All throughout Central Park you can find a variety of running paths that wind their way around the park.
While the most popular options may be the full 6 mile loop, the Reservoir loop, or the Bridle Path, another option here is a Central Park 3 mile loop.
While you won’t come across an "official" 3 mile loop on maps of the park, this guide will talk through how to enjoy a 3 mile running (or walking) loop of the lower section of Central Park.
1) Central Park 3 Mile Loop Map
I thought it may be helpful to start out by showing what exactly the 3 mile loop entails and how to go about it.
While there are several entrances to Central Park to start your run, walk or bike from, the intersection of 59th Street (Central Park South) and 7th Avenue will be easiest here.
Once you get to this intersection, you will see the road that leads into Central Park (here it is called West Drive).
As you make your way to that first intersection within the park, all you need to do is make a right hand turn and continue the 3 mile loop in a counter clockwise direction.
Also on the map, I have included a pink line that represents where you would want to turn left onto if you just wanted to take part of the 1.71 mile lower loop.
2) Central Park Entrance and Directions
As mentioned, to make things simple, I would recommend starting the 3 mile loop from the 59th Street and 7th Avenue intersection.
Right at this intersection you should see the below street sign marking Central Park South and West Drive. On Google Maps you may also see the “NYC Horse Carriage Rides” starting point.
Getting yourself to this intersection is pretty easy if you are utilizing the NYC subway system. There are a variety of subway stops all in walking distance, so no matter where you are coming from, you should be good to go here.
Columbus Circle: A, B, C, D, 1, 2
57th Street & 7th Avenue: N, Q, R, W
59th Street & 5th Avenue: N, R, W
57th Street & 6th Avenue: F
59th Street & Lexington Avenue: 4, 5, 6, N, R, W
3) Where to Stay in Manhattan
There are so many different neighborhoods to choose from when visiting Manhattan. Below are some of my top choices for a few of my recommended locations in the city:
Chelsea: If you are looking to be well situated between uptown, midtown, and downtown, then Chelsea can be a great option for you. You have highlights such as the High Line, Chelsea Market, the Vessel, and the Hudson River right nearby.
And if you are looking to head to Central Park uptown or the World Trade Center area further downtown, then you are just a quick subway ride away. Recommended Chelsea hotels:
Midtown: Right in the middle of the action is the midtown area, where you have the one and only Times Square, and all Broadway shows right at your doorstep.
You are also within walking distance to the southern end of Central Park. Almost all subway lines connect at Times Square so getting around should not be an issue. Recommended Midtown hotels:
Tribeca: If you are trying to stay in downtown Manhattan, then I would recommend looking into the Tribeca area. Staying here and you will be just a stone’s throw away from the World Trade Center area, 9/11 Memorial Pools & Museum, and the hop on point for the Statue of Liberty. You will also be walking distance away from the world famous Brooklyn Bridge.
While Central Park is a bit further away, you should still be able to reach it in about 30 minutes by subway. Recommended Tribeca Hotels:
» Check out this helpful guide that talks all about the best neighborhoods to stay in New York during a visit
4) Central Park Jogging, Walking, Biking Tips
Below are just a few more tips and things to know when going about your time around Central Park:
» It Can Get Crowded
Not only will there be runners and bikers on the paths, but you will also have people walking, horse carriages, pedicabs, motorized scooters, and various other modes of transportation on the route.
Please be cautious as you are making your way along the paths in general.
» Pedestrian and Bike Lanes
You will see on the pavement icons letting you know what lanes are meant for whom. Please be sure to follow the markers and not end up in the wrong lane.
Please also note that while you can walk & run in either direction, about 90% of people go counter clockwise around the park. Taking that into consideration, I highly recommend you do the same (bicyclists are ONLY permitted to go counter clockwise).
There are restrooms in the park but not many that are directly on the main loop. Around the lower loop area you can find restrooms at the Loeb Boathouse, near Bethesda Fountain, the north side of Sheep Meadow, as well as a couple others.
Throughout Central Park you will find small food vendors set up that will be selling hot dogs, pretzels, drinks, and snacks.
» Water Fountains
There are also plenty of water fountains alongside the loop. Note that these water fountains do not work year round. They start working sometime in the Spring and then stop sometime in the late Fall.
» Dirt Path
While the main path is all made up of pavement, from time to time you will find a dirt path etched into the grass (different from the Bridle Path mentioned later on). This is helpful if you would like to get off the pavement from time to time.
