'Pittsburgh, observed newspaper columnist Ernie Pyle in 1937, 'must have been laid out by a mountain goat. It's up and down, and around and around and in betwixt.'
Laboring up a concrete staircase called 18th Street, I find myself wishing for hooves. They'd come in handy for climbing the city's oddest attraction. Instead of street signs, these hills should sport black diamond trail markers.
As I climb -- make that crawl, at this point -- I realize I should have brought a walking stick. And maybe a cardiologist. With nearly 700 steps just to the crest of the South Side Slopes neighborhood, the workout's extreme, but it's the views that are killer. San Francisco and Cincinnati brag about their trademark city steps, but they don't stack up to Pittsburgh. In this former steel town about 260 miles northwest of D.C., there are more than 300 legal streets that are actually staircases: no cars, no curbs, just steps.
In a city whose traditional street grids begin optimistically, but quickly encounter topographic adversity, most of its neighborhoods feature a few of these step streets. But the Slopes claim 68 staircases, making this slice of the city on the South Side feel like a European village: a blend of historic piety, cliffside houses and quiet corkscrewed streets."
For the energetic, The Pittsburgh StepTrek 2004 on Sunday, October 17, 2004, "combines photography, historic narrative, sweeping views, several open houses and a perspective look at the changes to this eclectic neighborhood that overlooks downtown, Oakland and the mighty Monongahela River. Walkers will enjoy all of these features as they tour, at their own pace, over 2,700 steps and the intertwining streets and sidewalks that connect them.
Breathtaking views of Downtown, Oakland, South Side and the rivers are revealed from the hillside streets and stairways. These views have earned Pittsburgh the recognition as having the most spectacular urban view of any city in the United States, according to USA Today. An alternate course takes walkers high into the Slopes along 18th Street to view the recently completed mural by acclaimed artist Richard Bach. This festive, colorful look at the South Side features people, buildings and trades from across the years that have made the neighborhood an eclectic slice of Pittsburgh."