Skip to main content

A Walk in the Heights: From Fort Tryon Park to Fort Washington Park

Those who long to get outside, view inspiring landscapes, and also catch up on New Year’s exercise resolutions should make their way to Upper Manhattan. Up here, the island has not been entirely flattened like the southern parts. A walk uptown, generally north of 175th Street, often incorporates a challenging climb.

View of The Met Cloisters from the second highest territorial point (260 ft) in Manhattan

This walk, beginning with the two highest points in Manhattan and then leading down to the eastern shore of the Hudson River, offers not only great scenery but also serves as an overview of the apartment life and streetscapes of this largely residential area west of Broadway.

Linden Terrace in Fort Tryon Park

Walking uptown near the Hudson River can easily invite comparisons to walks in the European countryside, even if those visions mainly come from fairytales. Beginning with a view of the Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s branch that houses its medieval art collection, the local built environment takes in a considerable amount of medieval-inspired architecture. Medieval castle fortresses inspired Castle Village on Cabrini Boulevard, and Hudson View Gardens on Cabrini and Pinehurst Avenue includes Tudor-style architectural elements. So be on the lookout for turrets.

Fort Tryon Cottage
           
Begin the walk in Fort Tryon Park at Linden Terrace, a raised area just north of the park’s entrance at the end of the promenade. Many locals frequent this peaceful space. Lined with tall trees, the perch offers great views of the Hudson River and the Palisades beyond. To get to the second highest point in Manhattan, just take a few more steps to the area with the flagpole. Here, the surrounding neighborhood landscape unfolds to the east.

Cabrini Woods, a nature sanctuary overlooking the Hudson River

Return back to the park entrance and turn right toward the river. Before continuing on Cabrini Boulevard, stop to look at the Fort Tryon Cottage, just northwest of Corbin Circle. The cottage was originally a gatehouse for the C. K. G. Billings estate, a place that once housed a Gilded Age mansion that was subsequently destroyed by fire. A spectacular arcade that functioned as the driveway still remains. The picturesque cottage is now used as a northern Manhattan base for NYC Parks.

Bennett Park

Continue down Cabrini Boulevard and stop at Cabrini Woods to look for soaring birds. This small nature sanctuary overlooking the Hudson River is filled with a diversity of trees and is a favorite stopping place for migratory birds along the Atlantic Flyway. In winter, look for bald eagles, as one has been spotted here recently.

Pinehurst Steps lead down to W. 181st St.

Walk south to W. 187th Street, a small retail corridor with several shops, bodegas, and restaurants, and look for Pinehurst Avenue at the small triangle. Down Pinehurst you go until you get to Bennett Park, a small neighborhood park frequented by families from the surrounding apartment complexes, the aforementioned medieval and Tudor-inspired dwellings that characterize this section of upper Manhattan. The park boasts the highest territorial point of Manhattan, and if you’ve been playing along, you’ve already stopped at the second highest point at Linden Terrace. (Obviously, we're talking terrain here and not the views from the Empire State Building.)

W. 181st Street

Close by to the south is one of the favorite step streets of the neighborhood, spilling down to W. 181st. The streetscape here is lined with some excellent restaurants (Saggio’s, The Uptown Garrison, for example) and pubs (like Le Chéile), situated on a slope dominated by the George Washington Bridge above. Walk west to Riverside Drive for an overview of the river and the bridge.

The path under the George Washington Bridge

Please stop. At this point, it must be told, the path ahead can get strenuous. The grade is steep, cyclists whiz past, and the path ends up feeling longer than it looks. Don’t try to walk here in icy weather either.

The Little Red Lighthouse

That said, the walk continues over a pedestrian bridge and then winds down to Fort Washington Park. Once here, all is splendid. The Little Red Lighthouse is here, the bridge overhead looks fabulous and large, and most of all, the views from the water are exceptional.

View of Lower Manhattan from Upper Manhattan

One of the loveliest sights of all is the view of Manhattan from the water’s edge. On a clear day, with the sun out, the proximity to the sky and river makes this a fitting and almost mystical end to a walk than began on much higher terrain.