» When To Go
The park can get very crowded, especially when the weather is nicer and on the weekends. If visiting for a few days and you don’t want to be overwhelmed by the crowds, try to head there on a weekday.
Also to note, the earlier or later in the day you go, the fewer crowds there will be.
Do you want to see more of the park? Check out the Self Guided Central Park Walking Tour I put together for a full day of exploring.
5) The Central Park 3 Mile Loop
Once you have made it to the starting point of the loop, it is time to enter the park and be on your way.
As you head in, you should immediately see those famous Central Park horse carriages lined up on the street. Continue past them as you reach the main loop path of the park.
At this intersection, you will need to make a right hand turn and get yourself into the running or biking lane here.
The path will be as simple as can be to follow from here and you should have no trouble enjoying the first portion of trail.
On either side of you will be plenty of trees, fields, and greenery as you get your first glimpse of the park. Out in the distance you may also see some Central Park views with the surrounding NYC skyscrapers hovering up above.
The path will then veer outward to the east side of the park (don’t worry, there aren’t any intersections to choose from yet), as you pass by the statue lined Mall to your left. The Mall leads right up to the Bethesda Fountain and Lake area if you wanted to take a detour and visit those areas as well.
» Learn more in the Central Park Mall guide up on the site
Soon enough, you will reach the lower loop intersection at Terrace Drive. Making a left here will have you loop back around to the southern end of the park (making it a 1.7 mile loop). Staying straight ahead you will be able to enjoy the 3 mile loop.
After continuing straight here you will come across the Loeb Boathouse area, where people can have lunch overlooking the Lake or take a rowboat out on the water.
It is then further up East Drive as you will pass by The Metropolitan Museum of Art on your right and The Obelisk to your left.
Here is where things get just a little tricky. In order to make this a 3 mile loop, you will need to utilize a short portion of what is called the Bridle Path. The Bridle Path is a dirt path that makes its way around the park, but here you will just make your way on a short traverse.
Soon after passing by the Met, you will come across the below intersection on your left hand side. Making a left here will get you directly onto the Bridle Path. Once you make that left hand turn from East Drive, you then will need to make a left onto the Bridle Path and start heading to the west side of the park (see below photos to help guide you).
You should be on this traverse for just a short while before meeting up with the other side of the loop on West Drive.
Note – you could also head to the Reservoir path and make a left hand turn there (see ramp in the above photo), however people are only supposed to walk or run the Reservoir path in the counter clockwise direction.
Once you get to the other side of the traverse you will be welcomed to West Drive. From here you will just need to continue south back to the starting point of the loop.
As you are making your way down, you are sure to see the Manhattan skyline out in the distance with the greenery of Central Park surrounding you.
Runners, walkers, bikers, horse carriages and more will be sharing the streets with you as you head down.
To your left you will soon be welcomed to various viewpoints of The Lake and all of the rowboats making their way around. The famous Bow Bridge will be further out in the distance, which connects the Bethesda Terrace area with The Ramble.
After finishing up passing by The Lake, you will see Sheep Meadow – one of the most popular spots in the park to hang out and enjoy the day.
Once past all of these last few landmarks, the 3 mile loop will soon come to an end. Be on the lookout for the exit to the park (same path that you took on the way in), that will get you right back to the 59th Street and 7th Avenue intersection.
6) Other Central Park Running Routes
While this 3 mile loop gives you a great feel for the park in a short distance, there are several other routes to choose from during a visit. Read up on all of them in the Central Park Running guide up on the site.
Central Park 6 Mile Loop – the 6 miles loop will take you around the entirety of the main pathway of Central Park. You can start at the same spot as the 3 mile loop, but instead of looping across the Bridle Path, you can just continue all around.
Bridle Path – speaking of the Bridle Path, this a great option for those that don’t want to run or walk on pavement. Instead you will find a softer dirt/gravel path that heads 4+ miles around the park on a less visited trail.
Reservoir Loop – for those that just want a short but fun run, the Reservoir Loop is a great option. This 1.6 mile loop just takes you directly around the Reservoir as you can get some beautiful views of the skyline out in the distance.
That about wraps up a guide to the Central Park 3 mile loop. If you are looking for more things to do in NYC, check out the New York itineraries and guides up on the site.
If you have any questions or comments, be sure to write them in below.
Have fun out there and safe travels!