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Stairways to fitness heaven.

Before there were step classes, there were stairways. And the Bay Area has some great ones

EVERYONE KNOWS HOW A steep stairway gets your heart pumping, thighs burning, and lungs panting. In fact, step exercise has become a hot trend in personal fitness exactly because it quickly raises your cardiovascular rate, tones muscles, and really burns the calories.

While most health clubs now offer step-aerobics classes and stair-climbing machines, many steppers prefer outdoor workouts on the real thing. In the Bay Area, you'll see them huffing up San Francisco's famous hills, ascending Marin's woodsy trails, and climbing stadium steps between laps around the track.

Here is a guide to six Bay Area step climbs that will give you a good workout and reward you with pleasant surroundings or outstanding views.

SAN FRANCISCO

Kezar Stadium, Golden Gate Park between Kezar Drive and Frederick Street. At this handsomely rebuilt stadium, 20 rows of 35 steps ascend the bleachers above an eight-lane running track. Many runners here combine step climbs with longer jogs around the track or through the park. The stadium is open daily from dawn to dusk, except when sporting events are held; for event information, call (415) 753-7032.

Lyon Street steps, between Green Street and Broadway. This historic "stairway street," built in 1916, begins with a steep set of 62 steps, followed by a more forgiving set of 63 steps. Then a curving balustrade guides you up 35 steps into what could be the garden of a Florentine palazzo. Head up 128 more steps, past flower gardens and manicured hedges, to Broadway. An iron gate opens into the Presidio, where you can continue your running or walking workout. Or, go a block east to Baker Street, where a narrow stairway descends 206 steps to Vallejo Street and another 163 steps to Green Street.

Filbert Street steps, above Sansome Street. Another of the city's venerable stairways, it scales the sheer eastern face of Telegraph Hill in 377 steps. An initial stretch of steeply climbing concrete gives way to a charming set of wooden steps that lead through the verdant, hushed domain of the Grace Marchant flower garden and past tiny Napier Lane, a plank walk leading to 19th-century cottages. Cross Montgomery Street, and take a stairway to Coit Tower and a panoramic view of the city and bay.

MILL VALLEY

Dipsea Trail, near the intersection of Cascade Drive and Molino Avenue. From a cozy village setting, three stairways climb through lush backyards and redwood forest to the grassy shoulder of Mount Tamalpais. The first set of 330 wood-and-stone steps brings you to Millside Lane; turn right and head a short distance to Marion Avenue, from which a second set of 142 steps ascends to Hazel Avenue. A few hundred feet to the left is a third and final stairway of 111 steps, which top out on Sequoia Valley Road. To continue on the Dipsea Trail, look for trail signs ahead on the right.

OAKLAND

Cleveland Cascade, Lakeshore Avenue between Brooklyn Avenue and Boden Way. No run or walk around Lake Merritt (a 3.2-mile loop) would be complete without a climb up this terraced stairway of 133 steps adjacent to the lake. Climb four tiers to the top and you'll have views of downtown Oakland and the sparkling urban lake.

PALO ALTO

Stanford Stadium, Stanford University. For an Olympian workout, jog up any of the stadium's 51 stairways (157 steps each) through acres of aluminum bleachers to the stadium rim and views of the campus and beyond. Hardy types can include the entry-side stairs (71 steps each) or a few laps around the track. For event information, call (415) 723-1949.
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Title Annotation:San Francisco Bay Area
Author:Davidson, Ben
Publication:Sunset
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:609
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