Central Park, located in the heart of Manhattan, is one of the most iconic places to run in the world. There are numerous options — from a perimeter path to a reservoir route with great skyscraper views to woodsy sections to grand allées.
This woodsy getaway offers plenty to look at; from spring-blooming cherry blossoms and Manhattan skyscraper silhouette in the horizon, to sightings of world-class runners and movie celebrities. There is a huge number of other runners of all speeds along with tourists, dog-walkers, bikers, cars and horses. Thus, it is also useful to know Central Park runner etiquette. The innermost / left lane is for those running clockwise, the “middle” lane for those running counterclockwise and outside/right lane of the road is for cyclists, cars and horses. On pathways only for pedestrians, those running clockwise stay on the left side and counterclockwise on the far right side.
There are two ‘iconic’ routes in Central Park: the ‘perimeter’ path, and a route incorporating the Reservoir. As the map shows, there are wonderful additional options — we recommend the Great Lawn and The Mall. Our routes generally start at the entrance to the Park in Columbus Circle, but clearly can be accessed from many spots. Note: If you’d like to have a guided running experience in Central Park, we highly recommend our affiliate partner Go! Running Tours.
See the wonderful Central Park Running Map, courtesy of FunonFoot.
The full loop in Central Park is 6.1 miles and it includes some climbing. Run counterclockwise and you will encounter two major hills on your way; Cedar Hill (a.k.a. Cat Hill) and Harlem Hill. The South part of the park is the most crowded area, with the most crowds. Notable attractions include views of the Essex House, NY Athletic Club, Central Park Carousel, Sailboat Pond and Loeb Boathouse. One highlight, located at the entrance to Reservoir on East 90th Street, is a statue of the late founder of the NYC Marathon and New York Road Runners club.
There are multiple access points from both sides of the park. One good option is to start at Columbus Circle, located at the southwest corner of the park, where also USS Maine statue is located. Run down a short path of approximately 500ft to get to the main loop.
One of the most popular places to run in Central Park, and indeed anywhere, is the well-maintained dirt path that circles around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Locals know this “loop” as Bridle Path. It was originally built for horses but is mainly used by walkers and runners. Along with knee-friendly surface and car/bike-free pathway, it offers picturesque lakefront views with Manhattan skyscrapers in the horizon. There are markings labeling every 100 yards and the loop around is 1.6 miles. There are multiple access points from both sides of the park, the most direct being the Engineer’s Gate on East 90th Street. Run counterclockwise and stay on the right side of the pathway. If you want to have a bit longer “loop”, try Full Bridle Path Loop, which is 2.5 miles and extends beyond the Reservoir, further north to the North Meadow fields and across the 102nd Street Transverse. It eventually rejoins the main Reservoir loop around West 93rd.