Our resident running expert Andy Smith from North Shore Running and Outdoor Fitness is back with his Top 10 Lane Cove Stair Runs. So get running Lane Cove.
Many of you will already know that it’s hard to do a run anywhere around the Lane Cove area without stumbling across a steep hill to challenge yourself (see my article on the top 10 hills to run in Lane Cove for more details).
To make hill running more enjoyable (ok I know what you’re thinking, let’s say “manageable” instead), stairs are a great way to build up strength in the muscles and cardiorespiratory system without having to clock up big kilometres of distance.
And, of course, where there are stairs in our glorious surroundings there are bound to be great views, parks, trails and shoreline to add to the enjoyment (there’s that word again!).
Needless to say, you will see me use the phrase “10 x repeats” often in my descriptions of each of the stairs given that the most effective way to build strength is to challenge yourself again and again and again!
The rules I have adopted for selecting the best stairs in Lane Cove are that they all have to fall within the Lane Cove Council boundaries and there has to be at least 50 steps from bottom to top.
The terrain, however, could be anything from trails to footpaths or a combination of both and the entire length does not have to be ALL stairs (there can be level pathways or trails as well). Needless to say, many of the stairs listed below are in locations that will make it very tempting to add on a run or walk before and/or after the stairs so I will add in extra information for each of them with suggested parks and trails you can include in your adventure!
Here are the locations of my top ten picks:
Number 10 – Tambourine Creek to William Edward St, Longueville (95 steps, 60m at 22% gradient) – Trail
It may only be a short climb but somehow they have managed to cram a little under 100 steps into the short space with the steepest section conveniently at the very end as you literally pop out of the bush and find yourself right on the side of William Edward Street.
To find the starting point of these stairs, head down until you get to a small timber footbridge which marks the spot where the stair journey begins. If you do wish to add on some extra distance to your repeats, the trail beyond here does continue on a slight decline along a narrow route down to Tambourine creek. The vegetation down in this valley is pretty thick with a heavy canopy so visibility can be a little challenging if you head down here early in the morning or late in the evening.
The stairs are also the closest ones on my list to the heart of Lane Cove so if you’re time precious, the location and length are ideal for anyone who wishes to sneak in 10 x repeats in a short amount of time.
Needless to say, there are numerous options for trails you can add on to your run simply by continuing down the trail at the bottom of the stairs, following Tambourine Creek to the Magic Bridge where you can explore the trails around Warraroon Reserve.
Number 9 – Bay St to Robertson St, Greenwich (65 steps, 110m at 15% gradient) – Sealed Path
These stairs are tucked away in a very quiet part of Greenwich but as you can see from the photos when you get there you won’t miss seeing them (somebody must have had an oversupply of yellow paint !).
The stairs are part of the footpath connecting Bay St to Robertson Street and they start directly opposite Bayview Park which will be a nice place to relax and recover after your 10 x repeats up these stairs.
The good news is that there are only 65 steps in total and the majority of these are right at the very beginning so you can hit them pretty hard in the knowledge that you have a significant decrease in gradient along the rest of the path until you have just a few more steps before reaching Robertson St. If you wish to add on a tiny bit more distance you can cross over Robertson Street and there is a short length of stairs leading up to the houses along here.
You will notice, as you read further through the list, that I have selected a number of stairs in the Greenwich area so if you are feeling particularly adventurous why not join them together with a gentle jog from one to the next. One thing is for sure, there is no shortage of great scenery in this area!
Number 8 – Kellys Esplanade to James St, Northwood (58 steps, 140m at 16% gradient) – Sealed Path
It’s no surprise that the majority of stairs in the area are near water and this one is no different. After strolling around the Woodford Bay Reserve area you can then wander up Kellys Esplanade until you get to the end of the street.
On the left-hand side of the road, you will see what initially looks like a pathway up to houses but after a short flat stroll you will take a sharp right turn and that’s where you will see the public pathway and stairs that lead up to James Street.
After winding your way up the stairs cutting through cliff-like rock outcrops, you will hit the end of James Street which continues uphill to Northwood Rd. In the statistics for this route, I have included the run up the road to where the gradient eases off so you could say this is half stairs and half hill (you wouldn’t stop half way to the top would you!)
At the top, you will catch glimpses of the harbour to the west around Woodford Bay and across to Longueville. If you turn right onto Northwood Rd it is just a short stroll down to Lloyd Rees Park and Northwood wharf (downhill of course!).
Number 7 – Lloyd Rees Dr to Sirius Rd, Lane Cove West (84 steps, 110m at 21% gradient) – Trail
From Lloyd Rees Park (see above) we now head over to Lloyd Rees Dr in Lane Cove West to enjoy the stairs around Blackman Park. It’s hard not to notice the Lane Cove West Business Park hovering over the sports fields but what is not so obvious is how to get up there!
The keen observer will spot a subtle single track on the right side of the road just before you get to the toilet block. This leads up a fairly technical bush track before hitting a set of well built and easy to negotiate winding stairs. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an easy stroll though as the stairs get bigger and more rugged the further you head up the hill until you pop out onto a driveway leading into one of the buildings at the end of Sirius Rd.
This is just one of the many exercise options you have around this area. You can also run the pathway around the ovals, run on the ovals themselves, use the exercise equipment, walk your dog, play in the cricket nets and basketball court or explore the trails along the river (see my top 8 trail runs for more details).
Number 6 – Jago St Reserve to Jago St, Greenwich (112 steps, 130m at 22% gradient) – Varied terrain
This is another typical hidden way Greenwich gem and one of the few stairs on my list that doesn’t have a road or trail at the top and bottom. The only other option at the bottom of this set of stairs is to swim!
