The Ascent to Jones

Scaling Nob Hill in pursuit of its flattest blocks.

Spend the afternoon traipsing up and down Nob Hill’s narrow sidewalks, and it’s likely your calves will protest a little as you climb the two steps onti Muni the next morning. The neighborhood, bordered by California, Broadway, Mason, and Polk streets, is small but vertically inclined, and while the views are spectacular, a simple errand — such as running to the corner store to grab milk — can be an American Ninja Warrior-level feat of exercise.

The exception to the neighborhood’s steep topography is two blocks, which, through our own shoe-leather journalism, we’ve determined make up the flattest stretch of residential Nob Hill. Jones Street between Sacramento and Washington streets is at the top of a hefty climb, but for a brief stretch, aching calf muscles can breathe a sigh of relief, as it straightens out to a Valencia-level plane.

Unfortunately, there’s not much up there aside from luxury apartment buildings with names like the Comstock (1333 Jones), the Crest Royal (1310 Jones) or the Clay-Jones (1250 Jones), and a Japanese restaurant with a $165 chef’s tasting menu. Though if you’re seeking a reward for making it up there, the latter may just do the trick — and will leave your wallet a little lighter for the descent.  

While the top of Jones Street is relatively bare of amenities if you’re not a resident, the hike to its peak is worth it for one very grand, glamorous reason: the view. Stand in the middle of the Jones and Washington intersection (mind the cable cars) and glance east to catch the sunlight glinting of the angles of the Transamerica Pyramid and the curves of the Bay Bridge. A northward glance offers a peak of the green Marin Headlands, with the illusion that Jones Street leads straight into the hills; and the tips of Lafayette Park’s trees can be spotted in the west.

Climb the Nob Hill mountain on a clear day, and we guarantee it’ll give you one of those, “Oh my god, I live here,” moments — always a worthwhile venture as the rest of the city, with its traffic and noise, buzzes 350 feet below.

Check out more stories in our feature on Nob Hill here:

Lights, Camera, Action at the Fairmont Hotel
With more than 10 major films shot at the Nob Hill site, Hollywood has designated it San Francisco’s reigning cinematic hotel.

A Slow But Steady Thieving
Four bronze tortoises regularly disappear from Huntington Park’s fountain.

The Gardens of Fairmont
The Nob Hill hotel has a picturesque rooftop park open to locals.

Don’t Miss the AIDS Memorial Quilt Exhibit at Grace Cathedral
By bathing 15 panels of the quilt in light, the stained glass windows sanctify the 20,000 San Franciscans who died in the modern plague.

Infinite Appetite, Finite Budget: Nob Hill
From the House of Prime Rib to Buffalo Theory, Nob Hill’s food scene might be more diverse than you think.

Nob Hill Has One Grocery Store, and It’s Proudly Independent
Sometimes described as a cross between Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, Le Beau Market has a rooftop garden.

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