Are you traveling to New York City and you want to head out for a run in Central Park? This guide is for you. As a local runner, I will share all my insight on running in Central Park with you. From the Central Park loop distance to the Bridle path in Central Park and a full Central Park running map. Offering both hilly and flat terrain, and a combination of surfaces, Central Park is a runner’s paradise.
One thing is for sure, out of all the places to run in New York City our famous Central Park is one of the most iconic running routes in the city.
Depending on the time of the day, you can either have the bustle of the park including tons of other runners, dog walkers, horses, tourists, live music, and street performers, or nothing at all.
Especially in the early mornings in Central Park, you will be blessed with one of the peaceful running courses New York has to offer.
But I know that for newbies in town or for visitors, the park can be a bit overwhelming. Where do you run in Central Park? Are there any trails in Central Park? And most importantly: Is it dangerous to run in Central Park? Let’s dive deeper into running in Central Park.
Where to run in Central Park? My favorite Central Park running routes
- The Full Loop in Central Park
- The Central Park lower loop
- Running the Central Park Reservoir
- The Bridle Path in Central Park
New York City’s popular park offer offers 843 acres of nature amidst the cement and steel of Midtown Manhattan, the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side.
Almost 40 Million visitors are coming to Central Park every year and many of them are actually coming to run. Here is the rundown of the best running routes in Central Park.
First of all, since June 27th, 2018, the roads belong to runners, riders, and skaters and cars are banned from the park. There are numerous loops and locations inside the park that are ideal for running in Central Park.
The Full Loop in Central Park
A full loop through Central Park is nearly 6.1 miles (10 Kilometers) and runs along with the Park Drives on the West and East sides using the various transverses to cut across the park.
This Central Park running loop includes various hills such as Harlem Hill, Cat Hill and the three sisters on the west side of the park.
Circling the entire Park offers an excellent overview of the park and also provide the longest route. Remember that the drives are shared by runners, walkers, skaters, horse carriages, and so much more and it can get very crowded during the afternoon and on the weekends.
Best time to run the full loop in Central Park: Early mornings
Short Running Loops in Central Park: Central Park lower loop
There are also shorter variations if you want to go for a run in Central Park. Try and take a 5-mile loop through either the lower or upper sections of the park. You could also take a 1.7-mile loop in the southern part of the park by the Tavern on the Green.
By making a left, right before Harlem Hill you will end up with fewer hills and a still challenging 5-mile run. You are still running on the main road in the park, so the same rules apply here.
Best time to run the Central Park lower loop: Early AM
Running the Central Park Reservoir
Just like Jacqueline Kennedy, many other local runners come to the beautiful Central Park reservoir to run their loops. The Central Park Reservoir distance is just over 1.5 miles and offers a soft surface cinder pathway. Stay to the right on this path and run counterclockwise. The Central Park reservoir is actually my absolute favorite Central Park running routes.
When the Reservoir was built in 1862, its original purpose was to provide clean water for the city. While this function is not carried out today, the Reservoir does distribute water to other Central Park locations, such as the Pool, the Loch, and the Harlem Meer.
A big bonus for the Central Park reservoir is that here you’ll get Central Park’s best views of the Midtown skyline plus no strollers or dogs at any time of the day.
It is the perfect spot to run quicker, tempo workouts in the park. Just be aware that the reservoir path in NYC gets crowded during peak tourist times and also during rush hour (7-9 AM) as local runners get in their workouts.
Best time to run at the Central Park Reservoir loop: Any time is good as it doesn’t get too congested as other running paths in Central Park.
The Bridle Path in Central Park
And just when you thought you know the best places to run in Central Park, let me introduce the bridle path in Central Park to you. There are actually two Bridle path loops to choose from, both on dirt. Both Central Park running routes are great for recovery and trail runs.
The shorter of the two is 1.66 miles and circles around the Reservoir (see above). The Full Bridle Path Loop is 2.5 miles and extends beyond the Central Park Reservoir up north to the North Meadow fields and across the 102nd Street Transverse. After a while, you will end on West Drive again.
