Find a 101-stair climb at the Granite Falls fish ladder. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Find a 101-stair climb at the Granite Falls fish ladder. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Step on up: Getting fit on Snohomish County’s public stairways

In “stair seeking,” you search for public stairways and climb them. The fitness benefits are enormous.

Winter is when most of us pack on the pounds. Who can say no to another slice of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream?

If you’d rather not make a resolution to join a gym, and you don’t have a Stairmaster or elliptical at home, then go outside for free stair-climbing equipment.

Actual stairs.

“Stair seeking” is a hobby that involves searching for and climbing public stairways for the benefit of training for marathons, cross-country races and to otherwise keep in shape. Think of it as “geocaching” for active runners and outdoors lovers.

The term “stair seekers” was coined in 2008 by Mill Creek resident Doug Beyerlein. He created a website to help other like-minded athletes find staircases with 100 steps or more. The site lists the locations of more than 400 large outdoor stairways around the world.

There are three Snohomish County staircases with more than 100 stairs listed on PublicStairs.com, in Arlington, Everett and Granite Falls. Each is pinpointed on an interactive map and rated for difficulty based on a four-star scale.

Some stairways are out in the open while others are a bit harder to find, tucked away in parks or forests.

Beyerlein, 68, is a runner who climbs stairs to train for marathons and cross-country races that have stair climbs. But not all stair seekers are runners.

“Some of them are people who really like to go hiking,” said Beyerlein, a civil engineer and the owner of Clear Creek Solutions in Tumwater. “You just go out there and see the sights. It’s a fun adventure. You never know what you’re going to find.”

Beyerlein was inspired to find public stairs while training for the Quad Dipsea Race in Marin County, California, in 1998. The race is known for its challenging 700-stair climb up the side of Mount Tamalpais. He needed stairs to practice on.

Beyerlein grew up in Seattle where hills are about as common as the rain, so he trained on a 364-stair staircase he found on Thistle Street. It did the trick — and it also gave him an idea.

Doug Beyerlein with his dog, Tuolumne, descend a stairway at Forest Park in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Doug Beyerlein with his dog, Tuolumne, descend a stairway at Forest Park in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“I thought, ‘That’s great, but I wonder if there are any others,’ “ Beyerlein said. “It kind of mushroomed from there.”

Finding stairs soon became his passion. He scoured the Pacific Northwest for outdoor stairways to climb and later wrote about them in articles for Northwest Runner magazine, including on Seattle’s biggest stairways and his favorite ones to climb in the region.

In 2008, Beyerlein started posting their locations on PublicStairs.com to share with others who have a similar zeal for stair climbing.

His website also was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, the Seattle Times and four books, including “Seattle Stairway Walk” by Jake and Cathy Jaramillo and “A Guide to the Public Stairways of Los Angeles” by Bob Inman.

“It’s the fact these things are kind of hidden away and people don’t really know about them,” Beyerlein said. “You’re going out there and see what’s there. You literally see things and places you wouldn’t otherwise see.”

There also is a Facebook group — “Friends of Public Stairs” — that has about 1,000 members from across the world. Fellow stair seekers have added their own stair finds to the site.

Beyerlein offered some tips for first-time stair seekers:

Wear comfortable shoes. Your feet will thank you later.

Don’t try to do too many stairs too quickly. You’ve got to build up your endurance.

Take some friends with you. Friends make it more fun.

It doesn’t need to be a race or competition. Just making it to the top and back down is a win.

There are three Snohomish County staircases with more than 100 stairs listed on PublicStairs.com, in Arlington, Everett and Granite Falls. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

There are three Snohomish County staircases with more than 100 stairs listed on PublicStairs.com, in Arlington, Everett and Granite Falls. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

5 stairways to climb

Granite Falls: This mellow, 101-stair climb is found at the city’s historic fish ladder, built in 1954 to help salmon and steelhead reach their spawning grounds. An 80-year-old bridge, 280-foot tunnel and 40-foot-waterfalls — the city’s namesake — also are nearby. Follow the Mountain Loop Highway out of town for about a mile and look for a sign that says “Granite Falls Fishway,” then follow the path that leads to the fish ladder.

Arlington: The Zimmerman Hill stairway, also known as the Zimmerman Hill Climb, features a steep inclination and 232 stairs. This popular Arlington stairway, which connects 80th Avenue NE and Crown Ridge Boulevard, gets heavy foot traffic from locals who use it for fitness or reaching the nearby commercial area. Benches are placed at the midway point for rest or relaxation.

Everett: Everett Memorial Stadium’s stairways with 146 steps begin on the track, scale the bleachers and end with a shorter stairway leading to 38th Street.

Coupeville: Though it only has 57 stairs, a wooden stairway at Ebey’s Landing leads to a scenic view of Puget Sound and a bluff trail. Both the trail and the beach below are popular, especially on a nice day. The landing is just outside of town. Travel north on Highway 20, turn left onto Sherman Road and take a right on Cook Road to the Prairie Overlook trailhead.

Deception Pass: Two stairways on either side of Deception Pass Bridge form a short loop along the North Beach trail and Goose Rock Summit trails. Both take hikers under the bridge and on to West Beach. All together, there are nearly 100 steps to climb with a moderate incline.

Washington North Coast Magazine

This article is featured in the winter issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. ExploreSnohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.

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