Above photo: The author runs at Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
Story by Abby Carney; photos by Dan Lee
Abby Q. Carney is a writer and trail runner who lives in New York. Dan is a freelance photographer based in New York City.
The Big Apple offers plenty of scenic spots to train.
As a runner, finding somewhere to train when I’m traveling is always a top priority. New York City in its sprawling urbanity may not be the first place you think of for hitting the trails, but there are some first-class parks spread across the five boroughs, so there’s no reason to miss a workout. These are my favorite places for distance training.
Prospect Park is a sumptuous 526-acre public spread of woodland trails, meadows and a convenient 3.1-mile paved loop spanning its perimeter. Located in the heart of Brooklyn — next to the Brooklyn Public Library and Grand Army Plaza and only steps from the Brooklyn Museum and Botanical Garden — it’s a beautiful, bustling place to work out. Since I prefer running on dirt or gravel paths rather than pavement (to protect my joints), I typically run for time, and zigzag a meandering path up trails and stone steps, trying to find new corners of the park to explore.
While there are multitudes of trails to run throughout Central Park, my favorite point of entry is at Harlem Meer Lake and the 110 Street-Central Park North subway station. If you stick to the paved path on the Harlem Meer Loop, you get a nice lakeside view, 0.79 miles one time around. For more mileage, well, Central Park is your oyster.
New York City’s fourth largest park, with 1,146 acres, and 3- and 6-mile cross-country courses looping through the Northwest Forest, Van Cortlandt Park is a runner’s paradise. Traversing the same path day after day can get boring, but with multiple trails, like the Old Croton Aqueduct, Cass Gallagher Nature Trail, John Kieran Trail, John Muir Trail and Bridle Path, the possibilities are virtually limitless.
Inwood Hill has narrower paths and trails and contains Manhattan’s last natural forest, actual altitude changes and idyllic views of the Spuyten Duyvil Creek and Hudson River, Henry Hudson Bridge, the Palisades and a bird’s-eye view of Inwood. The park spans nearly 200 acres, and it connects to the Manhattan Greenway, Fort Tryon, the Columbia University athletic fields (including access to its track during community hours) and Spuyten Duyvil if you’re looking for more mileage without looping.
A hidden gem in an oft-overlooked borough, Staten Island’s Greenbelt Trail is three times the size of Central Park and has multiple well-maintained trails — some that stretch up to 12 miles — of varying difficulty. It’s easy to forget you’re in the city when you’re clocking miles on the greenbelt with serene stretches of forests, meadows, wetlands, ponds and parks, as far as the eye can see.