Riding the iconic mountain Francisco cable cars is among the finest things to do in the city. Why are many of the civilization on the car smiling? since it really is a blast!

This is a local"s guide to talk the cable cars: how it every works and also my advice for getting the most out of it.

Here room the most vital things to know prior to getting on the cable cars... 

How to payHow to acquire on and also offWhich path to takeHow to stop the linesHow to conserve money ~ above the tickets

Coronavirus notice: the cable cars were closed under at the begin of this crisis, yet they are reserved to resume full company in September, starting with the Powell/Hyde line.

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Good news! all 3 lines are running currently (August 2021) and are cost-free to ride until September. They room running 7 to be to 10 pm yet not at constant intervals or times.

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Buying the tickets


Riding the cars


Avoiding the lines


Choosing a route


Cable auto history


Cable auto Museum


San Francisco Cable automobile Tickets

Cable car Fares

One ride on the san Francisco cable vehicle now costs $8: exact same price for everyone.

Only exceptions: seniors 65+ pay $4 prior to 7 am or after ~ 9 pm.

Note: you salary $8 every time you get on. They don"t provide transfers.

How to pay for the cable car ride

Pay after ~ you acquire on. There room two people running each cable car. One is the grip guy (or woman) who operates the car, and also the various other handles the payments and also helps world get top top board.

They take payments after anyone is ~ above board. So when you"re in her place and the automobile is moving, you"ll it is in asked for your fare (cash, ticket or pass).

Exception: if you"re getting on at one of the cable automobile turnarounds at Powell & Market, Hyde & Beach, or bay & Taylor, you need to have a ticket or pass prior to you board (if it"s between 8 am and also 5 pm). In other words, they don"t take cash in ~ those turnarounds.

But there"s a ticket booth at every of those turnarounds wherein you can buy the tickets or passes. Or just get on in ~ a stop more away and pay cash.

Payment optionsCash: they speak exact change only ~ above the official site, however they actually perform make change for smaller sized bills ($20 bills and also below). Paper tickets: acquisition these one-way ticket at the ticket booths situated near the cable car turnarounds at each finish of the route.MuniMobile app: download the MuniMobile app and you can purchase individual tickets because that your me or your group, or purchase one of the countless transit passes easily accessible in SF.Clipper Card: a local card that permits you to load cash or passes onto it and have it scanned because that payment.

The California line doesn"t have a ticket booth, therefore it"s cash or passes for those cable dare (unless friend bought the tickets elsewhere).


Tip: because that a brief visit to SF, making use of the MuniMobile app is more than likely the easiest way to salary fares or obtain transit passes. 

You don"t need the lug the ideal amount of cash (and the buses and also streetcars execute require exact change) and you have the right to do everything online instantly. Add to you deserve to buy every the family"s ticket on one MuniMobile account.

You have the right to download the app on either iOS or android phones.


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Ticket booth at the Powell and Market Street turnaround.

The ticket booth over sells one-way, cable auto tickets, as well as adult Clipper Cards, and also the 1, 3 and 7-day SF visitor Passports. Yet you save money by putting the transit passport on the MuniMobile app or on a Clipper Card rather of obtaining the file passes. See below...

The ticket booth is on industry Street in ~ Powell, right beside the leave from the secret Muni and also BART trains, Powell protect against for both.

I may earn a small commission if you make a acquisition through some of the links on this page, at no extra expense to you. This helps me carry out all the free information I post on this website. Say thanks to you for your support!

Saving money on the tickets

Cable cars are on the expensive next if you plan to make more than a couple of trips on them, specifically if you additionally plan to get about SF on the buses and also trolleys during your stay.

One equipment is obtaining a transit pass which gives you countless travel ~ above all four of the general public transportation settings in san Francisco: buses, street cars, neck F-line trolleys and also the cable cars.

The most famous transit pass is the:

SF visitor Passport (1, 3 or 7-day transit passes)

SF visitor Passport. purchase these in ~ the ticket booths in ~ the cable vehicle turnarounds, the underground Muni ticket machines under industry Street, or in ~ a few retail locations.

Also, you have the right to purchase castle online with via the MuniMobile app, or add them to your Clipper Card.

Good to know: the visitor Passports space cheaper if you usage them via the MuniMobile application or the Clipper Card, instead of buying document passes.

1 day: $13 (vs $24)3 days: $31 (vs $36)7 days: $41 (vs $47)

San Francisco CityPass. You used to have the ability to get a happen for 3 job of limitless travel on all the SF buses, trolleys and cable cars, in addition to entry to four renowned SF attractions.

