Climbing the Steps of South Side Slopes for Views of Pittsburgh

Posted By Jeremy in Explore


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Pittsburgh's South Side Slopes is one if the city's most unique neighborhoods due to the fact that the vast majority of it is built on the side of a hill.  In true Pittsburgh fashion when a hill is involved things get weird, and this neighborhood is no different.

What makes South Side Slopes so unusual lies in its accessibility. As the hill is often quite steep, road access up and down is limited compared to other neighborhoods in the city. To account for this oddity, numerous staircases have been built over the years to allow residents to navigate the hillside and also reach neighboring South Side with ease (these staircases are a significant percentage of the 700+ that can be found in the city).

One of our favorite aspects of South Side Slopes is that many of these staircases offer impressive views of the city, and can be enjoyed during a one to two hour hike beginning and ending in South Side. As navigating South Side Slopes can be tricky at times, we wanted to share our most recent route for others who would like to get out, climb some stairs for some exercise, and take in several great city views!

Note: Since writing this post, the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association has defined most of the route below as the “Church Route.”  For more information beyond our post, check out their write-up about the Church Route here. Our recommendations are slightly different, but the listed route will make for a good climb all the same!

Beginning the Climb in South Side

Staircase on S. 18th Street

The easiest place to begin a climb of the stairs in South Side Slopes is at the staircase on S. 18th Street in South Side. Street parking nearby is plentiful and this road/staircase is quite easy to find in order to get started.  This staircase is at the end of S. 18th Street right when the road turns to the left, and has a map of the neighborhood's stairs as shown above.

Climb Yard Way to the Top

Climbing the Stairs on Yard Way

Once you climb the stairs on S. 18th Street, you'll exit out onto Pius Street.  Make a left turn onto this street and a staircase will be on your right just a few dozen feet away.  This street is Yard Way, one of the many unique streets in Pittsburgh that are official city streets but are made entirely of stairs!

Pittsburgh view on Yard Way

This is the longest staircase you'll climb during the day and it can be a bit challenging, so be sure to take a few breaks to rest, drink water, and turn around to check out the view that opens up behind you as you rise.

Curve Around the Monastery

St. Paul's Monastery on South Side Slopes

The top of South Side Slopes is home to St. Paul's Passionist Retreat Center, and the route continues on streets around here.  At the top of Yard Way you'll come to St. Paul Street.  Turn right on this street and continue until you reach Monastery Avenue.  Turn right on Monastery Avenue and follow it around past the facade of the monastery to St. Thomas Street, where you will turn right and take it to the staircases to begin your descent (plus another great view).

Climb Down the Staircases and Stop to Appreciate the View

Pittsburgh View

After climbing down the first staircase, you'll reach Hackstown Street.  There is a gorgeous view on the left of this street just a few dozen feet down and is worth checking out as a brief detour.  The staircase to continue down is located to the right of where you entered Hackstown Street (it may not be obvious at first glance as it is near a home) and continues down to Pius Street where you started the trek.

Take the Train Overpass for a Unique View

Pittsburgh from the Train Overpass

It would be easy to take Pius Street down to the right back to the staircase on S. 18th Street where you started; however, we have a better alternative for you.  Turn right onto Pius Street and make an immediate left onto Clinton Street.  This will take you to a train overpass that connects to S. 15th Street in the South Side which also has a high viewpoint of the city that is not obstructed by as many trees or buildings as some of the other viewpoints on this route.

Train Overpass from South Side

Exit the overpass on the other side, and wind your way through the South Side to make it back to your car (or the businesses in South Side) to continue your day!

Nearby Spots With Views of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh from Allentown

Looking for even more viewpoints of the city while out hiking the South Side Slopes? While driving around we also recommend South Side Park (specifically, Arlington Ballfield off of St. Patrick Street) as well as Arlington Avenue in Allentown just a few blocks west for more incredible views of the city!

No matter what you do, hiking South Side Slopes is a great activity to get in some exercise while taking in some incredible views of Pittsburgh!

When hiking South Side Slopes, be sure to take a bottle of water with you as the stair climbing can be quite intense.  Also note the skyline viewing is best in the winter months when the leaves have fallen off the trees; however, good views are present year round.

After you're done with your hike, grab a bite to eat at Waffles INCaffeinated or The Pub Chip Shop! Or, do it in reverse by working off a morning brunch at The Grand Concourse!

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