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4 Steep U.S. Streets That Will Make Your Palms Sweat
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October 4, 2019
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Alexa Baray
americas

When you think of steep streets, does Lombard Street in San Francisco come to mind? If so, you're not alone. The street has eight hairpin turns, put in place in the 1920s to facilitate ease of driving. Lombard is popular with tourists, who enjoy driving down the twisty hill and taking photographs of other cars making the journey.

Incredibly, Lombard Street doesn't make this list. Instead, the majority of the country's steepest streets can be found in another California metropolis, Los Angeles. And, the steepest street in America? You won't believe where it's located. Here four of the steepest streets in the U.S.

Baxter Street, Los Angeles, California

Credit: Oleg./ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

32% Grade Incline

Channel KCET reports that Baxter Street in Los Angeles has a 32% incline at its steepest stretch. However, the Los Angeles Times says the street actually has a 33% incline. Whichever number is right, it's still an awfully steep street.

Regulations in Los Angeles County today limit a street's incline to 15%, less than half of what you'll experience driving down Baxter Street. According to popular convention, the street started life as a pedestrian path heading toward Echo Park in Los Angeles. Baxter was later paved along the grid-line by neighborhood developers who neglected to consider the street's steep incline and the challenges it would pose to future motorists.

And, Baxter has certainly caused its share of troubles. The street is treacherous during the best of times. However, it can be downright scary in the rain. Knowledgeable residents tend to avoid the street and many have even programmed their GPS systems to bypass it.

Unfortunately, visitors can find themselves careening down the street while finding their way through the city. Many accidents have occurred as a result. Some find that their cars can't make it up the street at all. When it rains, cars often hydroplane and slam into other cars. So, the city is stepping in and limiting access to the street. Signs have also been put up to warn drivers of the dangers ahead.

Fargo Street, Los Angeles, California

Credit: Oleg./ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

33% Grade Incline

According to the Orange County Register, city engineers found that Fargo Street inclines at an impressive 33%. Legend has it that a bicyclist attempted to ride up the one-block hill sometime during the 1970s. That first attempt created a tradition that has endured until today.

The Fargo Street annual bike ride is only 0.2 miles long. However, the incline makes it quite a challenge. According to the Los Angeles Wheelmen, the record for the number of climbs in one day is over 100. The race typically occurs in March, so watch out for event particulars as the time approaches. That said, when your legs are burning and you're only halfway to the top, remember that an enterprising cyclist made the climb this year on a unicycle.

Canton Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Canton Avenue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Credit: jefflakespics2/ Shutterstock

37% Grade Incline

California certainly has its share of steep streets. However, the top two spots go to streets in other states. The number two spot belongs to Canton Avenue in the Pittsburgh suburb of Beechwood.

News channel WTAE in Pittsburgh reports that this famous avenue has an insane 37% grade incline. Signs at the top of the hill inform travelers that they are venturing down the steepest hill in the continental United States. The journey down isn't necessarily a smooth one, either.

Cobblestones make up a majority of the hill, making it a bumpy descent for most motorists. Pedestrians may have a slightly easier time, thanks to the cement stairs built into the hillside. Dangerous Roads reports that Canton Avenue measures 192 meters (about 629 feet). However, the hill itself is just 65 meters (about 213 feet) long.

Still, this street is probably not one you'd want to climb on your daily commutes.

Waipio Road, Honokaa, Hawaii

Credit: Wasif Malik/ CC BY 2.0

45% Grade Incline

To find the steepest road in the United States, you'll need to head to Hawaii; Waipio Road in Honokaa has a 45% grade incline at its steepest points, and the average incline is 25%. In either case, the entire 3/4 mile stretch is extremely treacherous, made more so by the mists that engulfs the region. If you're brave enough to travel down the road, you'll be rewarded with a view of some of Hawaii's most beautiful beaches. And, here's the icing on the cake — these beaches boast few visitors because they're such a challenge to reach.

Today, officials restrict travel on the road to either pedestrian traffic (for those with brave hearts and sturdy legs) or four-wheel-drive vehicles. In early 2019, legislators introduced a bill to increase fines for motorists who drive up the road in anything other than a 4 x 4. The road is notorious for burning out clutches and brakes of all-wheel drive vehicles.

Thankfully, a tow truck service on the island can come to your rescue even if your four-wheel drive gets stuck on the way up. However, the price won't be cheap.