The bridle path in Central Park is known within the trail running community and often used for recovery runs due to the softer surface. Be aware of the horses on the bridle path, they actually have right of way.
The ultimate Central Park Running Map
Now you know everything about running in Central Park. To make sure that you won’t get lost on your next run in the park, I will share an excellent Central Park running map with you. Take this Central Park running map with you on your next run in the Park via your smartphone. Click here to view the Central Park running map.
The best photo opportunity while running in Central Park
The reservoir definitely offers really great photo options as you have stunning views of the skyline from there. Especially during sunrise or sunset, it is simply breathtaking.
Other than that, near Tavern on the Green (the NYC Marathon finish line) will give you goosebumps while taking your running selfie because this is the spot where many runners every year turn into marathoners.
If you love bridges, Central Park has many of those as well. My favorite is the Bow Bridge near the Central Park Mall, which by the way is another great location to take a running photo of you.
The bridle path looks super cute during springtime as the many cherry blossom trees along the running path are blooming.
The New York City Marathon in Central Park
The last stretch of the iconic New York City Marathon takes runners into the park with an impressive finish near Tavern on the Green on the west side of the park.
The NYC Marathon course comes down Fifth Avenue on the Northside of the park, at 110 Street, and follows Fifth Avenue down to 59 Street, where the course turns right and comes up the West side of Central Park, ending at 67 Street on West Drive. While I was training for the marathon I would oftentimes end my run near there and pictured myself crossing the finish line.
It is the most amazing feeling in the world. If you didn’t get to run the TCS NYC Marathon yet, here’s how to get into the NYC Marathon.
Running in Central Park & Fred Lebow
While running in Central Park, there’s one statue you should definitely have an eye on. Standing on 90th Street and East Drive along the Central Park main running loop you will find the Fred Lebow statue. In case you don’t know who he is, he is the man, who created the New York Marathon.
It is such a special statue for the local running community that every year, days before the marathon, the statue is moved to a spot near the NYC Marathon finish line, not far from where Fred himself would stand on marathon days during his years at the head of the organization.
Running rules in Central Park
There are a few rules to follow while running in Central Park. Number one is to stay to the right and run counterclockwise on the reservoir. On the main Central Park loop, make sure you are in the run/walk lane on the left and not in the bike lane, which will be to your right.
Cyclists in Central Park can be pretty fast and serious about their right to be in this lane. Do not try to fight them.
Stay to the right within the running lane and let others pass on the left. Don’t forget to look left and right while crossing the running loop in Central Park.
Central Park running FAQ
Is it safe to run in Central Park?
During the day, it is very safe to run in Central Park. During the night and after sunset make sure to either run in a group and stay off the bridle park which sometimes leads you deeper into the park and can be pitch black in certain areas. The main loop in Central Park is also safe after sunset. I wouldn’t recommend running in the park during late hours though.
How long is on loop in Central Park?
The Central Park loop length is 6.1 miles, so it’s almost a 10k.
How many miles can you run in Central Park?
You can run as many miles as you want. If you continue to run loops you can even do your long runs in Central Park. Actually, NYRR is hosting a 60K race every November right after the NYC Marathon.
What if I get lost in Central Park?
If you get lost in Central Park, use your GPS and Google maps which will lead you out of the park in no time. Another good advice is to check the four numbers on any lamppost base.
The first two numbers indicate the nearest street (“70” would mean 70th Street) and the last two numbers designate whether you’re on the west or east side (odd number means west, even number means east).
How many km is Central Park?
One full loop on the main running route in Central Park is 6.1 miles. So running that path will almost bring you to a 10K run.
Sabrina Wieser is a running expert based in New York City and the founder of Runningbrina - She is a USATF Level 3 and IAAF Level 5 Endurance Certified Coach and experienced marathon runner. She completed over 35 long-distance races and helped over 200 clients to cross their personal finish line. Her expertise in enhancing running performance through training and nutrition has been recognized by many within the running community and different media outlets such as Huffington Post, the Dr Oz Show and adidas running.