Among the myriad advantages of living in Northern Manhattan is its bounty of parks. Along with features that range from Manhattan’s last remaining forestland to an Olympic pool, a world-class art museum to a bijou lighthouse, these parks offer numerous walking, jogging, and bicycling trails—and even the city’s first mountain-bike course.
Fort Tryon Park
West 192nd Street to Dyckman Street, Broadway to Riverside Drive
A walking path alongside Fort Tryon Park’s Heather Garden. Image: Kristine Paulus/Flickr
Perhaps best known as the home of the Cloisters, the branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to medieval architecture, art, and horticulture, this 67-acre park also contains eight miles of pathways. You can bike a loop from the Margaret Corbin Circle entrance, at West 192nd Street and Fort Washington Avenue, up and around the Cloisters and back again.
If you are exploring on foot, you have a wealth of paths to choose from. Worth strolling by—and stopping by—is the Heather Garden, the city’s largest garden with unrestricted public access. In addition to a diverse collection of heathers, this three-acre garden is lush with some 500 trees, shrubs, and flowers, any number of which are in bloom at any time of year. Also of note is the Alpine Garden, a rocky 150-foot slope embellished with an array of mosses, shrubs, and other plants. From the Linden Terrace, the highest point of the park, you’ll have a stellar view of the Hudson River.
Fido and Fluffy can get some exercise in Fort Tryon Park too. Dogs need to be on the leash in all parts of the park except Sir William’s Dog Run. The city’s largest public dog run, it encompasses a full acre and has separate sections for large and small pooches.
Walking, jogging, and biking are not the only ways you can burn calories in the park. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings the park hosts a free one-hour fitness program of stretching and strengthening exercises as well as walking. In addition there are volleyball and basketball courts, and the Jacob Javits Playground includes exercise equipment for adults.
Harlem River Drive Greenway
Harlem River Drive, from 155th Street to Dyckman Street
Cherry blossom trees along the Harlem River Drive Greenway. Image: Kristine Paulus/Flickr
An extension of the Harlem River Park, this two-mile greenway is open to bicyclists, joggers, and walkers. If it is not a long-enough trail for you, a bike lane on Dyckman Street connects the greenway to Inwood Hill Park and the Hudson River Greenway on the west side of Manhattan. The Harlem River Drive Greenway hugs the titular Harlem River, and in parts cherry blossom trees dot the opposite side of the path; these and other plants, along with a few walls, help to reduce the sound of traffic from the Harlem River Drive and maintain a bucolic illusion.
West 155th Street to Dyckman Street, Harlem River Drive to Edgecombe and Amsterdam Avenues
Looking toward the High Bridge Water Tower from the Bronx side of the High Bridge. Image: Shannon McGee/Flickr
You do not have to leave Manhattan to take a spin on your mountain bike: Highbridge Park is home to the city’s first mountain-biking course. Along with three miles of trail, there is a dirt-jump park designed with input from past and present pro bikers Judd de Vall, Kyle Ebbett, and Jeff Lenosky.
The park has trails for walkers, joggers, and regular cyclists as well. These include the High Bridge, which reopened in June 2015 after being shut for more than 40 years. Connecting Washington Heights to the Highbridge area of the Bronx, the bridge was completed in 1864, becoming so popular with sightseers that a number of restaurants and even hotels were built in the area to accommodate them. It still offers a lovely view of the Harlem River, the two boroughs, and the 200-foot-tall High Bridge Water Tower on the Manhattan side.
Among other recreational options in Highbridge Park are a dog run, handball and basketball courts, and Olympic and wading pools for use in the summer.
Hudson River Greenway
Dyckman Street at the Henry Hudson Parkway to the Battery
Inspiration Point, a rest stop on the Hudson River Greenway. Image: Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia
The longest greenway in Manhattan, as well as the most popular bikeway in the country, the Hudson River Greenway runs 11 miles, from Dyckman Street on the Washington Heights-Inwood border south to the Battery. The greenway is open to walkers and joggers as well as bicyclists, offering largely unobstructed views of the Hudson River. Notable sites along the Northern Manhattan stretch include Inspiration Point at 190th Street, a Grecian-inspired shelter built in 1925 complete with Doric columns. Standing 100 feet above the river, it is an ideal spot for taking a break and admiring the New Jersey Palisades across the water. Another landmark, beneath the George Washington Bridge, is Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse, better known as the Little Red Lighthouse. Manhattan’s only remaining lighthouse, the 40-foot-high tower was decommissioned in 1948. It would have been demolished and sold as scrap were it not for a campaign by young fans of Hildegarde H. Swift’s children’s book “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.”
Inwood Hill Park
200th Street to Spuyten Duyvil Creek, the Harlem River South to the Hudson River
Inwood Hill Park. Image: Charley Lhasa/Flickr
The 196-acre Inwood Hill Park includes the southern starting point for the Hudson River Valley Greenway. Not to be confused with the city’s Hudson River Greenway, it encompasses a 147-mile bike trail along with walking trails that wind their way up to Saratoga County.
Even if you confine your expedition to Manhattan, however, Inwood Hill Park offers plenty to explore. Along with lawns and meadows, it is home to the island’s last remaining forest, a rocky, hilly terrain. Whether you jog along a marked trail or hike along an unpaved path, you are sure to see a wealth of flora and fauna, including perhaps bald eagles. Highlights among the trails include potholes created by a melting glacier some 50,000 years ago and Manhattan’s last salt marsh. You might also pass Shorakkopoch Rock, which marks where Peter Minuit was said to have “bought” Manhattan from the Lenape in 1626. Legend has it that the transaction occurred beneath a tulip tree that stood in the spot for centuries until it was destroyed by a storm in 1933.
The park hosts a free open run every Saturday morning that begins near the entrance at Isham Street and Seaman Avenue. Soccer and baseball fields along with tennis, handball, and basketball courts make the park a haven for other athletic pursuits as well.