As of in march 1, 2020, the SF CityPass no longer includes the 3-day transit pass, yet you have the right to still acquisition the 2 passes separately. See the SF CityPass for more info and also booking.

For a detailed guide to all the assorted transit passes accessible in SF, just how to obtain them, and advantages & flaw of each, view my advice on getting approximately San Francisco.

SF Cable car Hours

Powell/Hyde line: 6:00 to be to 12:20 amPowell/Mason line: 6:30 am to 12:20 amCalifornia Line: 6:20 to be to 11:30 pm

The cable car run about every 10 minutes, top top average. A small closer with each other in the morning and also a little farther personal in the evening, yet generally within an 8 come 12 minute time span.

There"s a comfortable app, NextBus, that tells friend the arrival time of upcoming buses and also streetcars, but unfortunately it doesn"t work with the cable cars.

Visitors will notification that as soon as the cable cars come at the end points, they have the right to stack up three or an ext deep sometimes, also though there"s a long line of civilization waiting for them.

They sort of look choose they"re simply lounging around, yet they need to keep come the schedule and also coordinate with the car on the various other lines that are sharing the very same track, therefore they"re act what they must do.

How come ride the cable cars

Getting on in ~ the beginning points

Most civilization get on at the turnaround points in ~ either finish of the cable auto lines. 

You"ll notification the long lines wait to gain on, specifically at the Powell & Market and also the Hyde & beach turnarounds for the famous routes the run in between Fisherman"s Wharf and also downtown san Francisco.

When it"s your rotate to acquire on, you can sit everywhere there room seats easily accessible or stand and hold onto a pole at the designated stand spots.

You can likewise walk roughly to the other side of the automobile to accessibility the seats and standing point out on that side.

If you are one of the last to acquire on, the ideal spots (outside seats and pole hanging) will more than likely be taken and also only the within seats will certainly be available.

Given the long lines, civilization are often surprised that they don"t to fill the cars, and also leave fairly a few seats empty (mainly within the car). That"s so world at succeeding stops have actually a chance to gain on the cars, and that leader to the mystery for staying clear of the lines! 

Getting one "outside" seat

If you"re not in the direction of the prior of the next group to gain on, you have the right to still exercise to acquire a "good" seat. You deserve to let few of the people behind you gain on, and also wait because that the next car.

Or as soon as the boarding begins, go immediately approximately to the various other side that the car and get on there.

Getting on at various other stops


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Cable car stop

All along the route, about every block or two, there are cable auto stops significant with a purple sign. If there"s room, and there practically always is, they will stop and also let girlfriend board. 

Wait at the curb and wave at the car when it"s about fifty percent a block away. As soon as it stops, acquire on and also find a place. Climate you"ll pay the fare or display your pass.

Depending on exactly how busy the season is, or the moment of day, or who has just gained off, you may or not obtain one that the coveted outside seats. Over there is a pretty good chance of getting one of the pole-hanging spots, though.

Getting off the cable car

Two things to know:

They don"t protect against at every protect against unless asked.
tell the grip man that you desire to get off about a half block before the avoid (the cords above the seats just ring the bell, they don"t inquiry a stop favor they perform on buses and streetcars). Speak "next stop, please". Be very careful gaining off. You will be stepping right into a lane of traffic and San Franciscans journey pretty fast. Acquiring off in ~ the finish of the line is the safest.

Avoiding the lengthy lines

The longest lines are at the 2 ends of the Powell-Hyde line:  Powell & Market and also Hyde & Beach.

Here"s where you don"t desire to was standing in line:


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Cable automobile line in ~ Powell & Market

And this remained in April, no the busiest season. The line over had more than likely over one hour wait time.

I was standing right here for only ten minutes, simply watching, and the sound that the erhu player squeaking the same 4 notes almost sent me ring the bend!

But this doesn"t have to be girlfriend in the line.


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The Powell- Hyde Line

This is the most well-known line, largely since it bring away you directly to Fisherman"s Wharf and you get good views the Lombard Street, Coit Tower, and also Alcatraz.

The cable car stops at the peak of the crooked block of Lombard Street, where you can obtain a good picture that the city and bay, v Coit Tower in the distance.


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Stopping at the optimal of Lombard Street

If you gain off here, you have the right to walk down Lombard and also take photos of the car coming down the eight switchbacks amongst the blooming hydrangeas. 

