One of the best things about living in San Diego is the enormous amount of diversity - biodiversity - and topographical diversity that the area provides. From the beach to the plateaus, foothills, and eventually the mountains, there are plenty of spots that have either been eroded away to form something unique, or altered by man to construct a unique spot. One of the quintessential man-made "secret" spots is the "secret stairway" of La Mesa. Astute readers will note that I have placed secret in quotations; and the reason for that is that I firmly believe that something that has its own Foursquare and Yelp check-in spots, along with numerous web-pages and a governmental webpage is not an actual "secret". Having said that, it is a neat semi-historic spot in mid-county San Diego, and a great spot to work out if you can remain somewhat quiet.
What the La Mesa Secret Stairs are is a series of public staircases that ascend the Mount Nebo area of the county. Built in 1913, the main series of stairs located at the junction of Windsor and Canterbury, with smaller sections of stairs interspersed nearby. The main set of stairs at the Windsor/Canterbury intersection is the actual "secret stairs". This set of stairs has 245 steps, and ends at the top of Summit Drive, some 830 feet above sea level. From this spot, there is a good view of La Mesa, and San Diego's mid-county and East County. (The City of La Mesa provides a great map of the main set of secret stairs and some of the sub-stairs as well here).
Directions: As noted above, the best way to access the stairs is at the junction of Windsor and Canterbury, and there is street parking available.
Tips: 245 steps is a fair amount of steps, and it is also a great location for training for other endurance events. It is common to see other motivated individuals on weekends and weekdays climbing, running, and jumping the steps from top to bottom and bottom to top over and over again. Finally, it is important to note that these steps are in a residential area, and are QUITE CLOSE to innumerable private residences. Visitors and workout fanatics alike should keep this in mind when utilizing the steps, especially during the early morning hours in order to have respect for the area locals.