The English language is rife with sayings about roads and streets. Sometimes they lead to Rome, sometimes you take them so you don’t look petty even though you really want to be. Whether made of concrete or cobblestone, roads are an inescapable part of language and life which makes it no surprise that there’s a Guinness World Record for the steepest street in the world.
According to Guinness World Records, the current record holder for the steepest street in the world is Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand — a street with a jaw-dropping 34.8% steepness gradient measured from its central axis. Or, in non typographer-speak, a pain in the ass to drive uphill on if you’re driving manual.
But it’s not the only steep road in the world and it’s not the only road to hold the record for steepest road either. There’s actually a whole load of drama about whose neighborhood is the hardest to drive to, and while Baldwin Street is currently king of the hill, there’s steep competition for its crown. So, buckle up.
California Is Home to Many of the World’s Steepest Streets
When you think of California, you probably think of the Golden Gate Bridge, but the sunny coasts of Cali are also home to some of the steepest streets in the world. Well, not some, actually most of them are located in California. Some of the steepest streets that you can find in California, and the U.S., include Eldred Street, Baxter Street, Fargo Street, and West 28th Street in Los Angeles; and Maria Avenue in Spring Valley.
Maria Avenue in Spring Valley, California
Maria Avenue in Spring Valley, California is part of a residential neighborhood designed on a grid system of streets. If you look at it from satellite view on Google Maps, it looks like a perfectly flat area with neatly arranged roads that end in cul-de-sacs. Zoom in with Street View, though, and it’s clearly not the case. Maria Avenue, with its steepness grade of 32%, is perched on Dictionary Hill which is why many homes built along it offer stunning panoramic views of San Diego, California.
1322 Maria Avenue, seen in the screenshot above, is actually one of the lower parts of the street, if Google Maps is to go by. Further uphill, homes like 1427 Maria Avenue and 1501 Maria Avenue have windows with views that will make you think you’re looking at a painting.
Eldred Street, Los Angeles, California
One look at Eldred Street will make you want to grab your skateboard and glide downhill. Or, for the concerned parents out there, pre-emptively call the nearest hospital. This street has a steepness grade of 33%, but what makes it even harder to drive on is that it’s an incredibly short street for such a steepness. With a length of only 400 meters, the street rises to 67 meters at its highest point in the Highland Park area.
If you’re thinking of dropping by to check out how high that actually feels like in real life, you might find yourself mildly disappointed since the street ends abruptly into a staircase.
West 28th Street, Los Angeles, California
At 33%, West 28th Street in Los Angeles, California is one of the area’s steepest streets, but it’s far from being the most impressive. The street has a relatively short elevated section so most of the road is just…this. Pretty boring for a steepest road runner up.
Ewing Street, Los Angeles California
Now there’s a properly steep street. While some sections of Ewing Street appear to be censored on Street View, you can still get a good idea of just how high this road goes from the available sections. Located between Duane and Fargo Street, Ewing Street gets overshadowed by its steeper neighbours but it’s still a good 33% steep, according to cyclist Oleg Shpyrko.
Fargo Street, Los Angeles, California
Steep, narrow, and with a rating of 32%, Fargo Street has a lot of twists and turns. There’s actually a sharp turn on the other end of this road that has you descend and ascend again within just a few meters of road. There’s not even enough time to catch your breath before you have to go up again.
Baxter Street, Los Angeles, California
Located near Silver Lake, Baxter Street slopes up to 32% and down again, making it perfect for your own roller coaster experience minus the roller coaster. You can actually hit a lot of the streets on this list in one go by traveling the surrounding area as Baxter Street is right next to Fargo, Ewing, and Duane, all of which are pretty steep in their own right.
Hawaii’s Steepest Street Is Waipio Valley Road
At a steepness gradient of 45%, Waipio Valley Road is a motorcyclist’s dream — if only it weren’t a 4×4 only terrain. Still, it’s worth seeing of you literally want to try taking the road less traveled. There are virtually no houses along the road, but the stunning views more than make up for the trouble of going there.
The Steep Streets of Pitsburgh
Dornbush Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Dornbush Street in Pitsburgh features a concrete staircase along its steepest part because there’s no way you’re walking down there without at least a chance of falling face first and kissing asphalt. This steep street clocks in at a grade of 31.98%.
Canton Avenue, Pittsburg, Pennysylvania
Unfortunately for Canton Avenue, the only way for it to really be the steepest street in the U.S. is if Hawaii were its own country again. At a steepness grade of 37%, though, it’s still the steepest public road in the U.S. Like Dornbush Street, there’s a staircase leading up the road so you won’t be forced to drive a car up it in the winter unless you really have a deathwish.
While it’s not Guiness World Records’ steepest street in the world, it once held the title of being the steepest street by World Atlas’ standards.
The Steepest Street in Seattle
East Roy Street in Seattle, Washington, lays claim to the title of steepest street in Seattle on Google Maps, but it should actually go to Northwest 60th Street, which lies at the intersections of 2nd Ave Northwest to 3rd Ave Northwest, that stands at a slope grade of 28%. Not as steep as the others on here but certainly steeper than the 26.04% East Roy. So why does East Roy get the title? Simple, East Roy Street is the steepest paved street in Seattle.
Vale Street, Bristol, England is the Steepest Street in England
Would you just look at it for amoment? Vale Street has a steepness gradient of 22 degrees which makes it a pretty bad place to drive when it starts snowing or raining. The residents, however, take pride in their driving skills.
“I drive up it.” Julie Wheat, a resident of Vale Street, told Bristol Live, “You whack it into first gear, put your foot down and hope nobody is coming down because once you have started, you have just got to keep going.”
But while Vale Street may be the steepest in England, it isn’t the steepest street in the U.K. That honor goes to Ffordd Pen Llech in Harlech, Wales — a road that once beat Baldwin Street for the honor of being the steepest street in the world.
Ffordd Pen Llech, Harlech, Wales Was Once the Steepest Street in the World — Until Baldwin Street Retook Its Throne
Fford Pen Llech once held the title of the world’s steepest street after it took the title from Baldwin Street in New Zealand. It has a steepness grade of 40% at its highest point and originally, this was what got it to rank above Baldwin Street. The Baldwin Street residents, who were not very happy about losing their street’s title, disputed the decision with Guiness Records and, after Guiness convened with experts on road measuring, finally got back their title after Guiness decided all measurements should be based on the central axis of a street.
Still, Fford Pen Llech is pretty cool. The street’s steepness and narrowness — it is one of the narrowest on this list — make it a challenging road to travel up on. Naturally, this makes its 50 meter drop popular among local cyclists.
The Steepest Street in the World Is Baldwin Street, Dunedin, New Zealand
Baldwin Street got its title as the world’s steepest street back in 1987 and held that title until it was temporarily usurped by Fford Pen Llech in 2019. Toby Stoff lead the appeal and asked for a three-dimensional; survey of the two streets which Baldwin Street, likely much to Stoff’s joy, won.
Thanks to the incident, all measurements for steep streets made by Guiness World Records are now done from the central axis which is another feather in Baldwin Street’s cap as a (relatively) historic street.