My Favorite Central Park Running Routes

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of Propel. I was compensated and all opinions are 100% my own.

You’ve seen me mention running through Central Park on this blog, oh, approximately a million times.

If you live here, and you’re a runner, you’re more than familiar enough with Central Park, and its loops. The 72nd Street Transverse is an old friend of yours, and you know just where to get on the Reservoir path or the bridle path. (And you know it’s bridle, not bridal.)

If you’re planning a visit here, those words might have just terrified you.

Here’s your guide to running Central Park, from someone who is completely map-illiterate, along with distances.

Screenshot 2014-04-15 08.43.22.png

And since the water fountains can be a little finicky, you can always bring your own grape Propel to stay hydrated without adding calories. Save those for brunch! It also has B vitamins for a nice little energy boost, which is awesome when I forget to take my B complex in the morning.  #willrunforpropel

Favorite Route

“The Loop” – 6 miles

6 Mile Central Park Route .jpg

I like to start at the most southwestern corner of the park, at Columbus Circle, and run in from there. You’ll start at the USS Maine statue (it’s a huge statue with a fountain, hard to miss) and run down a short path to get to the main loop. Central Park runner etiquette: the outside/right side of the road is for bikers/cars, the innermost lane is for those running clockwise, and the middle-ish lane (still to the left of the bike lane) is for running counterclockwise.

From there, I like to run counterclockwise, because you hit a nice downhill right away. Note: if you’re not very accustomed to hills (Floridians, looking at you), this is not an easy route, as you’ll encounter two major hills on your way: Cat Hill and Harlem Hill. You’ll start ascending Cat Hill on E. 75th Street. (Look to the side of the road on the dividers for the streets – you’ll see them marked as E75, for example.) Cat Hill goes from about 75th Street to 81st Street, and your legs will know it, and your eyes will know it from the cat sculpture up on the rocks to your left.

You’ll get a nice downhill from there until you start coming up Harlem Hill. (Which is typically met with curse words by most NYC runners.) You’ll come around the northwest corner of the park and the hill finally peaks around 106th Street. You’ll see one traffic light, and you’ll know you’re almost there. At the second traffic light, you can breathe easy. You’re done!

From here, it’s all downhill. Well, sort of. Next up is what we call “the rollers.” They’re not massive hills like Cat/Harlem, but they’re still inclines. There’s several of them, but they’re short, and finally take you back to where you started!

Shorter Distances:

5 Mile Central Park Route .jpg

5.1 miles – You can take the same “big loop” of the park, but you’ll see a wide road at 102nd Street, known as the 102nd Street Transverse. If you cut across here, and take a left again at the end, you’ll cut out Harlem Hill and get a nice 5.1 mile loop in.

4 Mile Central Park Route .jpg

4 miles – Start at the Central Park Boathouse (79th Street, on the East Side), and run counterclockwise, taking the 102nd Street Transverse again, and then taking the 72nd Street Transverse back to the Boathouse…for brunch! Here’s a perfect spot to stop, stretch and rehydrate with some Propel!

Screenshot 2014-04-15 08.34.46.png

This is the route my Junior League group takes. You get Cat Hill and a few of the rollers on the west, but you cut out Harlem Hill.

Central Park Reservoir Route.jpg

1.5ish – Reservoir. Enter at E. 90th Street, head to the water, and go counterclockwise. This gravel path is much, much easier on your knees and gives you great views.

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If you’ve run in the park, what’s your favorite route? If you’ve never run in the park, what would be the most exciting part to you?


58 comments on “My Favorite Central Park Running Routes

  1. meredith @ The Cookie ChRUNicles

    Um yeah, let’s just say that last week’s Fitness Half has left me traumatized of the Central Park route that never bothered me before lol. And rolling hills is definitely the term for those little bursts of the hilly path that aren’t quite massive but annoying to my legs enough. Considering I basically live in Dix Hills, you would think I could handle hills a bit better lol.

  2. Patty @ Reach Your Peak

    I’ve only ran CP during NYRR Races and afew times for NYC Marathon training, where my mom and I would just run the entire 6 mile loop. I have never actually gone into the middle part to explore, but I’d love to! I always hear people talking about the bridle path and have no clue where or what that is 🙂

  3. Shawna

    love running in CP and share your fave loop, the big one. i like the res as well for a cool down or to run around a few times.
    maybe i’ll see you out there sometime this spring/summer. 🙂

  4. Evan Thomas

    I’ve only made it out twice, but my typical run is from the southeast up and around the reservoir and back down to the train! It’s super fun and motivating running with other runners, I had no idea that was almost 4 miles.

  5. Jenn

    I would absolutely love to go back to NYC and run in Central Park. I don’t get the opportunity for much city running (or park running, if you want to be technical), and I think it would be a blast.

  6. Angela

    Very inspirational blog! I am bookmarking because you inspire me to start running again. Right now, I am beginning with walking, but it is a start right? Thanks for your story!

  7. Amanda

    Love Central Park! Being from Aus I’ve only been to NY a few times but have done a few walks around Central Park. I always seem to travel in winter so I’m amazed I can walk in the snow let alone run (being from a sub-tropical climate and all). Maybe I should plan a summer trip to NY and get a few runs in!

