You can certainly find a little bit of everything during a visit to New York’s Central Park. Whether it be lakes, greenery, open fields, or running & biking paths, the park has it all.
One of the hidden gems of the park has to be the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, located in the southeast corner of the park. This sanctuary is one of 3 woodland areas of the park and is full of nature, wildlife, viewpoints, and more.
This guide will give you an overview of the Hallett Nature Sanctuary of Central Park and what you need to know for a visit.
1) Background & Overview
Within Central Park there are three woodland landscapes -> the North Woods in the far northern part of the park, the Ramble closer to the center of the park, and the Hallett Nature Sanctuary in the southern end of the park.
Out of the three, the Hallett Nature Sanctuary is the smallest at just 4 acres in size. For reference the entirety of the park is 840 acres large, with the North Woods at 40 acres and the Ramble at 36 acres.
The Hallett is also the only one of the three that has just a single entry and exit point, specific opening and closing hours, and a limit of how many people are allowed within the area.
Within the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, you can find several walking paths that all crisscross and intersect at one point or another. These walking paths take you to viewpoints, waterfalls, and rest spots to enjoy all that the area has to offer.
Along the way you are sure to continuously hear the vibrant wildlife of the sanctuary with plenty of birds and other animals surrounding you in all directions. While you will feel like you are in the woods, from time to time you will also get glimpses of the NYC city life up above.
As you enter the protected area, you will come across an informative signboard. Below is the excerpt from the board that gives you a little bit of a history lesson:
“When Fredrick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux designed Central Park in 1858, they left relatively untouched the rocky Promontory on the north edge of the swamp they transformed into the Pond. The four acre woodland was formally designated a bird sanctuary and closed to the public in 1934. It was renamed the Hallett Nature Sanctuary in 1986 after George Hervey Hallett Jr. (1895 – 1985), a prominent leader in New York’s civic movement, and an ardent nature lover and bird watcher.
Since 2003 as part of a program of the Central Park Conservancy, students have participated in landscape restoration projects and the creation of woodchip trails in Hallett, opening the landscape on occasion for special guided tour. In connection with more recent work by the Conservancy as part of our parkwide woodlands restoration effort, Hallett is now open to the public during scheduled hours.
Managing public access to this unique landscape enables us to foster a more diverse community of native plants than elsewhere in the Park, enriching habitat complexity to support a broader diversity of wildlife.”
2) Rules & Regulations
As mentioned, there are some rules when it comes to the Hallett Nature Sanctuary. Below are some important things to know when going about your visit:
» Hallett Nature Sanctuary Hours: 10:00AM to 30 minutes prior to sunset; 7 days per week year round. Hours are weather permitting and subject to change due to maintenance.
If you are wondering how they enforce the hours -> since there is only one entrance, there is a gate that is opened and closed during Hallett’s hours.
» No more than 20 visitors may enter at a time (during my visit, there did not seem to be someone enforcing this, however I have read there are sometimes workers around the entrance)
» Visitors must stay on the trails at all times
» Dogs, bicycles, skateboards, and rollerblades are not permitted
» Carry out what you carry in. There are no trash cans in Hallett Nature Sanctuary
3) Hallett Nature Sanctuary Entrance & Directions
The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is located in the southeast portion of Central Park surrounded by “The Pond”.
While you can go about your approach to the Hallett Nature Sanctuary entrance from various directions, I thought it may be helpful to show you a step by step process to get you to the entrance gate.
1) For simplicity purposes, let’s start out at the Central Park entrance located at the intersection of Central Park South and 6th Avenue. On a map you should see the Jose Julian Marti Statue, as well as the start to Central Park’s Central Drive.
2) Now right behind the statue seen in the image above, you will find a downward staircase taking you to the level of The Pond. Follow this staircase down to the bottom.
3) From here you will get a great view of The Pond surrounded by plenty of greenery. You will also have an intersection where you could walk right or left. Turn LEFT here at the bottom of the staircase
4) Follow the path all the way to the end as you pass by The Pond on your right. Just a couple minutes of walking will take you to an open field with various direction to choose from.
