in a while, you may feel you've done just one too many loops of Central Park. When you're in the middle of one of the long marathon training runs with 14,000 other runners, you might yearn for a little peace and quiet to get into your groove without bumping into the runner next to you. Maybe you need to find a new distance. Or have some fun in the in the snow in the woods. Or just go someplace new.
This run is for exactly that. A new place that's beautiful, challenging and different. I've led this run a number of times over the years and added variations as I went along. A lot of runners have enjoyed it. So in this report I've tried to put the information on the possibilities available outside your usual venue. And I've added a number of pictures so you can get a real feeling of where this run goes. And here's a bit of advice: when you do a run like this over new ground, take some breaks and do some looking around. You just might enjoy it and enjoy your run more than ever.
Maybe it's time to move Beyond Central Park.
From the starting point, cross the 72nd Street transverse and keep going west on 72nd Street to Riverside Park. Watch the traffic and
be careful, but remember this is the only congested part of the entire route.
nter Riverside Park at 72nd Street and follow the walkway downhill and slightly to the right. Go under the West Side Highway and down the ramp and head down to the river. You can stay on the promenade the whole way to 125th Street. You'll soon pass some bathrooms on the right and then come to the 79th Street Boat Basin (you can't miss the boats). There's a cafe here that's open in season, so if you want a beer to speed your journey along, here's you chance.
You'll soon come to a split where one path heads up through an underpass on the right and circles left to the center promenade of the park. Running along the promenade, you'll soon pass the attractive Soldier's and Sailor's Monument up on Riverside Drive at 89th Street. Head straight north on this until just before 96th Street (you'll see the exit ramp right in front of you). Then head down the pathway to the left, go under the highway and you'll find yourself back on the river.
Or you can just stay on the riverfront and go over a new section where the path is built over the river for a few hundred yards. This took a good long time to get built, so enjoy it.
Now it's a straight shot all the way to 125th Street. You'll see the Riverside Church and Grant's Tomb up to the right, and eventually the sidewalk narrows and goes down a slight slope and exits the park.
You will now come out into a totally reconstructed area of piers, greenery and pathways. Just a few years ago this was an ugly parking lot. It's nice to see that progress does sometimes take place. On the right is 125th Street, and ahead and across the street is the Fairway Market.
he route to get back into Riverside Park is much improved over what it used to be. You had to cross traffic and find your way around a few obscure turns, but now it's great. Just go straight on the bike path to the end, turn right under the highways and get on the bike path. Once on the bike path you will pass under the ramp, high overhead, leading into Riverbank State Park from Riverside Drive. Incidentally, the huge structure on your left (which the park is on top of) is a sewage processing plant. Not a bad trade off. At the end of the road, turn left and you will find yourself back in Riverside Park, just north of Riverbank State Park.
Follow the bike path north all the way to the George Washington Bridge. The park changes its name to Fort Washington Park at around 158th Street. Keep to the right when you get to the tennis courts (it's easy to miss this turn). At the GWB, go to the left at the shore and check out the Little Red Lighthouse — we're at the end of this section, so you deserve a little break. On the plaque you'll see how this structure was saved from demolition. Incidentally, it was at one time one of only two working lighthouses in the borough of Manhattan. Do you know where the other one is? (I'll bet you've seen it.)
here are three ways to do this section and they're all nice. Since you may be going all the way up and back again, you can
take a different route on the way back, but you still have to choose. I call them The "High Road", the "Middle Road", and the
"Low Road". The distances vary slightly with the High Road being the longest and the Low road the shortest, but if you go up on
one and back on another it will all average out. Let me briefly summarize the three routes:
I think this is the nicest - it has the very best views and a nice climb to get up to the top of the hill. It goes by the highest point in Manhattan. I think it would be good choice for the outbound part of the run.
This is the "traditional" way to go. It has good views and uses the little known promenade along the parkway. This used to be Riverside Drive before the Henry Hudson Parkway was built and has many old and beautiful structures. Note: since it is so open, there is very little noise or smell from the nearby traffic.
This is the least well known and seldom traveled by anyone (I may be the only one? ). It's all on dirt, mostly a dirt road, but initially a path.
One section is a little rough where the path all but disappears and there is a bit of underbrush and some rocky sections. It's not dangerous, but
if you're squeamish, take another route.
But if you're the adventurous sort and like to "Go where no man no person has gone before", it may be the route for you.
Now for the details ...
rom the Little Red Lighthouse, head up the paved walkway which goes under the bridge and slightly to the right. Circle around and go through the underpass which goes under the south-bound lanes of the parkway. Continue steeply around to the left and you will shortly (and breathlessly) reach the promenade. There will be traffic right in front of you and the bridge abutment just to the right. Go left onto the promenade and you'll soon see the pedestrian bridge which crosses the highway
Cross the bridge and cross the street to the sidewalk on the other side, and head up to the right. You will soon reach 181st Street. Head left (east)
on 181st for 3 blocks to Pinehurst Avenue. Go left up the stairs. "Huh! the stairs?" Yes, it's too steep for cars, so there are stairs, sorry (you can
walk if you don't feel like running).
