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(Some of) The steepest streets in Seattle

The Bicycle Alliance of Washington tweeted a link today to a city webpage listing the steepest streets in the city. No, you’re not a wuss. Cherry Street really is that steep.

This is invaluable information if you’re trying to plan bike routes, of course. And if you ride any of these streets, go ahead and give yourself a big pat on the back. You earned it!

Note: This list is from the 1960s, so some of the streets no longer exist and some street names say “Ave N” instead of “Ave E.” But you get the idea: It’s freaking steep! As you can see from the comments below, the list is not exhaustive of the steep streets. It’s Seattle. We have tons of them.

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From SDOT:

Central Business District

Street Name Intersections Slope
Madison Street 3rd Avenue to 4th Avenue 19%
James Street 4th Avenue to 5th Avenue 18.3%
Cherry Street 4th Avenue to 5th Avenue 17.1%
Seneca Street 3rd Avenue to 4th Avenue 15.3%
University Street 3rd Avenue to 4th Avenue 10.2%
Spring Street 4th Avenue to 5th Avenue 10.0%
6th Avenue University Street to Union Street 8.0%
4th Avenue James Street to Cherry Street 4.7%
4th Avenue Union Street to University Street 3.9%
6th Avenue Pike Street to Pine Street 2.2%

Steepest Paved Streets

Street Name Intersections Slope
East Roy Street 25th Avenue North to 26th Avenue North 26.04%
East Boston Street Harvard Avenue to Broadway Avenue 23.8%
East Highland Drive 24th Avenue North to 25th Avenue North 23.6%
Mercer Street Melrose Avenue to Eastlake Avenue 22.6%
East Boston Street Boylston Avenue to Harvard Avenue 22.5%
Mercer Street 24th Avenue North to 25th Avenue North 22.4%
East Prospect Street 24th Avenue North to 25th Avenue North 22.3%
Helen Street 24th Avenue North to 25th Avenue North 22.0%
Helen Street 25th Avenue North to 26th Avenue North 21.7%
Ward Street 25th Avenue North to 26th Avenue North 21.5%
Queen Anne Avenue Prospect Street to Highland (Counter Balance) 18.5%

(There are many blocks in town with 18% to 21% grades.)

Steepest Graded Street

Street Name Intersections Slope
Northwest 60th Street 2nd Ave Northwest to 3rd Ave Northwest 28%

Other Representative Streets

Street Name Intersections Slope
Airport Way South Hanford Street to South Holgate Street 2.0%
Aurora Avenue North Prospect Street to Galer Street 2.0%
Beacon Avenue South South Hanford Street to South Stevens Street 0.7%
California Avenue Southwest Southwest Graham Street to Fauntleroy Way Southwest 1.6%
South Grahm Street Wilson Avenue South to Chatham Drive South 21.5%
Highland Park Way Southwest West Marginal Way Southwest to Southwest Webster Street 11.1%
Rainier Avenue South South Jackson Street to South Dearborn Street 5.1%
Rainier Avenue South South cClellan Street to South Winthrop Street 0.3%
Thorndyke Avenue West West Plymouth Street to West McGraw Street 5.0%
15th Avenue Northeast Northeast 125th Street to Northeast 127th Street 2.1%
15th Avenue Northeast Northeast 143rd Street Street to Northeast 145th Street Street 3.9%
35th Avenue Southwest Southwest Barton Street to Southwest Henderson Street 5.0%
Northeast 45th Street 45th Avenue Northeast to 46th Avenue Northeast 12.0%
North 85th Street Aurora Avenue North to Linden Avenue North 8.0%
Holgate Street Overpass 13.4%
Admiral Way Southwest Harbor Avenue Southwest to Southwest Spokane Street 7.0%

Based on survey data, 1969

Note: There are maps in the Records Vault showing the rate of grade of all improved streets in the city. The Vault is located on the 47th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 Fifth Avenue, (206) 684-5132.

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37 responses to “(Some of) The steepest streets in Seattle”

  1. Melinda

    That block of Northwest 60th has been turned into a really cool P-Patch! The sidewalk is all stairs.

    Also, I’m pretty sure that Mercer between Eastlake and Melrose doesn’t actually exist anymore!

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Ha! Yeah. The data is from the 60s. So the slopes will be pretty accurate, but not all the roads exist anymore, unfortunately.

      1. A lot of those “Avenues North” are now “Avenues East,” too. But still a fascinating map. Also… imagine what some of these figures would have been like before regrading!

    2. Chuck

      Used to live right by this one. It takes your breath away walking. And it has those sidewalk bumps. Would be interesting to try on a bike!

  2. Fascinating list, that is.

  3. Uwe Bergk

    There is one street I am missing from the list and consider very steep and probably one of the most challenging climbs in Seattle as it gets steeper and steeper as you go. The street is W Dravus street, roughly between 23rd Ave W and 27th Ave W in the Magnolia neighborhood. I wonder what the percentage is there. Anyway happy climbing on the streets of Seattle.

    1. Bill

      ridewithgps.com is a good place to get elevation data. Its gradient calculations seem off, so divide the elevation difference by the distance (in feet; 1 mile = 5280 feet). That bit of Dravus averages 15%.

      In West Seattle, Avalon Way SW varies between 6 and 8%. Fairmount Ave SW averages 9.7%, with a kick at the top (that the online data does not resolve) that must be 20%.

    2. Slaid

      The sign at the bottom of the hill states ‘19%’

    3. Slaid

      The top of Dravus is 19%

  4. Peri Hartman

    Those are some pretty steep streets! They left out the steepest, though:
    4th N between Fulton and Newell (north slope of QA, above the Fremont bridge). It rises from 30′ to 156′ in 445′: slope 28.3%. And, that’s an average. Phew!

