Video: I Climbed Up the Steepest Street in the Continental United States

Where is the steepest street located in the continental United States? Could it be Lombard Street in San Francisco? Perhaps Eldred Street in Los Angeles takes the crown? Surely, the steepest street must be located somewhere in Denver or Boulder — both of which are gateways into the Rocky Mountains?

If you guessed the Mount Evans Scenic Byway in Colorado, congratulations — you answered the question correctly…

…if that question was what is the highest paved road in terms of altitude in North America — let alone the United States — but the Mount Evans Scenic Byway is not even one of the top ten steepest streets in the United States.

Video: I Climbed Up the Steepest Street in the Continental United States

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

In the Beechview neighborhood of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania is an unassuming street known as Canton Avenue, which at 630 feet is only one long block in length…

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

…but according to a yellow sign which was erected at the corner of Canton Avenue and Coast Avenue to welcome visitors and other curious individuals, the street includes a maximum grade which is at an angle of 37 degrees.

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

Printed on the yellow sign is the following information:

This is the steepest street in the Continental United States.

Pittsburgh is famous for its steel-producing heritage; it’s infamous for its hills.

Beechview is not for the faint of heart, but that’s part of its charm. You don’t just stroll through this neighborhood. You have to conquer it.

Canton Avenue is the steepest street in the Continental United States at an ankle-straining 37% grade, but it’s not alone. Once you’ve climbed this hill, try these other Beechview challengers: Boustead Ave (29%), Hampshire Avenue (23%), Fallowfield Avenue (22%), Belasco Avenue (21%), and Dagmar Avenue (20%).

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

One look at the view of Canton Avenue looking north from Coast Avenue shows the grade of the steep hill, with the street — whose surface transitions from asphalt to concrete to cobblestone before becoming asphalt again — and simply disappearing at the top.

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

The cobblestone street gradually ascends from Coast Avenue, seemingly above the “skyline” of the houses which are located in the surrounding Beechview neighborhood…

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

…until the houses themselves seem to slowly disappear.

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

Turn around to look south down the hill of Canton Avenue to view Coast Avenue and its houses below.

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

The house on the left — which was under construction at the time the photograph was taken — is one of several structures along Canton Avenue…

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

…but only a few structures are located on the east side of Canton Avenue — and note that the sidewalk on that side of the street is mostly steps with a railing; and the steps become more gradual as the hill becomes less steep.

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

Because of the topography, only trees, weeds, and other vegetation line the west side of Canton Avenue as they are firmly rooted on the steep slope of the side of the hill. No sidewalk exists on this side of the street.

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

The steepest part of the incline ends at approximately the halfway point of Canton Avenue, which is flanked by two signs which warn Do Not Enter because vehicles are permitted to travel up the hill in the northbound direction only on the southern portion of Canton Avenue; while vehicles can travel in both directions on the northern portion of Canton Avenue.

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

Underneath the Do Not Enter sign on the western side of Canton Avenue at the top of the steep part of the hill is a sign which has the same information printed on it as the aforementioned yellow sign at the bottom of the hill at the corner of Coast Avenue…

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

…except that this sign is curiously and inexplicably black instead of yellow; and the grade percentages are colored yellow as well.

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

The northbound end of Canton Avenue terminates at Hampshire Avenue — or actually, just slightly beyond this intersection — and traffic can only turn eastbound from here.

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

Remember that Hampshire Avenue has a grade of 23 percent — which means that it is the third steepest hill in the Beechview neighborhood — when traveling eastbound from Canton Avenue.

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

As with Canton Avenue, a set of concrete stairs lines the northern side of Hampshire Avenue — and the concrete staircase illustrates the steep grade of this incline.

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

I walked up and down the hills of Canton Avenue and Hampshire Avenue both in the street and on the sidewalk — not including “practice runs” for the video found later in this article. Fortunately, I have strong legs, as I really got my exercise on that mild December day!

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

The steep hill of Hampshire Avenue ends at its intersection with Napoleon Street, at which a curious sight appears…

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

…as vehicles are not permitted to travel in three of the four directions from the intersection. Good thing that there is no No Outlet sign at the eastern part of the intersection to continue traveling eastbound on Hampshire Avenue!

Canton Avenue Pittsburgh Steepest Street

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

This video shows part of my driving and walking experience with both Canton Avenue and Hampshire Avenue.

Summary

Canton Avenue is located between Coast Avenue and Hampshire Avenue in the Beechview neighborhood of Pittsburgh. United States Highway 19 is nearby; so access to Canton Avenue is easy, as it is only four miles and nine minutes southwest from central Pittsburgh.

As Canton Avenue is a public street, no admission is charged; no operating hours are imposed; and no facilities are available. Parking on the streets near Canton Avenue is free of charge as well.

Despite the claim of a grade of 37 percent for Canton Avenue, the steepest street or road in the world is Baldwin Street in Dunedin in New Zealand, according to Guinness World Records — with a steepness of 34.8 percent as verified on Thursday, November 7, 2019. Ffordd Pen Llech — which is in Harlech in Wales — was temporarily awarded the title of the steepest street in the world in June of 2019; but the title returned to Baldwin Street after a thorough review:

Following a thorough review, as well as consulting with industry specialists, it was concluded that for the steepest street (road) record title, the best practice for the gradient is to take the measurement from the centreline of the street.

Accordingly, GWR’s record guidelines will no longer allow measurements from any other axis.

The new results confirmed Baldwin Street has the steeper gradient of 34.8%, compared to Ffordd Pen Llech’s gradient of 28.6%.

Unfortunately, Canton Avenue is not mentioned anywhere at Guinness World Records.

All photographs ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

2 thoughts on “Video: I Climbed Up the Steepest Street in the Continental United States”

  1. Robert says:

    Believe it or not, a yearly bicycle race incorporates many of the hills listed on the sign, with Canton Avenue a particularly tough challenge. Here’s a great video about the event:

  2. Barry Graham says:

    I wonder how this compares with Constitution Hill in Bristol, England. I went to University there, it was just around the corner from the dorms in the first year. It was REALLY steep. I think I was able to bike up there once in the whole three years I was there (in the UK Bachelors take three not four years).. Here is an article about the hills in Bristol

    http://bristolbybike.blogspot.com/2009/11/bastard-hills-of-north-bristol.html

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