Note that if you go one more block instead of going up the stairs, there's subway access and the GWB bus terminal is two blocks
to the right for bathrooms and supplies.
I prefer Pinehurst Avenue to get to the Cloisters. Most folks would go a block further and go left at Fort Washington, but I find that much busier with traffic and parked cars.
At the top of the stairs, go straight north on Pinehurst for about 3 blocks where you'll see Bennett Park on the right. Go in and check out the rock formation just inside the fence about halfway along the length of the park. You are looking at the highest point in Manhattan. There's an old stone marker next to the rock giving the elevation of 165.03 feet above sea level.
Back on Pinehurst Avenue, continue north to 187th Street where it merges with Cabrini Blvd. Continue north, now on Cabrini and you will soon get to the southern part of Fort Tryon Park with a steep drop-off on the left with nice views of the Hudson and Palisades. Keep on Cabrini, which curves to the right and you'll soon come to the main entrance to Fort Tryon Park. Across to the right is the 190th Street A Train subway entrance. The trains actually run far below and you'll take an elevator down if you need to get a train.
Now the nice part - Fort Tryon Park is one of the gems of Manhattan or of the whole of New York City, for that matter. Go into the park and head along the sidewalk (not the road) and head for the flag pole, which is on a promontory surrounded by a stone rampart with stairs up to the top. This point, nearly as high as Bennett Park, has the most fantastic views in all of New York City. Unobstructed '36.0%'° views of the GWB, The Palisades, up towards Westchester, and east over much of the Bronx. If you do this run, you must climb the steps to this point.
Keep heading north on the various pathways and you'll next see the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum. It's a treasure trove of medieval art and architecture. It's worth a trip back when you're not doing a 20 miler.
Get on the path furthest to the west (towards the river) and circle around the Cloisters. As you drop below the level of the road, follow the
path down the hill towards the north. Always stay on the left-most path and zig-zag down the hill. There is a very sharp left near the street
level, and then you'll exit the park onto Riverside Drive. Cross the street and head down Payson Avenue and you'll come out onto Dyckman Street
with the bathroom in the park across the street to the left.
rom the Little Red Lighthouse, head up the paved walkway which goes under the bridge and slightly to the right. Circle around and go through the underpass which goes under the south-bound lanes of the parkway. Continue steeply around to the left and you will shortly (and breathlessly) reach the promenade. There will be traffic right in front of you and the bridge abutment just to the right. Go left onto the promenade and you're good to go.
The upper roadway (northbound lanes) of the Henry Hudson Parkway is actually the old Riverside Drive, which pre-existed the highway. Head left (north) on the sidewalk (you will be on the left or west side of the road), and go around the pedestrian bridge, which you will shortly come to.
Go past the "Grecian Temple" on the left and the entrance to the Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park across the road on the right. Keep on this sidewalk all the way to Dyckman Street Ė note the exit sign for the cars. At this point the sidewalk ends and there is a stairway down to the street below. This stretch along the old Riverside Drive north of the GWB has marvelous views of the cliff side, the Hudson River and the Palisades beyond.
At the bottom of the stairs, go left under the highway. The sign will say Riverside Drive. Turn left immediately on Staff Street (1 block
downhill) to Dyckman Street. Cross Dyckman Street to the north side where there is a bathroom a short distance to the right (east).
had always assumed you couldn't get from the GWB to Dyckman Street along the river due to a section just north of the bridge where the path seemed to disappear and it looked like you would need to go through one of the holes in the railroad fence to get around that spot. But just this winter, I saw a Parks Department sign at the Dyckman Street end indicating the path was now controlled by the Parks Department, not, as I had thought, by the railroad. So I decided to explore it again to see it there was a connection. There IS. It's rough, it's narrow and I got burdock stuck to my socks — but I passed the entire length of the path/road on the safe and legal side of the fence, all the while staying on my two feet. And this is no Parks Department path — it is, as we call it, "a herd path."
I liked this route. It's a very remote area for Manhattan, and the only way to get to it is from the ends, and it would be difficult for most folks going by the south end of the route (just above the GWB) to even notice that there was the entrance to a path there. If you do it, you'll be in a very small company.
rom the Little Red Lighthouse, head up the paved walkway which goes under the bridge and slightly to the right. Circle around and when you get to the overpass over the tracks, stop at the near side of the bridge. Facing north, you will see a parks department sign and the fence which goes along the north side of the bridge. Between the sign and the end of the fence there is a clear opening and a path leading down the slope (see the picture to the left). This is the start of the path. If you start the slideshow (click on the pictures to go through the set) you'll see the first hundred yards of it.
Go down the path and keep to the far left. At the bottom of the slope the path continues on more or less continuously for about 100 yards. Soon the vegetation will end and the path will narrow and get rocky as it goes along near the fence. Take it easy, go slow and after about 100 yards of this, the vegetation will start again and behold, you have made it.