If you don"t want to walk back up Lombard to capture the cable automobile again, you have the right to walk over to Fisherman"s Wharf. Go left on Leavenworth Street (at the bottom of Lombard) and also walk three blocks come the wharf.

If you proceed on v the cable automobile to Fisherman"s Wharf, you"ll go down a pretty steep hill whereby you gain a great view the Alcatraz.


Where to sit: for the best views, sit ~ above the ideal side top top the method to Fisherman"s Wharf, and also on the left next heading ago to Union Square.

Takes around 20 minutes.

The Powell-Mason Line

I think this is a somewhat under-appreciated cable automobile line. The Powell-Mason line is a great line to require to Fisherman"s wharf if girlfriend don"t want to fight the crowds. Also if friend wait in the lengthy line at the turnaround, you"ll find people letting you go ahead so they can take the various other line.

The hills aren"t rather as steep, or the see as exceptional as the various other Powell line, yet you"ll acquire some nice views of the Transamerica Pyramid and also go appropriate through the love of north Beach, our tiny Italy.


This is the ideal route come take ago to downtown as soon as you"re prepared to leave Fisherman"s Wharf due to the fact that of the much much shorter line.

Takes about 17 minutes.

The California Line

This is sort of the forgotten cable auto line. Most world ride the 2 lines the leave native Powell and also Market, therefore this one is much less complicated to get on; generally there"s no wait. There are much more locals ~ above it together well.

It doesn"t take you to Fisherman"s Wharf like the various other two, but it climbs one of the steepest hills, nobility Hill, up to a pair of historic, luxury hotels, the Mark Hopkins and the Fairmont, 2 San Francisco classics.


Grace Cathedral is likewise on top of nobility Hill, appropriate on the cable car line: a beautiful old church v a popular labyrinth.

There are two cool and also historic bars in ~ the height here: peak of the Mark, a classy cocktail lounge through incredible city views, in the note Hopkins Hotel, and the Tonga Room, in the Fairmont Hotel, one of the city"s original tiki bars. This is a fun line to ride ~ dark.

Takes about 16 minutes.

You"ll likewise pass through Chinatown at the picturesque intersection in between the song Chong and Sing Fat buildings, with a an excellent look down the key street and hanging lanterns of give Avenue.

Seating top top the cable cars

The Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines usage the same style of cable car. Fifty percent of the car has an fastened compartment v wooden benches, and the other half has rows of wooden benches facing outward.

In prior of the benches external are procedures for people to stand on, through poles because that hanging on.


There are 14 places accessible for hanging on to the Powell heat cars, 8 ~ above one side and also 6 top top the other. It"s usually feasible to snag among these areas (the many fun ones, ns think).

These cars deserve to only walk in one direction, therefore the rotating platform that has to be manually rotate to obtain them encountering the appropriate direction for the return trip.

The California line has actually a bigger car, through an within compartment in the middle and outside seating top top both ends, additionally with steps for standing and also hanging on.


The California cars can go in both direction so they don"t need to be rotate around.

Which room the finest seats?

I think the best ride, if you"re able, is to stand and also hang on come the pole. You acquire an unobstructed check out (unlike the people you"re was standing in former of), feeling the wind in her hair, and also can appreciate exactly how close you room to the various other traffic top top the street!

Of course, speak there calls for you come be an ext vigilant so girlfriend don"t obtain bumped by the various other vehicles travel on the street. You realize it isn"t an amusement park ride as soon as city traffic is zooming by her body only 12 inch away! yet that renders it all the an ext exciting;)

The next ideal seats space the exterior benches. Much far better views than the within seats, specifically when it it s okay crowded and there are additionally people was standing inside.

And if friend can gain the seats every the method at either end of the car, the views are much better and you have the right to really see just how steep those roadways are.

The ride is a bit rough; it"s the very same ride that people had in the so late 1800"s. The grip males keep remind riders to "hold on", and also for good reason, especially around the corners!

History of the SF Cable Cars

Beginning. The cable car system was created in 1869 through Andrew Hallidie, an engineer that had likewise designed a transport device for carrying tons of rocks the end of the mines up in the yellow Country.

Legend has it that he was motivated to shot to style a transportation mechanism for san Francisco"s steep hills ~ witnessing a disastrous accident in which horses pulling a street auto up a hill slipped and also were dragged to your deaths.

Success. San Francisco"s system introduced in 1873. The cable cars functioned so well and were so much more efficient 보다 the horse drawn cars, they caught on quickly, and also spread to various other cities like brand-new York, Chicago and also Los Angeles.