Having arrived at this bit of heaven, I would recommend walking back the way you came, back up the path to 181st Street. Take it slow. Try one of the local eateries before heading home. Nearby subways -  the A train at Fort Washington Avenue and the 1 train at St. Nicholas Avenue. Don’t try walking further south in the park to W. 158th Street, because that’s much too far and doesn't come with a proper fairytale ending.     

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from February 3, 2020.





Popular posts from this blog

The Company of Nature: Walking With Butterflies in Fort Tryon Park

If wandering the empty urban canyons feels a little lonely and depressing, a better idea would be to head to the nearest park. This past Saturday, a day that was sunny but not too hot, Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan turned out to be the perfect place to not only satisfy wanderlust but to rediscover the company of nature. Butterflies were there. Hundreds of butterflies - Tiger Swallowtails, Monarch Butterflies, Black Swallowtails, Cabbage White Butterflies, and Silver Spotted Skippers, among them. Moths, too, although I have not yet learned their names.  The Heather Garden is situated just beyond the entrance to Fort Tryon Park. With seasonal plantings, the garden is always a serene spot.  Observing butterflies involves watching their interaction with blooming flowers and shrubs. The Tiger Swallowtails are easy to find and found here in significant numbers. Just look for the Butterfly Bushes. The Cabbage White Butterflies are here in abundance, too, though not as showy as the swallow…

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

Update: As of March 12, 2020, many New York arts institutions have temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Please see this post for announcements of reopenings.

Several museums in New York City are open on Mondays, including MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney.

This list has been expanded to include free or pay-what-you-wish hours.


American Museum of Natural History Central Park West and 79th Street
See the post, Big Things to See at the American Museum of Natural History.
Cooper Hewitt
2 East 91st St.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Ave

Jewish Museum 1109 Fifth Ave

Metropolitan Museum of Art 100 Fifth Avenue
See the post 25 Things To Do Near the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Met Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park is also open 7 days a week from March - October.

Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue

MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art), 11 West 53 Street: * Also, consult the post 25 Things To Do Near the Museum of Modern…

The Lonesome Metropolis: A Walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center

As New York City reopens, why do the attractions of the great metropolis still look mostly deserted on a summer morning? A morning walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center sought to address this question. As it turns out, there are several adequate explanations. But for what happens next, there are no right answers.

Many neighborhoods outside of tourist New York are still buzzing along. While some residents of wealthier neighborhoods have largely decamped to mountain cabins, beach houses, and other second homes, the less wealthy have nowhere to go and may still be working. Just visit Washington Heights or Corona or Flatbush, and you’ll see sidewalks full of shoppers and summer evening street partiers. Those who fled the city remain only a fraction of the total population.  

Other renowned parts of the city such as City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge have been frequently occupied, as in Occupied, with crowds protesting police violence. This week, NYPD officers in riot gear remove…

The City Turned Inside Out: A Walk from Battery Park to Fulton Street

While the cast of HAMILTON sings “The World Turned Upside Down,” New Yorkers could easily hum along to “The City Turned Inside Out” this summer. (not a real song) Where once a city’s important work took place indoors - within the soaring office buildings, famous restaurants, legendary museums, and storied performance halls, the COVID-19 epidemic has literally turned the residents outdoors. 

At least it’s summer in the city, when spending time outdoors is common and pleasant enough. Still, the city remains strange this summer of 2020. 

With the absence of tourists, and with office workers connecting virtually from home, many of the city’s main attractions aren’t attracting many visitors. A walk from the Battery to Fulton Street on a pleasant Thursday afternoon bore this out. 

It’s uplifting to at least find plants that are alive and happy. Thanks to the city’s gardeners and landscapers, the city parks are looking particularly lush and splendid this summer. The grounds of Battery Park feel…

A Weekend Walk on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail

Imagine strolling from town to town near the eastern shores of the Hudson River, walking a well-trodden path lined with trees and stately architecture and with easy access to cafes, local shops, and train stations for an easy ride home. Imagine a weekend when the sun is bright and the sun is warm, and many other people - but not too many - are out enjoying the same weather and the same stroll. Such were the pleasures on a recent Sunday, in the latter part of this unseasonal winter, along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail not too far north from New York City.