Jago Street is a short no through road off Greenwich Rd as you head down towards Greenwich Point. The path is an interesting combination of paved walkway, metal stairs, bush track, bush stairs and finally the beach. This one might, however, be a hard one to do repeats on as the temptation to take the shoes off and sit on the sand may prove too great, particularly in the afternoon as the sun sets over the water.
The outlook from here is impressive from top to bottom looking across the part of the harbour that marks the start of Lane Cove River with Onions Point (Woolwich) just a stone’s throw away to the west.
Number 5 – St Vincents Rd to French St, Greenwich (118 steps, 80m at 30% gradient) – Trail
Greenwich once again gets another trophy for challenging stairs and this one will not disappoint. My running clients know that this is on my must-do list for the high intensity and skills-building sessions that I coach through the North Shore Running and Fitness Group. If you can master these stairs, you can master anything!
The distance may only be short at 80m however 118 individual steps results in a vertigo-inducing gradient of 30%. For repeats of this set of stairs, I always suggest taking it easy coming back down as there is very little to hold on to and help with balance. The way that the stairs have been cut into the rocks and negotiates its way up the cliff face is intriguing and you can’t think but wonder how hard it was to build when it was first carved into the hill.
The best way to get to these stairs is to park down at Bob Campbell oval and walk back up St Vincents Rd until you see the rock stairs on your right-hand side that disappear into the cliff face. Its stairs all the way from base to summit on this one!
Number 4 – Ronald Ave to Pacific Highway, Greenwich (99 steps, 130m at 12% gradient) – Sealed Path
If you’ve ever walked down the Pacific Highway from St Leonards to Artarmon, I’m guessing that you would have noticed this set of stairs and wondered if you just stumbled onto the entry point to the journey to the centre of Earth!
Ronald Park has actually earned the distinction of a special mention in my other article on hills to run as you actually have the option of running up the stairs OR attempting to run up the park itself, no easy feat whichever one you choose.
The gradient is deceptive at only 12% as you have a section in the middle where the pathway manoeuvres its way around a block of apartments, therefore, you are blessed with a short stint of an uncharacteristic flat pathway. From this point however you have a combination of stairs and path which makes it a challenge to try and get a rhythm as you have to change your running style constantly to suit the terrain.
The park signage at the top of the stairs, however, is very conveniently positioned right next to the stairs so you have something to lean on and help catch your breath before you head back down to start you next repeat!
Number 3 – Ventemans Reach to Mars Rd (126 steps, 100m at 23% gradient) – Varied terrain
For a very long time, this set of stairs was at the top of my list for my run coaching groups and when you see them you’ll know why!
When you approach the stairs from the end of Mars Rd the first thing you may notice is a hazard sign which is very conveniently placed as It’s steep and scary! The “No Stopping” sign, whilst not there for runners (see photo above), is also a handy reminder that once you start heading down these stairs it’s going to be very hard to stop!
At the bottom, you will reach a junction with the Ventemans Reach trail which (if you have the strength afterwards!) is a great trail to walk or run along the riverside in either direction.
But before you do this, you have the challenge of heading back up a narrow and technical trail with a few big rocks to leap up before reaching the beautifully built high grip boardwalk steps (so good!).
The effort however to get up these stairs is not for the faint-hearted especially when you notice that you can reach out and almost touch the steps above you with your hands!
Number 2 – Holloway Park to Vista St (142 steps, 110m at 26% gradient) – Trail
So far we’ve spent most of our time on stairs which are on westerly facing hillsides (or deep in the bush) so it’s a pleasant change to finally have a set of stairs with different scenery, looking eastwards across Berry Island and across the harbour towards the city.
Given that this forms part of the trail that ventures into the Berrys Creek area if you plan to do this as repeats, you are best to start this one from the end of Vista Street and head down the stairs until it levels out adjacent to the mouth of the creek. The terrain is all trail with natural stone steps so it’s pretty rugged and challenging but finishes with a nicely laid down set of evenly spaced rock stairs, a timely reward for all the hard work you’ve done up to this point!
Treat yourself to a big adventure in this area as you have a range of different trails to explore heading up towards Wollstonecraft train station or in the other direction around to Berry Island. One repeat up these stairs may be all you need!
Number 1 – Gore Creek Track to Fleming St (169 steps, 110m at 29% gradient) – Trail
If deception was the key factor in deciding the number one pick, then these stairs would be guaranteed a place at the top of the list. However, this path also has the added distinction of the most number of steps and the second steepest gradient of all the stairs in the top 10, therefore, the place at the top of the list is totally justified!
What makes running up these stairs so difficult is that you start from the wonderfully pristine, flat and fast trail along Gore Creek and, after only a short climb, you venture upon a house on the left-hand side which gives you the false impression that you have almost reached the summit.
Here’s where the deception occurs as you are actually only about one-third of the way up the climb and the gradient doesn’t ease off at all as you struggle all the way to the top where you pop out (or pass out!) on Fleming St.
The climb is all trail with mostly natural (ie. uneven) steps either carved into existing rock or placed in a way that it blends in with the surrounding terrain. There are however some nice even steps at the beginning and end of the trail. This one is hard work so good luck with getting 10 x solid repeats up this one!
Andy Smith – ITC’s Expert Running Coach
Andy Smith has been a Sydney northern suburbs resident all his life and moved to Lane Cove in 2000. In early 2018 he made a career change to allow him to pursue his passion for fitness and running. He has attained his Certificate IV Master Trainer Fitness credentials with the Australian Institute of Fitness finishing top of his class by winning the Institute “Energizer” award.
Whilst heavily immersed in the running concept of “longer is better”, with numerous marathon, Ironman Triathlon and trail ultramarathon finishes, Andy still thrives on testing his performance with races of any distance and loves to share his passion for running, health and fitness with everyone around him!
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