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What are the seven hills of San Francisco?

Emma McAvoy
A view of (a few) of the seven hills of San Francisco from Twin Peaks.

San Franciscan Andre Duque wanted to know more about the seven hills of San Francisco. He asked “What are the seven hills of San Francisco? And can you really see them all if you stand atop any one of them?” KALW reporter Emma McAvoy and Andre Duque visited Twin Peaks with San Francisco hill expert Dave SchweIsguth to see if they could find the seven hills of San Francisco.
On a clear and only slight windy day, Andre, Dave, and I drove up the winding road to Twin Peaks. When we reach the top it’s go time. Dave turns and ask, “Shall we see how many of the seven hills we can find.”

Andre and I respond with a “Yeah” and “Let's do it!"

Dave, is a self-made San Francisco hill expert. He leads Andre and me up to the top of Twin Peaks, a place we can only reach by foot. Our goal is to see if we can count the seven hills of San Francisco.

Dave starts the hunt for the hills, remarking, “There's the tallest hill the city.”

Andre is on his game, “Oh, Mt. Davidson.”

“Exactly.” Dave adds, “With the Easter Cross on top.”

I start the tally.

“There we go, so that's one, Mount Davidson.” Dave continues on — this is an easy game for him, “We're on top of, on top of one, twin peaks, over there is Mount Sutro. That's three and let's see, you know the rest. Can you find them?”

But, even on a clear day, Andre and I still need Dave’s help to find the other four: Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Telegraph Hill and Rincon Hill.

What makes these 7 hills so special? Well, Dave’s looked into that.

“We can only guess. I've done some reading and I've never seen anyone say why those particular hills were on the list.”

Lists like the ones found in books, newspaper articles, and travel guides. Dave says the first reference to the list of seven he found was from the ‘20s, a list he read later was confirmed by the city’s archivist. But, San Francisco isn’t the only city of seven hills. Plenty of other cities around the world also claim to be built of seven hills.

“So having seven hills is a thing that cities with hills have and it just naturally occurred to whoever, you know, first thought about hills when they were writing to say, yeah, we have seven hills too.”

And let’s be real, there are a lot more than seven hills in San Francisco. Dave’s says, "I counted seventy-four."

And while I cannot promise you can see all seventy-four from the top of Twin Peaks, I can promise you can see the seven hills of San Francisco.