Cincinnati’s Public Stairs

Cincinnati’s neighborhoods offer a plethora of pedestrian-only shortcuts and vistas in the form of public stairs. At the height of their use in the 19th Century, over 30 miles of hillside steps once connected the neighborhoods of Cincinnati to each other. Today, there are almost 400 sets of hillside stairways crisscrossing through all parts of the city. About 320 are still currently available for public use.

The Instagram account @cincystairs is dedicated to documenting this unique bit of our city’s infrastructure. The account is maintained by Seth Hershey, owner of Metro Scooter, a lifelong Greater Cincinnati resident who enjoys hanging out at the Wasson Way trail head, servicing scooters and bicycles while dreaming of adventures.

Explains Seth, “I have always enjoyed being out of doors; I do a lot of walking, hiking, bicycling, and riding motorbikes. Since a young age I knew I was in a cool part of town when I would see the old yellow lamp shades (known as ‘turtles,’ marking old decommissioned transit stops) and stairways climbing up all manner of hillsides. @cincystairs is a collection of the wealth of local pedestrian right-of-ways that present an adventure for something as basic as walking.”

We asked Seth to give us a virtual tour of some of his favorite public stairways found in different parts of Cincinnati. Here are his picks.

“The next time you are in CUF (an acronym for the neighborhoods of Clifton Heights, University Heights and Fairview), these 204 stairs can take you from McMicken Ave. just south of McMillan St. to Fairview Park Rd. Enjoy the view of the West End and the train yards from the top of the stairs. Or, take in any number of overlooks from Fairview Park while you’re there.”

“Fortview Pl. Steps in Mount Adams proffer 155 steps to help you climb from Hill St. (at the bottom of Martin Dr.) to the dead end of Fortview Pl. Just watch out for some uneven treads and low hanging honeysuckle.”

“One of a few different sets of stairs in Smale Riverfront Park at the Banks, this one connects Marian Spencer Way to the Ohio River Scenic Byway. It’s 42 steps with a channel (called a runnel) for walking a bicycle up or down.”

“Consisting of 70 steps, Lookout Ln. Stairs connect Delta Ave. to Lookout Ct. in Mount Lookout.”

“Two sets with painted risers on the same street in English Woods: 81 steps with yellow risers up the north side of Beekman St. at the intersection of Carll St., and 41 disjointed steps with blue risers on the south side.”

“In Hyde Park, just to the West of Withrow High School, there are 30 steps leading up to the pedestrian bridge crossing Dana Ave.”

“In Mariemont, 41 steps lead from the ‘Boathouse’ to the playground in Dogwood Park near the Bell Tower.”

Follow @cincystairs on Instagram to learn more about this local resource and to find some new adventures to take around the city!