    1. Philip Ries

      There’s even someone walking a bike up the slope in the Google Street View of 4th Ave N.

  5. Kevin

    Does anyone know the inclination of 4th Avenue North between Dexter Avenue North and Queen Anne Drive/Raye Street? It’s the steep street visible due south when crossing the Fremont Bridge. If you google map 2779 4th Avenue North and street view it, you’ll see a guy walking his bike up.

    1. Peri Hartman

      That’s the one I posted above!

  6. merlin

    A first-time visitor to my house called from 24th and Mercer asking if there was a less-steep route down to my house on 25th. She was DRIVING and was afraid to drive down that slope on a clear, dry day.

  7. If the list isn’t complete or out-dated, what’s the point?

    I already know that 19th Ave. E between E. Interlaken Blvd. and Boyer Ave. E is missing from this list. There are hills on Magnolia and Queen Anne that are clearly not on this list either.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Yes, you are all apt and have torn the list to shreds. Duly noted. I’ll amend the headline.

      1. If the list isn’t complete or out-dated, what’s the point?

        Oh come on now. I’m just saying.

        I had another thought too. When I do any sort of Mapmyride mapping a of a ride I did it seems to know the elevation I’ve done due to the streets I’ve traced out. That website uses Google’s data as far as I can see. There must be a way to get that data for a more complete list that covers all the neighborhoods. Just saying. That is.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        No, I appreciate it. That wasn’t supposed to come off as sarcastic. These comments are a lot of fun, but they certainly pointed out that the list is not really of all the steepest streets in the city.

        As for GPS-based info like mapmyride, I think the elevation data comes from the GPS and not google, but I could be wrong. Anyone know for sure?

      3. If the list isn’t complete or out-dated, what’s the point?

        Well, I don’t have have GPS or even a smart phone. I literally get home and map the ride manually on my desktop computer. So I think it’s kinda funny how you would mention a GPS. My thought is, somebody has that data somewhere. Just saying. And it’s obviously not our own SDOT! Ugh.

  8. A

    Re: related posts: Seems there needs to be some outreach to private vehicle operators regarding the green bike box in west Seattle. The majority of trips I make through that intersection see the first car in line parked dutifully on top of the bike box.

    1. dave g

      Thats because people believe the green bike markings mean “share” the area, like the “sharrow”

      Better communication is needed. even though there are signs saying where to stop.

      1. A

        Better communication in the form of mandatory annual retesting for driver licenses maybe.

      2. Bill

        I moved to WA back when there were still fools who stopped at the end of freeway onramps. Given that, the mandatory driving test was an insult, compounded four years later when I learned relicensing only required a wallet test. Heck, even Indiana, Elmer Fudd’s home state, requires a written relicensing test.

      3. Bill

        Part of the problem is the weather did not let SDOT paint the limit line. Not that most WA drivers observe them….

  9. Doug Adams

    A great list! One amazing steep street not included is SW Charlestown St. between 46th Ave SW and 47th Ave SW. Surely one of the steepest arterials in the city. Folks in West Seattle have for years been terrifying unsuspecting out-of-towners by driving quickly over the crest of this one!

    1. Raincity

      Agreed on Charleston – Favorite hill! Here is another cool list with pictures: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/slideshow/The-20-steepest-hills-in-Seattle-31436.php

    2. +1 on Charleston. My wife has forbidden me to go up that hill. Not sure why. Anyway, I now refer to it as Forbidden Hill. Love it.

  10. Andrew

    The Roy Street hill claimed my new-ish Mazda when the e-brake failed and rolled down the hill. Thankfully, it hit a tree and nothing else!

  11. A C

    hey, I’ve ridden up & down some of the steepest on that list. when I was a young whippersnapper I used to seek these out. rode over Queen Anne from bottom to top to bottom many times. by my house there’s a hill one can coast down at 55 mph without pedaling, and barely tucked. keep the shiny side up, as we say in a semi-related hobby. oh yeah, once had a front tire blowout doing 30 on a downhill in Issaquah, and held it up til I got stopped… lots n lots of this n that ridin stories..

  12. Tom

    Hey, cool article but I think titling it Steepest Blocks would be more appropriate. And, really, riding up just about any slope for one block isn’t that big a deal–on a modern road or mtn bike. However, riding up long sections of streets such as Dravus Ave W or NE 70th St from Sand Point is a whole other story…

  13. Breadbaker

    North 40th between Stone and Interlake.

  14. Aaron

    KOM on Dravus westbound is currently 2:34 by S. Fisher. From 20th to 27th.

  15. William C Bonner

    Was third avenue significantly flattened in the time between when this list was made and today?

    I know that walking up University from First to 4th, I’d rate the blocks in order of steepness 2nd-3rd, 1st-2nd, then 3rd-4th. The fact that only the 3rd-4th block shows in the list doesn’t make sense to me.

  16. Transit Voter

    On Beacon Hill, one of our steepest streets is S. Dawson St. between 17th and 20th Avenues — and it’s a signed bike route! But cyclists almost never use it because it’s unsafe to ride downhill and impossible to ride uphill. The easy slope alternate route is 3 blocks away.

    I suspect the SDOT route designers were working from a map with no topo lines. Sometimes it does pay to actually visit the locations you are planning for.

  17. The Chilly Hilly should be held over there instead of over here.

  18. James C. Johnson

    On 1st Hill, extreme: Terry Ave from Pike to Union Streets, steeper at top.
    Also on 1st Hill, moderate steep: Boren Ave from Pike to Union Streets.

  19. […] More places not to even think about driving? Here is a list of the steepest streets in Seattle. […]

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