One of the best times to visit New York City is during Fall foliage as the leaves begin to change colors and brighten up the city. While there are many great spots to take in foliage, there is no better place than Central Park.
This Central Park Fall foliage guide goes in depth with the best places in the park to take in the colors. In addition, I will also provide a map with the top locations, as well as talk a bit more on when to visit.
Read on to learn all about Fall foliage in Central Park!
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1) What Is the Best Time to See Fall Colors in Central Park?
To start off here, the best time to see Fall colors in Central Park will be sometime between the end of October to the beginning of November.
Throughout the month of October, the leaves will begin to change from their mostly green colors to hues of orange, yellow, and red. Slowly but surely the leaves will get brighter and brighter before reaching a peak.
After reaching peak foliage, the colors will begin to dull out and become darker. Over the next several weeks, more and more leaves will begin falling from the trees ending the Fall season.
Visiting Central Park throughout October into the beginning of November you will continuously have those Fall colors. So even if not visiting during the peak time, the foliage will still be there.
In general, peak foliage does not have exact dates on a year to year basis. However, you will find that the best time to visit for Fall foliage in Central Park will usually be within a couple week time period between the end of October and beginning of November.
There are several factors to foliage, with the few most important ones being temperature, light and moisture.
Having sunny warm days and cooler (but not freezing) nights will help produce the most in depth colors. In addition, avoiding a dry summer and avoiding too much windy/rainy weather in the Fall will be important factors too.
Due to all these various reasons, foliage is different from year to year.
Some years the colors are more vibrant, while other years they are duller. Taking everything into account will then also determine when peak foliage occurs in a certain region.
→ Visit Central Park during peak foliage as part of a longer New York Itinerary
2) Central Park Fall Foliage Dates
For the past three Falls I was keen on visiting Central Park during the peak foliage periods.
While I did visit before and after several times, most of the photos you will come across in this Central Park Fall foliage guide are just from those peak foliage timeframes.
Central Park Fall Foliage Dates 2020
In 2020 I would consider peak Central Park foliage to have happened during the time period of November 1 – November 10.
I visited the park again on November 14 and most of the leaves had blown off the trees due to high winds and rain.
Central Park Fall Foliage Dates 2021
In 2021, I would consider peak Central Park foliage to have happened during the time period of November 7 – November 16.
By November 20th, the leaves were certainly falling and getting darker at a faster rate.
Central Park Fall Foliage Dates 2022
In 2022, peak foliage in Central Park occurred around the time period between October 26 – November 8. Foliage peaked a bit earlier than previous years and was a bit more subdued altogether.
With that said though, the few weeks leading up to these time periods were also fantastic times to enjoy Central Park foliage.
Even if you are not there during the peak time, you will still get some great colors throughout the weeks leading up to it.
→ Do you want to enjoy Central Park’s foliage from the sky? You can sign up for an NYC Helicopter tour that will take you over Central Park & plenty more New York City highlights. Seeing the foliage from an elevated helicopter view is certainly one of the best experiences you can ask for.
When to Visit
In addition to visiting Central Park during foliage season, there are some additional aspects you may want to consider. These are not necessarily important for every person, but I did find them more important for photography purposes.
1) Visiting the park on a clear sunny day will brighten up the trees even more. While the Fall colors still will be vibrant during those more overcast days, I did enjoy taking photos with the light hitting the trees and the blue sky up above
2) If you are interested in getting some reflection photos off of the bodies of water, you will want to visit on a low wind day. The less wind there is, the better chance you will be able to get those reflections.
3) While not always true, I did find the mornings to have that calmer weather. In addition to less wind, there are also fewer crowds in the park during the morning hours.
3) Central Park Fall Foliage Map
Central Park is a massive piece of land right in the middle of the city. It makes up 843 acres of walking paths, fields, trees, water features, and plenty more.
Some of the top spots to enjoy the Fall foliage are well known features of the park. However, there are also some spots that can be a bit more difficult to get to.
Below is a map with the various locations pinned down in addition to a potential walking route.
