While hiking is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Manhattan, believe it or not there are some hiking options to take part of in the city. Hidden in the northern part of Central Park you will find the Ravine and North Woods. Here is where you will find one of my favorite Central Park trails as you enjoy ponds, streams, and plenty of greenery all around you. This guide will dive into the trail and overall Ravine / North Woods area, so you have a better idea how to enjoy it on your own.
1) Ravine & North Woods Location
Central Park makes up over 843 acres expanding three avenues wide (5th Avenue to 8th Avenue) by 51 blocks in length (59th Street to 110th Street).
While there are a ton of different areas to visit within Central Park (and you literally can spend days exploring it all), in the North of the park between 102nd and 110th Streets you will find the Ravine and North Woods tucked in the middle of the main running/biking/walking path (the Ravine is essentially the lower portion of the North Woods).
Below is a map of the entire Central Park, with the Ravine and North Woods location circled up on the top (scroll down further into the article for a map of the trail itself).
Getting to the north part of Central Park will depend on where exactly in the city you are coming from. It will also depend on whether or not you are just interested in checking out this northern area of the park or if you may want to walk other parts of the park before making your way further up north.
Because of this, I won’t go into detail on how to reach the park – you will easily be able to walk, subway or bus to various entry points on all 4 sides of the park. In the next section though, I will talk a bit more on how to reach the starting point of the Central Park trail.
→ Visit the Central Park trails as part of a longer New York 4 day itinerary that takes you throughout the city
2) Central Park Trails Starting Point
While you can technically enter/exit the Ravine & North Woods from several different points, the main starting point of this Central Park trail is located at “The Pool” (one of the top Central Park photo spots).
Now this is not an actual pool, it is more so a manmade pond that feeds the stream that you will be hiking along during the trail.
The Pool though itself is a fantastic place to visit as you get to enjoy the beautiful foliage surrounding the water with plenty of birds (and birdwatchers), at the water’s edge.
Once you are ready to hit the Central Park trails, head to the eastern part of the Pool. Here you will see a stone staircase that takes you down towards the stream and towards the Glen Span Arch. Here is where the trail begins as you simply follow the path alongside the stream and be on your way.
3) Central Park Trails Map
Below is a screenshot from the Maps.me app, which shows the exact route I took while hiking in the North Woods of Central Park. The app helps to make sure you are heading in the right direction as well as gives you other potential path options to enjoy too.
As you can see on the map, I started the trail by the Pool, went underneath the Glen Span Arch, followed the Loch, and then headed more north where I visited the Blockhouse before exiting the trail. The rest of the guide will go over this Central Park trail in particular.
4) The Ravine & The Loch
As you make your way down from the Ravine to the Glen Span Arch, you will immediately be welcomed to the small stream that you will begin to follow. This stream is also known as The Loch, so if you see that name, just know you are in the right place!
The path is simple enough to follow but I do want to point out a few important things to take note of:
1) You will always want to stay on the right hand side of the stream. Towards the beginning of the trail you will have a couple intersections, but if you always remember to stay on the right hand side, then you wont have much trouble staying on the correct path.
2) There are several times during the trail where you will see short pathways to your left (shown on the map). These pathways just lead to dead end points closer to the stream. I recommend heading down them (its literally 10 seconds off trail), to get some great vantage points of the stream and the surrounding foliage.
3) To make things just a bit easier, it would help to have the Maps.me app handy. This way you will be able to see the exact trails and where to go as you making your way through the area .
Below are some shots from this portion of the trail including some of those short turnoff points that get you a bit closer to the water. You can see how calm the water is and how the trees reflect so brightly off of it.
Soon enough you will reach a highlight of this Central Park trail, as you come across the waterfall feature, one of the best views in Central Park. It is by no means a grand waterfall, but it is one of the only ones you will find in Manhattan so it is special in that regard.
After the visiting the Central Park waterfall, the path then continues along the Loch and you will soon see the Huddlestone Arch (and an exit point) approaching out in front of you. While you can exit here, you can instead opt to continue the hike a bit further north in the North Woods, which I will talk about in the next section.
5) The North Woods
As you can see in the map above, instead of exiting the woods I looped back around and then headed farther north into the park. Here things can get a bit more complicated. This area is a bit less trafficked and you will see a lot of various paths to go on.
Here is where Maps.me can come in a bit handy if you want to be sure you aren’t just heading in circles or exiting earlier than expected.
The area up here in the North Woods is completely surrounded by nature and foliage in every which direction. There is a mix between dirt and paved pathways as you make your way through the area (if you are a runner, this is a great trail running spot too!).
The next destination on your Central Park hike is called The Blockhouse. Built in 1814, this small fort is the second oldest structure in Central Park and makes for a great spot to visit as you are exploring the North Woods.
After visiting the Blockhouse, you will be very close by West Drive (the main path of Central Park). I exited the North Woods just south of the Blockhouse and onto the main street, where I then continued to walk back south.
While the above Central Park trail should get you going in the right direction, you of course can continue walking the paths of the North Woods and spend more time in Central Park’s nature for as long as you choose.
On your way in or out of Central Park, be sure to head to the Reservoir pathway – one of the top trails in park and a great way to spend some time enjoying a highlight of Manhattan. You can also make your way further south into The Ramble and towards the famous Bow Bridge!
6) 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 Highline, 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, so you could even decide to make the longer walk all the way to the North Woods. 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.
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
Well, that about wraps up a guide to hiking one of the top Central Park trails. I am sure a visit to the Ravine and North Woods area won’t disappoint! If you do have any questions or comments, feel free to add them in below. You can also check out the Central Park Bridle Path and Central Park Reservoir if you have some more time to explore the park.
Have fun out there and safe travels!