The Old Croton Aqueduct, the system that once delivered fresh water from the Croton River to New York City, was a huge and complex marvel of engineering. The trail sits on top of the aqueduct system. This post describes a walk along just a section of the trail, the one that begins at the Keeper’s House in Dobbs Ferry and ends in Irvington.


First, catch a Metro-North Hudson line train to Dobbs Ferry, a village in southern Westchester C…

NYC Re-openings and Travel Advice

As the pandemic crisis improves in New York State, several NYC attractions are scheduling their re-openings. What will open, and how will you get there? This list will be updated following official announcements.
UPDATED August 7, 2020. With the state of New York currently ahead of the class in the pandemic outbreak across the US, many favorite local destinations have started to reopen. The rollout is designed to be gradual, with geographic regions advancing according to a fixed set of metrics. 
New York City, the hardest hit area in the first months of the crisis, entered Phase 4 on Monday, July 20. The local exception: indoors of malls, restaurants, and cultural institutions.

Openings     
Phase 4 began in NYC on July 20. Stay outside! (Forward.ny.gov) NO indoor dining!
• Restaurants: Consult this NYC Department of Transportation map (updated link) for restaurants currently open in NYC. 
• Outdoor dining has been extended through October 31. 
• On July 1, city beaches opened for swimming.
•…

Starstruck at MoMA

(Update July 31, 2020. Please note: After reopening in 2019, MoMA is currently closed as a result of the pandemic. MoMA has not announced its reopening.) 
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Midtown Manhattan is undergoing a significant renovation and expansion that will increase gallery space by thirty percent upon completion in 2019. In the midst of renovation and following a long hot summer, the museum may currently look a little rough around the edges and even disorienting for longtime patrons. For starters, you’ll need to enter the museum on W. 54th Street instead of W. 53rd Street while the work is taking place, and the museum store is now currently on the second floor next to the coffee bar which has also moved.


This state of affairs didn’t stop visitors on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend from making a pilgrimage to the museum to gaze at treasures of modern art. In an age of quickly disposable digital imagery, the original and cherished works still exude their aura. Ironically,…

Delacroix’s Cats

Following its record-breaking debut at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the blockbuster Delacroix exhibit has opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. While not all of the works could travel, as some are intrinsic to the Louvre, the big cats made the trip to the city. For the Delacroix exhibit poster, the Met has selected Young Tiger Playing with Its Mother, the artist’s great and surprising painting from 1830, as the signature and defining work of the exhibition.


Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798–1863), known as the leading Romantic painter of his era, loved cats. His many notebooks show preparatory sketches of lions, tigers, and several charming domestic cats. The big cats, for the most part, made it into big paintings. At 52 x 76.6 in. (130 x 195 cm), Young Tiger Playing with Its Mother, 1830, is astonishingly large for an animal painting of his time, a size normally devoted to a history painting. His most famous work, La Liberté guidant le peuple, dates from the same year.�…

The Most Beautiful Bridge in the World

Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier (1887 - 1965), the leading proponent of the International Style of modern architecture, visited NYC on several occasions in the 1930s and 1940s, and he made much to say about the skyscraper city. He didn’t think much of the faux tops of the tall buildings nor did he care about the haphazard city planning, but he did fall madly in love with one particular bridge: 
"The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up the ramp the two towers rise so high that it brings you happiness; their structure is so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, steel architecture seems to laugh. The car reaches an unexpectedly wide apro…

Taking a Constitutional Walk

A long time ago individuals going out for a walk, especially to get fresh air and exercise, often referred to the activity as "taking a constitutional walk." The word "constitutional" refers to one's constitution or physical makeup, so a constitutional walk was considered beneficial to one's overall wellbeing. (Or, as some would prefer to call it, "wellness.") The phrase is more common in British literature than in American letters.

As early as the mid-nineteenth century, many American commentators expressed concern that their countrymen were falling into lazy and unhealthy habits. Newspaper columnists and editorial writers urged their readers to take up the practice of the "constitutional" walk.



One such essay, "Walking as an Exercise," originally printed in the Philadelphia Gazette and reprinted in New England Farmer, Volume 11, 1859, urges the people of farm areas to take up walking. City dwellers seemed to have the advantag…