Stairs at Sunrise

I can’t remember the last time I was up early enough to see a sunrise. Yesterday, though, I saw a beautiful one… while in the middle of a fantastic stair workout. Here’s the sunrise…


…and here are the stairs:



These awesome stairs are known as the Culver City Stairs, and they’re at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. How I ended up there was a happy accident.

I gave my friend Tavi a ride to the airport for his early morning flight. It required me to pick him up at 4:30am. I planned to come home afterward and get some more sleep, but then I had the bright idea to get my workout in before I came home, so I could cross that off my list and sleep in without anything looming.

Plan A was to go straight from the airport to the gym. But it was Sunday morning and my gym wasn’t open that early. Plan B was to go to the Santa Monica Steps, a public stairway on the same side of town as the airport. That plan got thwarted by Jamzilla –  the closing of the 405 freeway for construction – which would’ve made coming home afterward difficult. (Jamzilla, by the way, isn’t a cutesy nickname – it’s the official name for the closure that the County Transportation Authority came up with. Well done, folks.)

I was putzing around online trying to figure out a Plan C when I stumbled across a link to the Culver City Stairs – a giant set of stairs in a small state park about 20 minutes from the airport. Sold! I had my Plan C!

It was well before 6am when I arrived at the trailhead.


I’m glad I had my phone, because I used the flashlight feature to see where I was going. The moon was out (and it was pretty full), but it wasn’t much help.


It was so dark when I arrived at the base of the stairs that I could barely see the top. But I started up them anyway.

Here’s what you need to know about the Culver City Stairs:

  • There are 282 steps. (According to the interwebs, I didn’t count them myself). That’s approximately a 15-18 story building.
  • The steps go straight up a 500-foot hill, and there’s only about 5 landings. There are no handrails.
  • The steps are made of stone and concrete, and each one is different. There’s no consistency. Some steps rise up only 4 or 5 inches, while others are nearly two feet. On average, it’s much steeper than a typical staircase, and because of the irregularity and spacing, they’re very hard to run. Believe me, walking them is challenging enough!

There’s also a trail that winds down the hill, if you don’t want to take the steps. I decided on a route where I would go up the steps and come down the trail. The first loop, in darkness, was difficult, just because I couldn’t see a damn thing. Soon, though, it started getting lighter. I snapped this photo from the summit:


And the morning sky from the trail back down:


Once there was more light, I got a much better sense of the staircase. It’s tricky to traverse, and resulted in a killer burn in my quads.


The steps look like they belong in an epic Biblical movie:


And here’s the view down the steps from the summit:


Once it got lighter, I also started seeing wildlife. There were snails everywhere. A few times I had to really watch my step to avoid crushing these little guys.


My first loop was pretty slow, on account of the darkness. After that, though, I got faster, and started running down the trail instead of walking.

In total, I climbed the steps 6 times. That’s a total of 1,692 steps! (That’s over 200 more than I’ll be racing up in the Stratosphere!I took short breaks at the top of each ascent, mainly because I had to, as it was so exhausting. One loop (stairs up, trail down) is about .7 of a mile (according to my RunKeeper app), so I climbed, hiked, and ran a total of 4.2 miles. It took me about an hour and a half.

I snapped this selfie after my 6th and final ascent of the stairs:


I left the park around 7:30am and started for home. I’m so glad I found this park, completed this workout and saw that sunrise. And I had no trouble whatsoever getting more sleep – I crashed as soon as I got home!

Keep It Up, David!

14 Responses to Stairs at Sunrise

  1. Amazing sunrise (and workout)!

  2. Great pictures and great place to exercise!

  3. Catherine says:

    I just saw these stairs on (Hannah and Olivia from the Biggest Loser’s blog). I so want to do them! If you go again, let us know. I’d try to join you!

  4. I’ve heard about those stairs several times over the years, but I’ve definitely never been brave enough to try them. Well done!!

  5. sippitysup says:

    Very inspiring. I don’t know how I ended up on your excellent blog this morning but I’m glad I did. I live in LA and plan to seek out these steps soon. Thanks GREG

  6. G.M. Grena says:

    Actually, these steps are much LESS steep than the average bldg. staircase. I know because I hand-measured them one morning & made a chart comparing them to those of Sears/Willis & Fig@Wil. They only create the illusion of steepness because some are, as you said, almost 2 feet tall (anywhere from 3.5″ to 20″), & there are no handrails so you’re forced to ascend strictly on leg-power. In any case, it’s awesome that you were able to do 6 laps on your first visit. Congratulations, & thanks for the spectacular sunrise photos! I’d also encourage you to do the historic L.A. City Hall steps (if you haven’t already), which equate to 30 stories, terminating in the mayor’s press-conference room.

    • David says:

      Thanks, George! I’ve been meaning to go to City Hall… but haven’t done it yet! Hope you’re having a great weekend. -DG

      • G.M. Grena says:

        Oops, make that 29 stories (352 feet, 644 steps). I just posted a video of the 2nd climb I did back in November (you can find it by searching “los angeles city hall staircase”). Be sure to leave all your guns, knives, & other Rambo artillery at home since there’s a metal detector at the entrance … but you’ll definitely need your Rambo headband as it’s quite hot in there!!! You have a great weekend too!

      • David says:

        Thanks for clarifying! I can’t bring my AK-47 to City Hall for my workout? What is this world coming to?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: