Bay, the famous seven hills of San Francisco stand out — Telegraph Hill, Nob Hill, Rincon Hill, Twin Peaks, Russian Hill, Lone Mountain, and Mount Davidson. The award for the tallest hill goes to Mount Davidson.
Besides the ocean and the bay, the seven hills of San Francisco are the most prominent geographical features of the city. The same forces that caused the city's earthquakes — the San Andreas and Hayward faults — have shaped these seven hills. As famous San Franciscan columnist Herb Caen wrote, "Take anything from us, our cable cars, our bridges, even our bay, but leave us our hills." Let's take a look at the hills, from top to bottom.
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At 938 feet, this is the highest spot in San Francisco. At its summit is a concrete and steel cross, rising another 100 feet above the hill's summit. From above, you can see a clear divide between the eucalyptus forest on the west side and coastal scrub and grassland on the east side of Mount Davidson. Easter sunrise services have been held on the hill every year since 1923. To get to Mount Davidson from downtown, take Market Street southwest to Portola Drive. Take any exit left to to Juanita Way, the park's peripheral road.
Once surrounded by a string of cemeteries — Odd Fellows Cemetery, Masonic Cemetery and the Greek Orthodox cemetery — it's no wonder Lone Mountain has plenty of ghost stories attached to it. The graves were moved in the 1940s but the legends remain. The 448-foot Lone Mountain is crowned by a tower that is part of the University of San Francisco. The Presidio and Lincoln Park are on the north side and Golden Gate Park is to the south.
Named to honor the early Russian settlers, Russian Hill is easy walking distance from Downtown, the Financial District and North Beach. The neighborhood is noted for its lovely bay views. It's also where you find Lombard Street, the crookedest street in San Francisco. (Or in the world, as the city would have it.) Russian Hill is defined by Pacific to Bay Streets and from Polk to Mason. Its core is Broadway, Chestnut, Larking and Taylor Streets.
At 922 feet above sea level, Twin Peaks offers one of the most sweeping panoramic views of the city and the Bay Area. Twin Peaks also gives you a glimpse into what the city looked like before development. Its grassland and scrub with a mix of coyote brush and lupine and it's also home to the endangered Mission Blue Butterfly which is partial to the strong winds.
Located at the southern tip of The Embarcadero, this hill park is only one and a half blocks long. Rincon Hill itself is only about 100 feet high. After the Gold Rush, Rincon Hill was a prestigious neighborhood until it was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire.
Home to the mansions built by the city's early mining and railroad tycoons, this may be the best known of San Francisco's hills. In addition to luxury hotels, you also find Grace Cathedral and many posh apartments. The boundaries of Nob Hill are Bush, Larkin, Pacific, and Stockton Streets. It's easily accessible by the city's three cable-car lines.
Named for a signal station erected on its summit that informed the citizens of the arrival of ships back in the early days of San Francisco, Telegraph Hill offers an unbeatable panorama of San Francisco and the bay. The best way to access Telegraph is the famous 400 stairs that start in Levi Plaza. As you climb past hidden colorful houses, be on the lookout for the equally famous parrots of Telegraph Hill.
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