Secret Stairs

Most Angelenos are probably aware that the city engineering department is responsible for maintaining the roads, sidewalks, and streets, and, of course, such appurtenances as bridges and tunnels.

The present day cityscape makes it easy to miss the fact that not all pedestrian thoroughfares are regular sidewalks.   On this page we begin a look at the secret pedestrian stairs of L.A., starting with this one in Palms.

Before going any further an acknowledgement is due to the Google Field Trip smartphone app, without which I'd never have known it was here.  These stairs lead northwest from Rose Avenue up to Kingsland Street on top of the hill overlooking Rose Avenue from the north.  The stairway was most likely built about 1949, when Palms Middle School was established, in order to allow students living in the hilltop neighborhood to reach the school.  Field Trip says the stairs were placed in the 1920s, but that is presumably incorrect because it's unlikely that the stairs were there before the middle school. 

There is a website devoted to hidden stairs in Los Angeles.  Most of these are much closer to downtown L.A., and recall a time when people didn't rely on cars as much as they do now, going back as far as the early 20th Century.  Going back only as far as 1949, this stairway recalls a time when more kids walked farther to and from school. I doubt if any kids at Palms MS still use the stairway, which is understandable given the rough condition of the pavement.

Here we are a little further upstairs.  On the right there is a loop of razor wire visible about halfway up the height of the picture frame, somewhat surprising for this mostly quiet and safe neighborhood.  Whatever the reason it might have been put there originally, it doesn't seem to be in actual use now, simply hanging uselessly off the fence of an apartment house.  

Further up near the top, the apartments give way to detached houses.  The flowers seen to the right--geraniums, if we're not mistaken--provide a welcome horticultural accent.  

We pause to turn around, seeing how far we've had to climb.  It works out to about 75 stairs in all.

And here's the top, on Kingsland. 

The path runs in between these two houses, which can't be all that great for those who live in them, particularly the one on the right.  Then again, hardly anyone does use the stairway so it's probably not much of an issue.

Update 2012-10-11

We went back today and got a few more pictures, to better capture the overgrown foliage here and there.  Overgrowth of foliage is necessary to sustain the characterization of this stairway as "hidden".

In the next photo it's evident that the owner of one adjoining house has gotten into the spirit by letting nature run wild with spiky succulents.

Not far from this is a children's swing set long since disused.

Another view towards Rose Avenue, far below.  The luxuriant growth here looks almost tropical.


  1. The stairs have been cleaned up in recent years by the neighborhood association members who live nearby. Now there are two new houses (megamansions) being constructed there and the view is amazing. The view will be temporary until the 2nd of the two houses is completes, I'm sure.

  2. I lived in the neighborhood at the top of the stairs for over two years. I never knew the stairs were there until stumbling across this website.