4) Best Places to See Fall Foliage in Central Park
To be quite honest, there truly are unlimited number of places in Central Park to see Fall foliage.
The list is just never-ending as there are just so many trees in all corners of the park. I did my best to pinpoint some of the top places, but I am sure along the way you will come by plenty more.
Each of the 7 water features of Central Park boast some beautiful Fall foliage opportunities. Starting at the southeast corner of the park you will find the Pond. The map pinpoints two locations, where the pictures below are taken from.
The first is taken from a large rock that you can climb up onto on the eastern side of the Pond.
The second is taken from the southern end of the Pond as you get to see the water in the foreground and the Gapstow Bridge out behind it. Overall though, walking all along the Pond will give some great views.
Hallett Nature Sanctuary
Surrounding the Pond on its western shores is the Hallett Nature Sanctuary. Here you will find a gated protected area full of walking paths, viewpoints, and plenty of foliage.
Strolling the trails of Hallett and you are sure to come by some foliage. Be sure to check out the viewpoint area in the middle of the Sanctuary too (photo below).
The Wollman Rink is just north of Hallett. If you follow the pathway up to the top of the rink, you will get some great views of the rink down below, surrounded by trees, and the NYC skyline out behind it.
By foliage time the rink should be open (or close to being open) so the ice should be laid out already. It makes for a great vantage point to enjoy the surroundings.
Note: you will also find a nearby rock to climb up (northeast of the rink) if you would like to get a bit higher of an angle.
The Mall & Literary Walk
Following the path northbound and you will come across one of my favorite parts of the park – the Mall and Literary Walk.
Here you will find a straight pathway with American Elm trees on either side. During peak foliage these trees turn a crisp yellow color and makes for one of the best photo op spots.
Unless you arrive very early on in the day (right around sunrise), odds are you will have many people walking its pathways.
If you are looking for some additional angles of the American Elm trees, there are a couple great viewpoints on either side of the main pathway (also pinpointed down).
Bethesda Terrace & Fountain
Follow the Mall northbound and you will soon come across the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain area. I would first recommend taking in the view from above, before heading down the stairs on either side or backtrack around through the Bethesda Arcade.
The view from above will have the fountain, terrace, Lake, and Ramble all in view. If you head underneath the overpass in the Bethesda Arcade, you will get some more great angles of the fountain with the foliage out behind it.
Out of all of the manmade features of Central Park, the Bow Bridge is one of, if not the most famous of them. The bridge connects the Bethesda area with the Ramble, and makes for a perfect foliage photo spot.
All around the bridge you will find a variety of different colored trees, and on a calm day you should get some great reflection shots off of the water.
There are five viewpoints of the bridge that I pinpointed down on the map:
Bow Bridge: head onto the bridge itself and take in the view of the bridge with the Ramble trees out behind it.
Bow Bridge Underneath View: head to the west side of the bridge, and make your way closer to the water. Here you will find a view of the bottom of the bridge with the Ramble out back. You can then head to the other side of the bridge for a view from looking the opposite way.
Bow Bridge Boat Landing: get a view of the bridge from the Ramble. Just head over the bridge and make a quick right hand turn to the boat landing seating area. You can actually see the boat landing in the above photo.
Peninsula View: continue past the boat landing and make your way down the peninsula jutting into the Lake. Along the peninsula you will find a few viewpoints, both of the Bow Bridge and the Bethesda Terrace across the way.
West Drive View: if you make your way to the western side of the Lake (along West Drive), you will get some more wholistic angles of the Bow Bridge from a distance.
The Lake & Ramble
Connecting West Drive and the Ramble is the Oak Bridge. From the bridge you will get some great shots of the Lake with the skyline hovering up above in the distance.
Bank Rock Boat Landing
Just pass the Oak Bridge on a short pathway is the Bank Rock Boat Landing. Take a seat here and enjoy a quieter section of the park with more views of the Lake and skyline.
If you continue south along West Drive you will come across the Hernshead Rocks, a small peninsula out on the Lake.
Make your way around the rocks to enjoy one of the vaster views of the Lake. This is one of my favorite spots in the park as you get so much landscape (and foliage) in one shot.
