There’s no question that New York City is the USA’s most exciting city but, for those who enjoy exploring while keeping fit, this concrete jungle might not seem to be the place perfect runs are made of. Fear not though, jogging junkies, the Big Apple has some excellent routes to raise your heart rate and spirits, from riverside runs and park paths to bridge-crossing, icon-spotting breath-takers. Here are our top six running routes in NYC.
1. Over the Brooklyn Bridge
"Short but spectacular" sums up this run. Start along the Brooklyn waterfront: the renovated piers are now attractions in their own right but the stars of the show – the skyscrapers of Wall Street – draw the eye across the East River (peek left and you’ll spot the Statue of Liberty too, but more of her later).
From Pier 1 (warning: confusing street layout ahead!) go along Old Fulton St and Prospect St and up the slightly hidden stairs in the underpass to reach the city’s most iconic bridge. If the run hasn’t left you breathless, the view of Lower Manhattan through the Brooklyn Bridge’s support cables will. The promenade across the bridge, and the run, finishes at City Hill Park, next to the subway station.
Start/Finish: Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1 ferry stop/City Hall subway station.
Distance: 2.5 miles (more if you detour round the Brooklyn Bridge Park piers).
Why? For the best views of the Lower Manhattan skyline.
When? Sunrise or sunset for beautiful light and fewer crowds (Brooklyn Bridge Promenade gets very busy).
Watch out for: The not-obvious access point for the bridge from Anchorage Plaza, and cyclists on the bridge – stay out of their lane.
2. Central Park #1: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir Loop
Manhattan more than makes up for its general lack of green spaces with one of the world’s best and most famous, Central Park. And within the park, the loop around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is a firm favorite with New York runners.
It’s a straightforward circuit too: head counterclockwise on the flat path that follows the reservoir (once a major source of water for the city but decommissioned in 1993), enjoying the shade of the trees and views of the fancy apartment blocks that border the park and the Midtown skyline. Repeat as needed.
Start/Finish: 86 St subway station (A, B, C lines).
Distance: 2 miles (more laps equal more miles).
Why? To join locals on a classic run.
When? Any time.
Watch out for: Jogger jams – it’s a very popular route.
3. Central Park #2: the full monty
If the Reservoir Loop has whetted your appetite for more Central Park perambulations then you’re not short of options. A full circuit, beginning at the southeast corner, roughly follows the park’s east side, passing well known sights like the Central Park Zoo, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the reservoir before you get to the much quieter northern section.
Head west and then south, past the reservoir again to the almost-rural Ramble; another body of water, the Lake; Strawberry Fields (created in memory of John Lennon who was shot nearby); and the Bethesda Fountain (supposedly, but not actually, in the opening credits of Friends) before finishing at the statue of Columbus just outside the southwest corner. Speaking of fountains, there are plenty of drinking ones around Central Park to keep you hydrated.
Start/Finish: 5 Ave subway station (N, R, W lines)/59 St–Columbus Circle subway station (A, B, C, D lines).
Distance: as far as your legs will take you (basic loop about 6 miles).
Why? Fresh air and famous sights.
When? Daylight hours.
Watch out for: Maps – it’s surprisingly easy to get lost in this 843-acre park.
4. West Side to Lower Manhattan
Regeneration is the story of Manhattan’s west side over the last 20 years and a fairly straightforward route takes in some of the best bits.
Start with the High Line: a former railroad turned park, this is one of the city’s biggest success stories of recent years. Jog above the traffic and past ongoing redevelopment until you reach steps down. Turn right, pass the Whitney Museum of American Art and carefully cross busy West Street to get to the Hudson River Park. From here it’s south all the way, past the old piers, with the soaring One World Trade Center looming ahead.
Leave it behind as an earlier symbol of the city, indeed of the whole US, comes into view when you arrive in Battery Park – the Statue of Liberty. A sprint to the finish ends up by the almost-as-iconic Staten Island Ferry and the subway station.
Start/Finish: 34 St–Hudson Yards subway station (7 line)/South Ferry subway station (1 line).
Distance: 5 miles.
Why? To see how New York constantly reinvents itself, and to catch a view of Lady Liberty.
When? Early morning to avoid High Line crowds (it opens at 7am) or sunset.
Watch out for: Crowds on the High Line.
5. Roosevelt Island Loop
For a very different NYC experience you can’t beat Roosevelt Island. Sitting pretty in the East River, you can take an aerial tramway to get here and that’s just the start of the fun you’ll have on this run.
A path follows virtually the whole edge of the island – once home to several hospitals but now a quiet residential neighborhood – dipping under the Queensboro Bridge and offering spectacular views of Midtown. Head to the lighthouse at the northern tip before looping back to where you started.
Start/Finish: Tramway from Tramway Plaza East 59 St (or Roosevelt Island subway station; F line).
Distance: 4 miles.
Why? For a quiet run and unusual views (and the cool tramway).
When? Any time.
Watch out for: Where you’re going when distracted by the views.
6. Riverside Park to Washington Heights
Beginning at West 72 St and continuing as far north as the very top of Manhattan island, the Hudson River Greenway path is a long, thin, waterside runner’s delight. Heading through Riverside Park and Washington Heights, there are plenty of minor sights along this route (a fort and a lighthouse included), playgrounds and outdoor rec grounds enjoyed by locals and, making a suitable finish line if you need one, the Met Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art focusing on medieval European art.
Start/Finish: 72 St–Broadway subway station (1, 2, 3 lines)/wherever (possibly 190 St subway station).
Distance: Who’s counting? (if you are, it’s around 7 miles from East 72 St to the Cloisters).
Why? Green spaces and local life.
When? Any time.
Watch out for: Some sections sit next to heavily trafficked roads.
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This article was first published in December 2019 and was last updated in December 2020.