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8 Best Central Park Rocks for Views & Hangouts (Umpire, Summit, & More)

8 Best Central Park Rocks for Views & Hangouts (Umpire, Summit, & More)

Throughout Central Park you will come across various rock formations that come in all shapes and sizes. These rocks were formed millions of years ago, and are an integral part of the park’s overall landscape.

The biggest of these Central Park rocks offer some of the best views that you can ask for when exploring the park’s 843 acres. Not only that, but the rocks make for the perfect lounging areas, where you can spend some time relaxing.

Read on to learn about the best of the best when it comes to the Central Park rocks and where to find them.

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1) A Quick History

When it comes to the oldest part of Central Park, that would of course be the ancient bedrock that was formed between 100 million and 1 billion years ago.

During the last ice age, glaciers slowly crept over Manhattan, and moved rocks across the bedrock. This in turn left behind the protrusions and boulders that you see today.

Before the park was constructed, the area was filled with tons of bedrock, outcrops, swamp areas, and even a village. All of this had to be considered during the planning process.

Now, as the park was constructed, some of these rock formations were either removed completely or relocated around to new locations to better shape the overall landscape.

Today, visitors have the chance to climb up some of these larger rocks to take in the views from above, find a spot to relax on, and just explore what the park is all about.

Dene Summerhouse Rocks

2) List of Central Park Rocks

While there are thousands of rock formations all around Central Park, there are a select few that I would recommend checking out during your time there.

Some of these rocks are higher in elevation, giving you great views of the park. Others include structures or benches to relax on. One of them even has a castle on top of it!

Below are some of the “main” Central Park rocks I would recommend adding onto your Central Park walking tour.

  • Summit Rock
  • Vista Rock
  • Umpire Rock
  • Dene Rock
  • The Pond Rock
  • Wollman Rink Rock
  • Hernshead Rocks
  • Native Meadow Rock
Hernshead Turtles

Where to Stay in NYC: Are you deciding on where to stay during your trip to NYC? Check out this guide on Places to Stay in New York City to learn more!

3) Map of Rocks in Central Park

Here is a map that pinpoints the location of each rock mentioned. Note that some of these rocks have actual names (i.e. Summit Rock). However most of them do not have official names. I simply named them based on location.

But by leveraging the map below, you should get a better idea of where they are located and how to visit.

4) Summit Rock

If you are looking for the highest natural point of Central Park, make your way on over to Summit Rock.

Located on the western side of the park around 83rd Street, is this 140 foot tall rock that you can walk up.

Summit Rock has quite a history to it as the rock was an important part of Seneca Village (the village that existed in the area before the park was formed).

At the time, the rock offered views in all directions. However, due to the changing landscape and the park’s design, the views have changed over the years. Be on the lookout though for those views down 83rd Street towards the Hudson River!

Even though it is not surrounded by views year-round, there still are benches, lawns, and walking paths on the rock itself.

Below is a photo from Summit Rock in the winter, when the trees don’t have leaves. Due to this, you can actually get some nice views of the park during this time. Throughout other months of the year, it can get a bit more obstructed by the surrounding leaves.

Summit Rock Central Park

5) Vista Rock

While Summit rock may be the highest natural point of the park, Vista Rock has the highest structure of the park.

The rock itself comes in at around 130 feet in height, and overlooks the Turtle Pond and Great Lawn down below.

However, the main highlight of Vista Rock has to be Belvedere Castle, which is built upon it.

The rock and castle are located along 79th Street in the center of the park. While you can enjoy views from the main deck area, you can also head into the castle to get even higher views.

If you want to get a better angle of Vista Rock itself, head down to the Turtle Pond, where the castle can be seen perched high on the rock.

Fun Fact: Vista Rock has the equipment where official Central Park weather metrics are measured from.

Learn More: Belvedere Castle is one the top attractions of the park. Check out the other 30+ best things to do in Central Park during a visit.

Central Park Vista Rock
Summit Rock in Central Park

6) Umpire Rock

A fan favorite for kids, Umpire Rock is one of the largest rocks in Central Park. It is located just besides the Heckscher Playground and offers plenty of space for exploration.

On the northern side of the rock, you will find a short rock climbing route as well. Don’t be surprised if you see some folks with climbing shoes and chalk working their way up onto the rock.

