8 of the World's Steepest Streets

You might be surprised to learn just how steep the steepest street in the world is, though that honor is disputed.

The view from above of Filbert Street in San Francisco—not the world's steepest!
The view from above of Filbert Street in San Francisco—not the world's steepest!.

Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.5

Do you enjoy the thrill of rocketing down a steep street, or do you shudder at the thought of ascending a road that seems to climb into the clouds? Whether you're walking, cycling, or driving on a steep road, you're bound to notice that buildings on steep streets seem more than a little bit crooked and you may be more aware of gravity's pull than usual.

Many streets across the world boast gradients of over 30%. Some of these roads are residential and relatively quiet, while others have become busy tourist destinations, often by virtue of their record-breaking slopes.

The steepest road in the world is a hotly debated topic, and there are many locations claiming to hold this record. Currently, Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand, holds the highly sought-after title, having taken it back from Ffordd Pen Llech, in Harlech, Wales.

Here are eight of the steepest streets in the world.

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Baldwin Street (Dunedin, New Zealand)

Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand

Mike Thurston / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

A major city on New Zealand's South Island, Dunedin is famous for its architecture and academia. More recently, it has also received attention for what was renamed the steepest street in the world by Guinness World Records in 2020: Baldwin Street.

Dead-ending in a cul-de-sac on Signal Hill, Baldwin Street is approximately 1,150 feet long and reaches a maximum grade of 34.8% rising. Its lowest point measures 98 feet above sea level and its highest point 330 feet.

There is significant controversy over whether Baldwin Street is truly the world's steepest street, as measuring discrepancies continue to stir disagreement. It held the title for a decade before a Welsh street took it in 2019, but then the honor was reinstated. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that walking up this steep street would make any pedestrian's calves burn.

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Canton Avenue (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

Canton Avenue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Lildobe / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Pittsburgh is a hilly city filled with winding roads and pathways. Canton Avenue claims the title of the city's steepest street with a reported gradient of 37%. Translated into layman's terms, that means that for every 100 feet traveled, you gain 37 feet in elevation.

If this is the road's actual gradient, Canton Avenue would be the steepest known street in the world. Pittsburgh residents claim this honor as their own, but Guinness World Records has yet to make an official judgment on Canton Avenue. (Residents could certainly apply for the official judgment.)

Whether Canton Avenue deserves a world record or not, it is no doubt steep enough to challenge competitive cyclists. The annual 50-mile Dirty Dozen bicycle race around Pittsburgh includes some of the area's steepest streets, with Canton Avenue as the centerpiece.

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Ffordd Pen Llech (Harlech, Wales)

Ffordd Pen Llech in Harlech, Wales

Jonathan Deamer / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0

In the historic town of Harlech, Wales, a steep road briefly held a Guinness World Record. Ffordd Pen Llech held the title of World's Steepest Street in 2019 before being stripped of this claim, the title returning to Baldwin Street in New Zealand after only a year.

In the Guinness World Record survey committee's first analysis, this street was said to have a gradient of 37.45%. However, upon review a year later at the request of Baldwin Street representatives, the guidelines of this world record were rewritten to require measurement to be taken from the middle of the road rather than the outside, and Ffordd Pen Llech was given a new official gradient of 28.6%.

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Filbert Street (San Francisco, California)

Filbert Street in San Francisco, California

Goodshoped35110s / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

San Francisco is known for its steep streets. Filbert Street between Hyde and Leavenworth streets is particularly famous. With a maximum grade of 31.5%, this rather daunting stretch of concrete on Telegraph Hill is actually tied with 22nd Street between Church and Vicksburg as the steepest street in San Fransisco. But because Filbert is a major street, it is often recognized as the area's steepest.

Tourist and residential traffic abound on this narrow block, not only to marvel at its slope but also to enjoy the spectacular views of North Beach, Coit Tower, and the Bay Bridge.

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Baxter Street (Los Angeles, California)

Baxter Street in Los Angeles, California

Oleg / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

In Los Angeles, Baxter Street keeps visitors and locals alike cautious. This road has a gradient of 32%, making it one of the steepest streets in L.A. The steepest section stretches from North Alvarado to Allesandro streets. This street has many stretches with extremely low visibility, making it even more dangerous for motorists.

Over the years, Baxter Street residents have witnessed countless head-on collisions, runaway cars, and at least one stopped school bus. Especially in inclement weather, this dangerous road is best avoided even if this means taking a higher-traffic route. Baxter residents have been working diligently for years to remove certain problematic routes containing their street from navigational and ride-share apps for the sake of safety. There's even a grid pattern embedded in one section of the concrete that's designed to help give cars some extra grip.

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Waipi'o Valley Road (Big Island, Hawaii)

Waipio Valley Road in Honokaa, Hawaii

Wasif Malik / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Full of twists and turns and lined with beautiful trees and scenery, Hawaii's Waipi'o Valley Road has an average gradient of about 25%, with some stretches reaching gradients of up to 40%.

Waipi'o Valley Road on the northeast coast of Hawaii's Big Island is one of the only steep streets on this list that isn't accessible to public transit. In fact, only four-wheel-drive vehicles may drive on this paved, one-lane road through the lush Hawaiian rain forest. Many local car rental companies do not permit customers to drive down this street in rented vehicles due to the high frequency of accidents and breakdowns. DangerousRoads.org says that sections of it are so steep and long that they can destroy brakes on the way down.

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Vale Street (Bristol, England)

Vale Street in Bristol, England

Jaggery / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

It should come as no surprise that the United Kingdom, with its well-known hilly topography, has one of the steepest streets in the world. Most notable is Vale Street in Bristol, which has a gradient of almost 22 degrees, which converts to roughly 40%. Driving down this road is always challenging, but the trip is especially treacherous when its sharp turns become icy.

Atlas Obscura shares that residents must park their cars perpendicular to the grade and sometimes even tie them to lampposts when there's ice—although it's hard to believe that that's enough to keep a vehicle in place!

Flanked by 19th-century terrace homes and a staircase built into the concrete, Vale Street is closed off to automobile traffic once a year for the community's annual Easter egg roll, an event that sees Vale Street residents rolling hard-boiled eggs down the street. Whoever's egg travels the farthest wins.

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Eldred Street (Los Angeles, California)

View looking down on Eldred Street, the steepest street in Los Angelos.

waltarrrrr / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

San Francisco may be the California city best known for its hilly terrain, but Los Angeles is also home to a few slanted roads and streets, one of them being the infamous Eldred Street.

Located in the northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Mount Washington, Eldred Street inclines at a 33% gradient before reaching a dead end. Beyond that, it can only be ascended by foot, as the road is replaced with a wooden staircase that connects it to the cross street above. Built in 1912, long before the city instituted its 15% gradient limit, this street is so precarious that modified miniature garbage trucks have been made to scale it successfully (ordinary-sized garbage trucks would tip over) and most delivery drivers refuse to try altogether.

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