Throughout our planet, there are countless cities and villages whose mountainous topography dictate a hilly layout that spans across their uneven terrain. In some extreme instances, however, streets are so steep that walking along them might be akin to an arduous climb over a Himalayan footpath. While many streets can qualify as exceedingly steep, the next five are apparently in a league of their own, competing with each other over the coveted title of being the world’s steepest street.
Once a narrow sliver of land whose sole function was to divide empty lots, Baxter Street is now among Los Angeles’s steepest streets. It all started in the late 19th century, when the imaginary line in Echo Park neighborhood evolved into a pedestrian stairway that provided local residents with an access to the nearby streetcar route. Following the advent of the automobile, the hilly street became a full-fledged road. In fact, in its early days, the street served as an unofficial testing ground for vehicles as manufactures were determined to prove their competence.
With a 32 percent grade on its steepest section (between Allesandro to North Alvarado streets), drivers who make their way uphill feel as if they move towards the sky, especially given the sharp drop on the other side. Since GPS navigation apps started offering Baxter Street as a congestion-free shortcut, it has witnessed numerous accidents, particularly during inclement weather conditions. To mitigate some of its arduous nature, the street was installed with a grid pattern, thus helping drivers to have a better grip on the road.
photography by: Oleg/ Flickr
For nearly a year, the tricky to pronounce street of Ffordd Pen Llech in Harlech, Wales, was according to Guinness World Records, the steepest street on the planet. Roughly translated from Welsh as the “tip of the rock”, the street starts at Harlech’s historic center and then meanders around the town’s medieval castle, built by King Edward I in the 13th century.
Whilst Ffordd Pen Llech is merely 300 meter long, it has an elevation gain of over 50 meters, making it incredibly steep. During the late 2020’s, a group of proud residents led by Gwyn Headley ardently campaigned for the coveted Guinness title of the world’s hilliest street. Following a series of measurements by experts, it was determined that the street had a 36.63% slope on its steepest part, earning it the number one position on July 2019. Nonetheless, the townwide jubilation was short lived as less than a year later, the street was stripped of its title on the pretext that its steepest section crosses through a forest rather than a residential area.
Despite no longer recognized as a record-breaking street, Ffordd Pen Llech is still famous, and sometimes notorious, for its extreme slopes. As a testimony to its steepness, the street’s northern segment was made a one-way descent after years on end where cars coming from opposite directions were stranded along the narrow road.
photography by: Jonathan Deamer/ Wikimedia Commons
Another fierce contender for the world steepness championship is Canton Avenue in Pittsburgh. While the street is 190 meter long (630 feet), its hilly part spans across 65 meters (213 feet), making it according to some sources, the steepest street in the United States as well as the entire world. On average, this quiet street in Beechview neighborhood has a 30% grade, however, at its steepest section, it stands around 37 percent
To avoid any traffic-related predicaments or worse, head-on collisions, Canton Avenue’s slope was designated as a one-way ascent. Every October, on the last Saturday before Halloween, the street hosts the citywide Dirty Dozen bicycle race, where intrepid cyclists try their best to overcome the insanely steep climb to the hilltop.
photography by: Lildobe/ Wikimedia Commons
The city of Dunedin in New-Zealand’s South Island is renowned for its sumptuous Victorian architecture, the country’s oldest university and apparently, also the world’s steepest street, at least according to Guinness World Records. Running straightly from North Rd. up to the foots of Signal Hill in the suburb of Opoho, the 350-meter-long Baldwin Street (1,150 feet) ascends 70 meters from its lowest to highest points. That in turn, imparts the street with a 34.8 percent grade.
In 1987, Baldwin Street’s sheer steepness was officially recognized by the Guinness Book of Records which announced that the suburban roadway is in fact the hilliest street on Earth. The street’s global fame, however, was briefly challenged by its aforementioned Welsh counterpart which in 2019, snatched the honored title for nine months. It was an intense campaign by a group of local residents who, with the help of surveyor Toby Stoff, managed to turn the tide by persuading Guinness that the point of reference for measurements should be based along the street’s central axis.
Over the years since its well-publicized coronation as a Guinness title holder, the street has become a quirky tourist attraction that draws visitors from all over the world. As part of its growing popularity, Baldwin St. attracted all sort of stunt performers, some of whom impressively prevailed while for others, it ended fatally wrong.
In 2018, an 11-year-old boy successfully climbed the entire street with a pogo stick whereas 16 years before, a fund-raising event culminated when 30,000 Jaffas, a type of spherical chocolate candy, were rolled downhill. On the other hand, a pair of students from the city’s University of Otago weren’t as lucky, when one was killed and the other critically wounded after their attempt to descend the street inside a wastebin ended by a crash with a parking car.
photography by: macronix/ Flickr
Up until quite recently, the previously mentioned Baldwin Street had pretty much dominated the world’s steepness rankings. That is, until Stephen Von Worley, an American computer scientist and software engineer, purportedly proved that San Francisco, a city known for its extremely hilly terrain, is in fact home to the steepest street in the world.
Tucked away in the neighborhood of Bernal Heights, in the southeastern part of the city, Bradford Street is an unassuming roadway whose average grade stands at around 24 percent, a modest figure when compared with the rest of the list. With that being said, a one recently paved segment of the street, north of Tompkins Avenue, features a whopping 41 percent grade. This ridiculously extreme slope doesn’t only make it by far the steepest street in San Francisco, but also across the entire world.
photography by: Erica Fischer/ Flickr