Once you're back on the path, it soon turns into a dirt road and it's smooth sailing to Dyckman Street. You'll see some of the structures on the old Riverside Drive Promenade up to the right, and you will get a nice peek at the tower of The Cloisters just where the path turns into a road.
Eventually you'll be at Dyckman Street. Except for the rough spot, this is the shortest and easiest of the three routes with absolutely no hills besides the one to get up to the overpass of the tracks at the beginning.
ow you've made it to Dyckman Street and after taking a little break (there's a bathroom in the park on the north side, and some stores a block or so to the east), you're ready for the last bit - a loop around the northern tip of Manhattan. It's about 1 mile north and then a mile south back to Dyckman Street. You can go clockwise (via Inwood Hill Park along the Hudson Shore), or counter-clockwise (via the streets along the east side of Inwood Hill Park). Just so you don't get lost, I will explain both ways. The pictures are in the clockwise order, but there's absolutely no reason not to go the other way if you feel like it. In either case you'll end up back at Dyckman Street where you can use the services described.
ead west on Dyckman towards the Hudson and pass under all the bridges. Immediately you'll see the entrance to Inwood Hill Park on the right. But if you'd like a pleasant side trip, go over towards the river and check out the new fishing pier. If you go out to the end you'll get great views up and down the river. Having done that, enter Inwood Hill Park and head north along the bike path and keep to the right of the fenced playing fields. Soon you'll come to the pedestrian bridge over the track. If you're lucky you may see an Amtrak Train zoom along under the bridge. I managed to get a nice photo of such a train on my last visit.
Bear left on the path after crossing the tracks and stay on the left-most path nearest the river all the way around. This beautifully wooded area of the park gives you an idea of what Manhattan looked like in pre-colonial days. The path will rise and you will soon pass under the Henry Hudson Bridge far above. This is the northern tip of Manhattan and the halfway point of the run.
Continue on the path and head slightly down hill. You'll see the big "C" painted on the rocks across the river for the Columbia Crew Team, which works out here. Soon you come out of the bridge and see a big rock in the center of the path with a bronze plaque. Read the inscription. It's a very historic spot in the history of Manhattan, but I won't tell. You gotta go there to see it, and don't take the subway - run there.
Cross the open area of the park up towards the right and head for the flag pole. Then run straight east past the bathroom and you will exit the park at Seaman Ave. Head right (south) along Seaman past 207th Street to Payson. Go right on Payson and up and over a slight hill as the street turns to the left and then down a long incline to Dyckman Street, just east of the restrooms.
At this point you will head back, by whichever of the three routes you prefer, to the Little Red Light House and then via Riverside Park and 72nd Street to your starting point in Central Park.
For the "High Road", cross Dyckman and head up Payson one block, cross Riverside Drive and enter the path up the hill through Fort Tryon Park. For the "Middle Road" go right (west) on Dyckman 2 blocks to Staff Street, and head left up the hill, under the underpass and up the stairs to the promenade. For the "Low Road" go right (west) on Dyckman, under the 3 bridges and go left through the gate before the river, directly across from where you entered Inwood Hill Park.
o right (east) on Dyckman Street from the bathroom and stay on the sidewalk at the perimeter of Inwood Hill Park, until you get to Payson Avenue.
Turn left on Payson — the park will be on your left. The road goes up a hill and turns towards the right where there is a row of houses between you and the park. At the end of Payson, turn left onto Seaman Avenue past the row of houses. When you get to where the park opens out on the left, enter the park between the playground (on your left) and the ball field (on your right) and follow the walkway heading west.
First bear right (donít go up the hill), and then straight (donít go over towards the river across the field). Follow this path into the woods and all the way around the hill. Once you get to the woods, stick to the path nearest to the shoreline below. The river will be on your right. The path will rise and you will soon pass under the Henry Hudson Bridge far above. This is the northern tip of Manhattan and the halfway point of the run.
Keep on this path and as you bear to the left you will see the Hudson. Several paths will enter down from the left — stay on the lower path. This beautifully wooded area of the park gives you an idea of what Manhattan looked like in pre-colonial days. Eventually the path ends at a pedestrian bridge over the RR tracks. Cross over this bridge and keep left on the bike path. You are now at the shore of the Hudson River. Head south along the bike path back to the park exit at Dyckman Street.
At this point head back by whichever of the three routes to the Little Red Light House you prefer, and then to your starting point via Riverside Park and 72nd Street.
The "Low Road" is through the gate directly across Dyckman Street. The "Middle Road" is under the bridges and to the right up the hill on Staff Street. And for the "High Road", stay on Dyckman to Payson Street, then turn right up Payson one block, cross Riverside Drive and enter the path up the Hill through Fort Tryon Park.
ongratulations - you've just done a 20 miler!
Total Mileage: 20 miles round trip from the Boathouse.