5) At this final intersection, make a RIGHT hand turn. Just seconds after making this right hand turn you will see the Hallett Nature Sanctuary entrance on your right hand side.
While the above gives you some images to follow, I have also inputted the route on Google Maps, if you would like to take a look at the aerial view of the route.
4) Hallett Nature Sanctuary Map
Below is a screenshot of the Hallett Nature Sanctuary map along with some points of interest that I have added onto it:
When going through the rest of the guide, you can refer back to the map to understand what to expect at each one of these points of interest.
As you can see there is a circular loop walking trail along with some dead end trails that you can decide to walk down as well.
Since the area is not too big, it is pretty easy to head out and explore all the various pathways of the Sanctuary.
I started out heading towards the right hand side from the entrance with my first stop being the top of the small waterfall, and continued counter clockwise from there.
5) 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. 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:
6) A Visit to the Hallett Nature Sanctuary
Now that you have some background about the Hallett Nature Sanctuary and how to get yourself to the entrance point, let’s dive into some helpful info and images of what you can expect as you are walking all around the area.
The Hallett Waterfall
Once through the wooden gate it is time to explore all that Hallett has to offer. As mentioned, I first headed to the right hand side of the Sanctuary before looping all around.
The first stop for me was the waterfall overlooking The Pond down below. Fun fact -> this small waterfall is actually man made with a pump built into the rocks. Nonetheless, a pretty unique aspect of Hallett and only one of a few waterfalls within Central Park.
From on top of the waterfall you can get a glimpse of The Pond down below, trees in every which direction, and even the NYC skyline up above.
You may even catch some birds taking a bath in the small puddles on the top of the waterfall’s edge.
Please also be sure to watch you step here as there is no barrier or fencing.
The Pond Viewpoint #1
Once all finished up with the waterfall, it is time to continue counter clockwise, where you will soon see an option to turn right down a dead end pathway.
At the end of the pathway you will be brought to one of the The Pond’s lower viewpoint spots. While blocked off by trees, you will still be able to take in the view of the water as well as the surrounding greenery.
Be on the lookout for some turtles too! Check out the biggest turtle I came across in Central Park.
Tree and City Viewpoint
You will then need to backtrack and get onto the circular route, where you will continue for just another minute or so and make another right hand turn towards another viewpoint area.
Here you will be right on top of the Central Park trees, with the NYC skyline hovering above.
The Pond Viewpoint #2
After a quick backtrack you can head down to the most eastern part of the Hallett Nature Sanctuary to another Pond viewpoint spot.
Similarly to the first viewpoint spot, you will be on ground level here surrounded by trees with a view of the Pond just right out in front of you.
Pond and City Viewpoint
Once you leave the second Pond viewpoint spot, you will head back on the short incline and arrive at the prior intersection.
To your left will be the “Tree and City Viewpoint” spot from before, out in front will be the circular route back to the entrance, and to your right will be Pond and City Viewpoint spot.
When it comes to viewpoints in Central Park, this is one of the best ones you can ask for as there aren’t too many elevated sections of the park in general.
You will have The Pond down below, trees surrounding it in every which direction, and the buildings of Manhattan further out in the distance.
Here you will also find a great bench area to sit down and relax at to enjoy the view.
It is then backtracking once again to the intersection, making a couple of right hand turns and getting back on the circular route to the entrance point.
The walk around the entirety of the Hallett Nature Sanctuary is a very peaceful and scenic one. And if you are a birdwatcher, there are just so many different sites and sounds to enjoy as you wander the pathways.
So, take your time, enjoy the nature of Central Park and experience one of the park’s hidden gems.
If you have any questions or comments about the Hallett Nature Sanctuary feel free to add them in below.
Also don’t forget to check out some of the other New York itineraries and guides up on the site.
Have fun out there and safe travels!