At the very southwest corner of the Lake is the Wagner Cove, another peaceful place to enjoy. There is a small structure here with some seating if you want to take a little break from walking around.
The below picture of Fall foliage was taken of the water itself reflecting the foliage and NYC skyline.
The Ramble Lookout
If you cross the Bow Bridge and head straight, you will find a short trail on the left-hand side. Here you will find a view of the Lake and the San Remo building out in the distance.
The Loeb Boathouse is home to a restaurant and row boat rental station. It is a great spot if you want to take a break and have some drinks or food.
While exploring the Ramble, I also came across a great viewpoint of the Loeb Boathouse from the side. Here you will find a large rock just off the pathway, where you can get a view of the Loeb Boathouse with the foliage surrounding it.
The Conservatory Water is just east of the Loeb Boathouse. Here you will find another body of water with some great views of the NYC skyline.
In addition to the water feature, you will also come across the famous Alice in Wonderland statue.
Moving northbound is the highest point of Central Park at the Belvedere Castle. You can enjoy the views of the Turtle Pond, Great Lawn and more Central Park foliage from the viewing area. In addition, you can climb the castle itself and get some even higher views.
Head down to the bottom of the castle, on the opposite side of the Turtle Pond. From here you will see the Belvedere Castle reflecting off of the water with the Fall colors all around.
The Great Lawn is home to one of the largest open areas of the park. Trees surround the lawn in each direction with the NYC skyline hovering up above looking southbound.
I love the view from the northern part of the Great Lawn taking in the full landscape.
Central Park Reservoir
It doesn’t get much better for Fall foliage than the Central Park Reservoir. This 1.6 mile loop surrounds the largest body of water of the park.
All along the loop will be a never ending row of trees (some of the best Central Park cherry blossoms are located here).
Walking the loop in its entirety is an option here as you will get some great views in all directions. On the map above, the route heads on both the eastern and western sides of the Reservoir. However, you can also just complete the loop too if you are more interested in that.
I got quite lucky on having a perfectly calm Reservoir during my peak foliage visit. Usually there are only pockets of calm water closer to shore. However, as you can see in the photos below, I was able to enjoy a fully calm body of water.
In the northern end of the park, you will find the North Woods. The woods are full of walking paths, streams, plenty of trees, and even a waterfall.
Since the area is so dense of trees (like the Ramble), you will find some great foliage to enjoy while strolling around.
The Loch & Ravine
Towards the southern end of the North Woods you will find the Loch stream in an area known as the Ravine. The Loch connects the Pool with the Central Park waterfall (more on those soon).
All along the stream you will find a walking path to enjoy a peaceful stroll through the woods. Be on the lookout for plenty of birds as well, since it is one of the most popular places in the park for sightings.
Central Park Waterfall
While many people don’t expect to find a waterfall in Central Park, that is exactly what you will find in the North Woods.
Although it is a small waterfall, it is peaceful in nature and makes for a great spot to sit back and relax at.
Remaining North Woods
In addition to the Ravine area, there is plenty more to explore in the North Woods. The walking paths can get quite confusing here but you should get some good foliage shots all the way through.
Be on the lookout for the Blockhouse, which is the oldest surviving building in the park.
Just outside the North Woods off of West Drive you will find another water feature of the park called The Pool. This is the body of water that feeds the Loch stream.
Take a walk around the Pool to enjoy the various colored trees that line its shores.
5) Central Park Fall Foliage Pictures
While the above covers some top spots in Central Park for Fall foliage, I did want to show some more photos of my time there.
As I mentioned at the start, there are just so many places in the park to take in the foliage, and you will have no trouble coming across plenty of it during your time there.
6) Where to Stay in NYC
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, Little Island, the Vessel, Pier 57 Rooftop, 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 entrances 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, the Brooklyn Bridge and the hop on point for the Statue of Liberty.
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 places to stay in New York during a visit
That wraps up a Fall foliage Central Park guide. If you have any questions or comments feel free to add them in below.
Have fun out there and safe travels!