Secret Stairways of Joy and Faith in East Bernal Heights


In a city still full of surprises, on the East facing slopes of Bernal Heights, you can actually find secret stairways to Joy and Faith.

The Eastern part of Bernal is the less explored part of the neighborhood. It has streets that are so narrow you need to park your car and walk. What’s becoming harder to find are those dirt paths in Bernal that used to cover this more secluded section.

Joy and Faith are two narrow streets that have hidden staircases. Joy is all stairs with houses along with it, similar to the Filbert Street steps on Telegraph Hill. Residents have to park their cars and walk up the stairs.  Faith is partly paved with a small staircase. The two streets run parallel to each other and Joy Street is one long staircase that runs between Brewster and Holladay Streets.

In a great walking neighborhood, this will feel like you’re in a mini urban forest.

Start at Precita Park Cafe

Precita Park Cafe in Bernal Heights

Have brunch at the neighborhood favorite Precita Park Cafe. The owners, Rachel Herbert and Dana Oppenheim, have created a warm and inviting atmosphere where neighbors come to hang out. The food is always fresh, the staff friendly. From there you can do this staircase loop back to the cafe in about 30 minutes.

This walk will show you a different view of Bernal; one of the Tanker ships that come to briefly dock.  Park your car at the cafe and then come back and throw down a blanket to relax at Precita Park.

Walk This Way

walking map of east bernal

From Precita Park Cafe head South on Alhambra towards Bernal Hill.

Turn left on Mullen Ave and follow it past the Montcalm and Brewster Street intersection. Continue walking past Martin Avenue.

(If you continue straight on Mullen it turns into Brewster Street and you will hit Faith and Joy Streets – but this is a loop that is making you walk up the stairs instead of down them)

Turn left on Rutledge Street down towards Holladay Avenue. You’ll come to the Bayshore Freeway.

Costa Street views in East Bernal

You’ll see Faith Street first, it’s partly paved and the top level staircase will take you up to Brewster Street. There’s another secret stairway on Brewster Street, (include the photo)

The Joy Street Staircase is the next street after Faith Street.

The staircases are parallel to each other between Holladay and Brewster Streets.

Once you head up to Brewster Street, head north and it will merge into Mullen Avenue. This will take you back to Alhambra Street. Then you’ll be headed back to the cafe the same way you came.

Hidden Houses of Faith

Tucked away in an urban forest you’ll see houses on Faith with small urban gardens. On one end it feels like you’ve left the city, with a few dirt paths and unpaved portions of the road. Then, within a few steps, you’re down at the Bayshore freeway pedestrian bridge.

Fatih Street in East Bernal Heights San Francisco

Destination: The Staircase of Joy

Joy Street is all stairs so residents have to park their cars above or below and walk the steps. The houses are unique and eclectic. Each on each has its own distinct style. You’ll find more colorful and bright urban gardens. It feels as if you’ve left the city behind and found some urban treehouses.

JoyStreet Staircase in Bernal Heights

Jen Baxter is a content writer and strategist helping companies creatively craft the story of their business online. You can find more of her work at