From up top, you will get those views of the playground in the foreground and the NYC skyline in the background. Be aware that it isn’t the quietist of rocks and can bring the crowds during the warmer months of the year.

Even so, feel free to check it during a visit to the park as you make your way around.

Umpire Rock Central Park

Be Cautious: while all of these rocks offer easier to walk paths to the top, they may also include more dangerous routes. Be careful as you head to the top of the rocks and opt for the maintained path to stay safe.

7) Dene Rock

On the east side of the park, around 67th Street, is a small structure called the Summerhouse at the Dene. This vine covered wooden structure is a popular spot for Central Park weddings, and offers some great views of the park from above.

While the rock itself doesn’t have an official name, it is easy enough to spot from a far due to the Summerhouse located on top of it.

You should find plenty of seating areas around the structure itself, overlooking the surrounding Dene Slopes. If you are looking for a more peaceful & quiet Central Park rock spot, this one is for you.

Here you can find one of my favorite Central Park photo spots to visit!

Dene Rock Central Park

8) The Pond Rock

In the southeast corner, you can find one of the park’s several water features – The Pond.

This L shaped body of water wraps around the Hallett Nature Sanctuary and has the Gapstow Bridge on the northern end of it.

One of the best rocks in Central Park is located just besides The Pond, on its eastern shore.

While not as obvious at first, there are a couple of trails that head up to the top of this rock (one from East Drive and another from the pond’s pathway).

Once up top, you will get some of the best elevated views of Central Park that you can ask for. Down below will be The Pond, to the left will the NYC skyline and out in front will be plenty of scenic greenery.

It is a place that I always head up when passing by, as it is one of my favorite things to do in Central Park.

Pond Central Park Rock

9) Wollman Rink Rock

Just north of the The Pond, you will come across the Wollman Rink. From mid Fall until early Spring, this is turned into an ice skating rink. At other times of the year you may find pickleball courts, a roller rink, or movie nights set up here.

While you can get a nice view of the rink from the promenade just on top of it, there is a large rock just behind as well.

While this is another “unnamed” rock, it does offer some great views of the rink, NYC skyline, walking paths, and Central Park greenery.

You will find an easy staircase to climb up from the northern side of the Wollman Rink, or you can simply walk onto it from East Drive.

Wollman Rink Rock
Wollman Central Park Rock

10) Hernshead Rocks

Perhaps my favorite Central Park rock location are the Hernshead Rocks, located on the northern end of the Lake.

The Lake is one of the park’s most famous bodies of water as it is home to the Bow Bridge, row boating, the Loeb Boathouse, and Bethesda Terrace.

However, one lesser known spot located just off of West Drive around 75th Street are a group of large rocks jutting out into the water – the Hernshead Rocks.

The word Hernshead derived from the word heron, as the rock’s shape symbolized the bird’s head.

As you approach the rocks, you may be intrigued to climb up them to get to the viewing spots. However, this approach is quite dangerous. Instead, walk clockwise around the rock, where you will find a walking path that safely takes you to the lakeside.

Once there, you will have the Lake out in front of you with the NYC skyline hovering up above. On a calm day you may get some nice reflections of the trees & buildings off of the water. This is another one of my top photo spots in NYC!

Hernshead Rocks Central Park NY
Hernshead Rocks Central Park

11) Native Meadow Rock

If you are looking for the most off the grid Central Park rock on the list, then head into the Native Meadow.

The meadow is located on the Dene Slope, just opposite the Dene Summerhouse. So, if you happen to visit one, you may as well visit the other.

Over the years, the Central Park Conservancy turned this once overgrown slope into a beautiful meadow. You can find can a variety of grass, wildflowers, plants, and more throughout the slopeside.

There is a great walking path that curves its way up the hill, and you will find some benches along the way too.

At the top of the meadow, there is a short path that leads up to a large rock. Surrounded by nature in every direction (and some views of the skyline), this is one of the more relaxing Central Park rocks to visit.

Native Meadow Central Park Rock
Native Meadow Rock

While there are plenty more rocks to find all throughout the park, these 8 should give you a good place to start. If you have any questions or comments, be sure to add them in below.

Also, don’t forget to check out the other New York itineraries and guides up on the site (like the top things to do in NYC).

Have fun out there and safe travels!

Best Rocks in Central Park

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