At the peak, san Francisco had actually over 70 miles of cable vehicle tracks moving passengers transparent the city.

The end...almost. Two things almost delivered a knockout punch to the SF cable cars. Electrical streetcars had been presented to san Francisco in 1892 and also were rapidly replacing the much more expensive and also much less effective cable cars. Then catastrophe struck: the 1906 earthquake damaged much that the cable auto system in addition to most of san Francisco.

The extensive cable vehicle system was decreased to only three lines, to run on the steepest roads that weren"t as valuable for the brand-new streetcars. 

27 cable cars made it through the terrible fire, having actually been stored outside the fire zone, and they were put back in usage after tracks to be repaired.

Cool fact: these initial 27 cars space still running on san Francisco streets, along with some built more recently.


Battle to save the cable cars. In 1947, san Francisco"s mayor wanted to "modernize" the city and do away through the old fashioned cable cars. Yet a fierce fight followed as soon as citizens formed action groups to conserve the top cars, and also ultimately, locals vote on a referendum the same year to keep the cars running.

The san Francisco cable cars were designated a National historical Landmark in 1962. They to be the first cable dare in the world and now they"re the just remaining manually-operated cable automobile system still in use.

The present system. end 13 million world ride the cable car every year. San Francisco has actually 4.7 miles of tracks, on 3 lines, down from 75 mile at the high point.

The cars space all it is provided by a arsenal of giant, 8-foot wheels that drive the cables pulling the cars. The machine is located in the Cable auto Barn, which also contains the well-known Cable car Museum (see below). The power is now electric, though originally it was moved by a heavy steam engine.

How do the cable cars work? The cars have no engines and rely ~ above a clamp the grabs the relocating cable to run under the street.

The cables travel underground in ~ a continuous speed that 9.5 miles every hour. The cable auto grip male regulates the speed by how tightly he grips the cable. There"s additionally a braking device on the cars.

The car are relatively high maintenance. Since the pressure and also friction is for this reason great, both the brakes and also grip mechanism have parts that wear down and have come be changed every 2 to 3 days. The cables themselves also wear out and need regular repairs and also replacement.

How many cars space there? Altogether, there room 40 cable cars, of which around 28 are in use throughout the day. The cars operation from around 6 to be until approximately 12:30 at night. At the finish of the day, castle trundle earlier to the Cable auto Barn whereby they invest the night.

The cables themselves run 19 hrs a day.

The Cable car Museum

This is a really funny museum come drop into. Entry is free. The museum is additionally the Cable automobile Barn whereby the cars spend the night, and also the power house that operation the cables because that all 3 lines.

Along with several of the historic cable cars, over there is a lot of information about the breakthrough of the cable cars, just how they work, and how the huge system of cable cars spanning San Francisco dwindled to a small remnant, and practically disappeared entirely in 1947.  

You have the right to see auto #8 there, the only cable auto left native the original ones developed in 1873; it"s the earliest cable automobile in the world.

The ideal part, however, is you can stand and also look under at the massive, 8-foot wheels that drive the cables. The working device of the cable device is exposed and you deserve to see the 4 lines that cable being hauled with the system.


There are 4 separate lines because the Powell heat is a mutual line, and the various other three currently (Hyde, Mason and also California) are details to just one cable vehicle line.

Amazing that these cables space pulling 28 heavy cable cars with the city, and also up the steep hills!

You can also go right into the basement and also see the massive wheels pulling the cables underground.


The exterior that the building is the original auto barn and also power house from 1888.

Location. 1201 Mason Street, in between Jackson and Washington, where the two Powell lines break-up on their journey to Fisherman"s Wharf, close to Chinatown.

Getting there: both Powell lines prevent here, both coming and going, so acquisition a cable car gets you ideal there. Otherwise, the 30-Stockton bus runs along Stockton Street, 2 blocks down from the museum. 

Street parking is hard in this neighborhood. Aim because that a garage in Chinatown (see Chinatown parking).

Museum Hours. Open daily. April-October: 10 to 6, November-March: 10 come 5.

The cable cars have inspired artists...

At part point, the cable vehicle system was transformed from a way of transportation with San Francisco to an symbol for the city and an extremely popular tourist attraction.


The hippie vibe that the 1960"s and 1970"s influenced some fanciful renditions the the city and its cable cars.

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Learn about taking the other forms of public transportation in mountain Francisco. Check out our local tips top top riding the buses, trolleys, ferries, and more.