  8. Mandi | No Apathy Allowed

    When I lived in Manhattan, I loved the full 6-mile loop (go big or go home, right?) — usually starting at 59th Street on the West Side and running counter-clockwise. Conquering the Harlem Hills was always an accurate barometer of how good of a day I was going to have. 🙂

  9. Ashley

    My husband works in New York every other week and I will be joining him next week. I recently began running and just ran my first 10K…which was way more than I was doing before. As a visitor, which route do you think would be best for me to run?

  10. Nicole Clark

    This is great! I took up running about 6 weeks ago, running mostly on the treadmill at my gym. For the past 3 weeks, I’ve gone to Prospect Park to run on Saturdays. While the scenery is great, I’m itching to run in Central Park!

  11. Ed

    Thanks for this post… I am planning to do the full 6-mile loop, but it will be my first time… looks easy in the map, but any advise to know that I am doing the correct loop?

  12. Jennifer

    Wow! Thank you so much for this! Perfect companion for running in the park! I’m attempting a milestone run next month and will be in NYC, so this is such a help! gorgeous site!

  13. Andres

    Loved the post, thanks for sharing!

    I try to visit NYC at least once per year and the only must thing to do I’ve got in mind is running around Central Park, the 6 Mile route is amazing, and those hills are a delightful challenge for my mind.

    But what I love the most is to splurge myself with a nice Juice generation smoothie afterwards.

    Thanks again, next time I’m there I’ll contact you so we can run together.

  14. josh

    Thanks for this post. My wife surprised me with a trip to NYC this christmas for valentines day and I’ve always wanted to go running in central park. I had been googling running in the park and came across this blog. I love the sound of the first route, sounds perfect. I get bored on completely flat stuff, not that I do that often. I live in the mountains of western NC so flat to me is rolling pretty much. Anyway, that six miler sounded like a perfect mix of everything. I’m gonna give that a go one of the weekend days I’m there. Hopefully it’s easy to follow and I don’t get lost 🙂 Thanks a lot for posting this!

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  16. carrie

    Thanks for the tips. First trip to NYC next week and I cannot wait to run in central park! I plan on the 6 mile loop.

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  18. Cecilia

    My first run through Central Park last weekend. Perfect instructions on the 6.1 mile loop, even for directionally-challenged people like myself! The hills felt very doable, but maybe because I was expecting worse. By the way, your running etiquette tips were also very helpful! All the info is still accurate today in August 2015.

  19. Heidi

    Thanks for the tips! I am traveling to NYC for the very first time in October and the number one thing on my list is to run in Central Park. I am a little intimidated to do this because I will be alone, but the tips you provided will be helpful. Hopefully I can remember the proper running etiquette while I am there. Happy running!

  20. Jo

    Stumbled across this page whilst googling. Am in NY for the first time ever (visiting from UK) and am factoring in a run in Central Park on Sunday morning. Have been on similar journey to you, lost 35 pounds 4 years ago when I hit 40 years old. Having never run or really done any exercise at all I decided to teach myself to run and then joined a beginners running class in May of this year. We ran a 10k race (about 6 miles) as a graduation for completing the course, and are now training for a 10 mile race. Against all the odds I now consider myself to be a runner (albeit a slow one) and running in Central Park is something I never thought I would do in a million years! Planning to do the 6 mile loop you mention above, thanks for the guidance and tips (particularly the lane etiquette) so if you see a puffed-out Brit plodding around in a red white and blue Hedge End Running Club vest on Sunday morning, that’ll be me!

  21. Jo

    No we decided to wait until a bit later in the day so ran about lunchtime, no half marathon evidence to be seen! In fact it was quite quiet and east to run. Thanks for the tip-off. My friends in my running club in the UK are jealous!

  22. braf

    Thanks so much for this post. I’m flight crew from out of town and was really happy with your route and map of the long run. Cheers from beautiful BC.

  23. Jim

    Hi, will be visiting NYC in December and have ran CP alone a few times, and ALWAYS get turned around and lost! Thanks so much for the map, but are you aware of any run clubs that do CP on a regular basis? Think it would be fun to actually run with some people who know the park. I will be there on a Saturday and Sunday, 12th and 13th. Any additional advice would be appreciated 🙂

  24. Niels

    I’m on holiday upcoming August for a week and will definitely do the large Central Park track. Maybe we’ll pass each other by. Don’t forget to say hi! To this dutch guy 🙂

      1. Niels Thijssen

        Now a few days back from New York, had a great time visiting many great sites and completing my run over Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park (10km/6 miles). Thanks for sharing your running tips on the Central Park!

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  26. Scott

    I’m not from NYC, and have only been there a few times for day trips. I’ve yet to visit the park, but plan to next time I’m there. I used to run a lot while in the military but only walk now due to the condition of my knees.

    I am an amateur/part time screenwriter. I came across your blog conducting research for a project involving the screenplay adaptation of a novel set in NYC. Five characters in the novel jog using various routes in the city, two of them in Central Park.

    I would love to pick your brain concerning the routes described in the novel for accuracy and realism of the character’s experiences.

  27. Kelly Vo

    Hey there! Quick question! I need to do a long run this weekend in NYC…visiting from out of town. How do i know that I’m on the 6.1 mile loop? Are there markers? I always get all kinds of turned around in CP!

  28. Đại Phát

    Hi, will be visiting NYC in December and have ran CP alone a few times, and ALWAYS get turned around and lost! Thanks so much for the map, but are you aware of any run clubs that do CP on a regular basis? Think it would be fun to actually run with some people who know the park. I will be there on a Saturday and Sunday, 12th and 13th. Any additional advice would be appreciated


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