La Mesa Secret Stairs

Secret Stairway Hike in San Diego County

Woman walking down in a stairway in La Mesa San Diego County

Step up to 2021 on a secret stairway hike in San Diego’s east county. Head to La Mesa for a 1.4-mile (lollipop loop) historical urban adventure with secret stairs, postcard panoramas, and bonus brews!

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Park near the intersection of La Mesa Boulevard and Nebo Drive. Briefly check out the historic La Mesa Depot, the sole surviving building of all the original San Diego railway stations, and a steam engine locomotive on site. You can also venture east on La Mesa Boulevard to check out eateries and shops on the main strip of the community. Head west on La Mesa Boulevard and turn left on Acacia to start your walk.

Woman overlooking the scenery on a stairway walk in La Mesa San Diego

After 2 blocks, turn right onto Lemon Avenue and left onto Alta Lane. You’ll soon reach your first staircase at the junction with Fairview Avenue. As you ascend them, enjoy floral variety framing the steps: bougainvillea, hibiscus, Indian paintbrush, and a multitude of succulents. You’ll soon reach Pasadena Avenue and your second staircase. The vistas behind you to the north really start to become epic here. The stairs reach Sheldon Drive; after one block turn right on Summit Drive, followed by an immediate left onto Pasadena Avenue and a left onto Windsor Drive.

Woman walking up stairs in La Mesa San Diego

This is where you find your final trio of staircases, a grueling final upward workout taking you to the aptly named Summit Drive, the peak of your walk. There are nearly 500 steps in total (489 to be exact), which have been used by pedestrians for nearly 100 years (since 1927). The suburban summit here is called Mount Nebo.

Woman on a walk in La Mesa San Diego County

When the original landowner saw the heavenly views here, he named it after the biblical mountain. The views to the east are particularly nice, especially with the prominent peak of Mount Helix rising above the city. Head east on Summit, circling the road to find two staircases descending to Beverly Drive. Turn left, and then Acacia Avenue will be on your right, which leads back to your car. Alternatively, head back the way you came up, to stair down the challenge again!

Helix Brewing Co. outdoor brick entranceway

BONUS BREWS: Head to nearby Helix Brewing Co. to reward yourself with a tasty ale. We like their IPAs (go for Bokkies Brew with South African hops, or their top seller, Stoner Moment), but they have a huge rotating tap list and also offer sours next door at Sour Worx. There is something for everyone—not to mention a great outdoor patio!

To get to the La Mesa Secret Staircase starting point, take the I-15 (or I-5) to the 8-E and after 5.4 miles, exit for Spring St. toward downtown (south). Keep left and merge onto Spring St. and after 0.4 mile, you reach La Mesa Blvd. Make a quick right and a quick left to park along Nebo Dr. (or any street parking nearby). Dog-friendly!

Story and photos by Matt Pawlik.

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