Running in Central Park

Whether you are a casual Sunday jogger or a serious road warrior with many marathons behind you, Central Park is a runner’s paradise, although it’s also a great place for a walking tour.  If you feel the urge to stretch your legs and get a run in during your trip to NYC, head up to the park!  Central Park offers several distance options and different types of terrain.  No matter what your preference is, there is something for you!

Map below is from the New York Times.  Click here for a printable version of the full map

Central Park Running Map

The Loops

Central Park Drive (the main road that goes around the park) can be broken down into different “loops,” so that you can customize your run for whatever distance you prefer.  The distances can be altered by turning onto various “traverses,” or smaller roads that cut across the park.  Unless noted, assume all routes begin at the southeast entrance to Central Park, at 59th St and 5th Ave.

Full Loop

A full loop around the entirety of Central Park Drive is about 6.1 miles.  It is all on cement, and it ranges from flat (in the southern part of the park) to quite hilly (in the northern section of the park).  A great run for those used to distance running and wanting to see as much of the park as possible!

5 Mile Loop

New York Central Park runner © Bob TAZAR - Fotolia.comYou can choose to cut off some of the distance and make Central Park Drive a 5 mile loop.  This can be accomplished two different ways.  If you want to keep it flatter, run Central Park Drive, but take the turn onto the 102nd St. Traverse rather than continuing north and doing the complete loop.

For a hilly challenge, start at the 72nd St Traverse and then run the loop of Central Park Drive all the way around and back to where you began.

4 Mile Loop

Sometimes called the “inner loop” or “middle loop” by local runners, this is great for those who want a shorter distance but still want to see a lot of the park.  It also cuts out the challenging hills in the northern part of the park.  Start at the 72nd St Traverse and then run north.  Take the turn-off at the 102nd St Traverse and continue around back to the start.

1.7 Mile Loop

One of the shorter distances that you can do on Central Park Drive.  For a quick but beautiful run, begin at either of the southern park entrances (east or west), and run up to the 72nd St Traverse, where you will take the turn-off and then continue back around to your starting point.  Bonus: this part of the park is pretty flat!!

1.4 Miles with all hills!

For those who want a quick but challenging run- head uptown!  This route can be started from either of the northern entrances to the park on 110th St.  Begin on Central Park Drive and then take the turn-off at the 102nd St. Traverse and continue back to where you began.  The largest hills are in the part of the park, so be ready to feel your legs!!

Some Tips For Running on Central Park Drive 

New York Central Park running xs

  • The best to run on Park Drive is when it is closed to vehicular traffic.  The park is closed to traffic Monday-Friday from 10am-3pm and from 7pm to 10pm.  It is also closed to cars all weekend, starting on Friday at 7pm and continuing through Monday morning at 6am.
  • If you can’t run during any of the times listed, don’t fret!  There is a designated runner’s lane.  It will be the innermost recreation lane on the road and will be designated by a painted symbol of a person walking on the pavement. Leave the outside recreation lane for cyclists.
  • It is recommended, but not required that you run against the flow of traffic if you are running while the park is open to cars.  In any case, be aware of your surroundings. Watch out for cars and cyclists.
  • The park is for runners of all levels and speeds.  If you need to pass someone, feel free!  But if it is crowded (particularly when the park is open to traffic), give a verbal warning to your fellow runners.
  • The best to run on Park Drive is when it is closed to vehicular traffic.  The park is closed to traffic Monday-Friday from 10am-3pm and from 7pm to 10pm.  It is also closed to cars all weekend, starting on Friday at 7pm and continuing through Monday morning at 6am.

The Reservoir Path

The path around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is quite possibly the most beautiful run in the entire park.  This is a dirt path (great for those with knee problems!) and it is relatively flat.  The distance of one loop around the Reservoir is about 1.6 miles, so it is perfect for anyone that wants a quick but stunning run.  The best way to get there is from the 86th St or 96th St entrances on either side of the park.

Some Tips for Running the Reservoir

  • You must run counterclockwise.  This is a one-way path.
  • The path gets quite muddy after it rains, so plan ahead
  • The path is on the narrow side and is used by people of all speeds, from those out for a casual stroll to those doing hardcore, track-style speed work.  Be courteous to your fellow runners and be aware of those around you.
  • Besides being a great running path, the Reservoir offers some of the most spectacular skyline views of Manhattan.  Because of this, it can get very crowded with tourists taking photos.  (Particularly by Engineer’s Gate on the east side of the Reservoir.)  Either be prepared to pause your run for people to snap a picture or have your head be a blur in someone’s vacation photos.  Again, we can all share this space.  Just be mindful of your surroundings
  • If you have a small, portable camera, try to bring it along!  The views are pretty amazing.

The Bridle Path

There are two loops of this dirt path.  There is one that goes around the outer edge of the Reservoir (1.7 miles) and one that continues a bit further north into the park (2.5 miles).  To take the longer route, start by the southern end of the Reservoir and then continue past the Reservoir towards the North Ball Fields and the 102nd St Traverse.  Continue around the Bridle Path and back to where you started.

Some Things to Know

  • The Bridle Path is not quite as flat as the Reservoir track.  It has a few small rolling hills.
  • There are a lot of rocks and roots on the path.  If you are not an experienced trail runner be careful and watch where your feet are going.
  • It won’t happen often, but the Bridle Path was designed for horses.  Should you come across one; horses have the right of way on this path!
  • The Bridle Path, like the Reservoir Path, gets quite muddy when it rains.  Right after a heavy shower you might be better off sticking with the paved roads
  • Unlike the Reservoir, you can run either clockwise or counterclockwise on this route.

General Tips for Running In Central Park

  • The park opens at 6am every morning and closes at 1am
  • Central Park is very safe and quite busy at most times, but always be aware of your surroundings.
  • There are bathrooms located throughout the park.  Most are open year-round, so you should never be too far from one.
  • All of the routes detailed about are in well-traveled areas of the park.  There are several smaller trails that cut through the park, but if you aren’t familiar with Central Park you might get a bit turned around.  It is best for a newcomer to stick with the main paths.
  • There are many water fountains in the park, but they are shut off during the winter.  If you are visiting during that time make sure to bring water with you. (Or bring a few dollars to buy some from a vendor.)
  • It is recommended that runners carry an ID and emergency contact number with them.
  • Enjoy the scenery!!  Central Park is a beautiful place to run.  You can combine your workout with some sightseeing!

For The Ultimate New York Running Experience…

If you enjoy racing, see what is going on during your visit.  There are dozens of races run in Central Park all year long, so get out there are run with the locals.  New York Road Runners sponsors many races, so check out www.nyrr.org to see what might work for you!

Like what you see on your run?

Take one of our Central Park walking tours to learn more about this beautiful urban oasis. Check out calendar for dates/times.

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