This article is from David Tacheny, founder of Performance Athletics, which is located on the Upper West Side.
When I began riding and racing bicycles I quickly discovered that, being a skinny little thing, I was going to have to learn to accelerate going up hills and find shelter in the slipstreams of my larger cohorts on the windswept flats of southern Minnesota.
These days, as people find their wallets lean and time precious, discovering new ways to engage with your immediate surroundings is not only a great way to rediscover your own neighborhood, but it can present some great new prospects for exercise activities.
Getting away from the city, even on a short trip, can be costly and take lots of time. Try taking an urban hike around the steel and glass canyons instead! These are mind/body-engaging adventures to scenic destinations right around the corner and New York especially provides many varying terrains and opportunities to test yourself. Besides the parks (Central park and Fort Tryon park are my favorites for undulating and wooded landscapes), there are subway stations with long twisting tunnels, ramps and stairways to navigate (Times Square is a particularly complicated station with many murals and elaborate mosaics to see during your hike). There are walkway overpasses, uneven cobbled streets and pathways, and steady sections of up hill walking (such as 5th Avenue from 110th street south for about 15 blocks, and Amsterdam Avenue from 135 street south to Columbia University). There are also some wonderful vistas to take in, such as those from the Cloisters museum (also in Fort Tryon park) and the Brooklyn and George Washington bridges.
Urban hikes even take less equipment and preparation than those in the mountains. With a good pair of walking shoes, a couple of helpful maps (see the links below), the cost of a 1-day unlimited subway card and your imagination, you can be off on a wonderful walking adventure in no time! Here’s one of my favorite “urban hikes” around the northern portion of Manhattan. It takes in some fantastic panoramic views of both the Hudson and Harlem Rivers as well as the George Washington Bridge, the Heather Garden and much more.
Fort Tryon / Highbridge Parks Hike
-Start out taking the A train to 181st Street. Sit at the front of the train and take the elevator up to Fort Washington Avenue.
-As you exit the station, walk directly across the street to Bennett Park or turn left and proceed N along Fort Washington Avenue for approximately 7 blocks to the entrance of Fort Tryon Park. For the best views of the palisades, the GW Bridge, and the Hudson River, enter through the large stone gates to the heather garden. Enjoy the flowers and the amazing scenery as you continue N, through the park, to the Cloisters Museum.
-From the museum make your way N, down the long hill on the northern most edge of the park, behind the museum, to the Anne Loftus Playground and the N exit of the park at the corner of Broadway and Arden St.
-Take a left and walk N on Broadway along the playground to Dyckman St.
-Take a right and cross Broadway. Continue E along the south side of Dyckman for approximately 4 long blocks to Nagle Avenue.
-At Nagle Avenue you can either get on the 1 train and head home, or bear to your right (crossing under the train tracks) and continue along the south side of Dyckman street, skirting the North edge of Highbridge Park.
-As you approach the entrance to Harlem River Drive, bear to your right and enter Highbridge Park.
-As you begin the long climb through the park, take in the views of Harlem River on your left.
-At the first fork in the pathway, bear right, and continue uphill.
-At the second fork, bear hard right again to the top of the hill and exit the park at the corner of 190th street and Amsterdam Avenue.
-As you exit the park, walk west on 190th street to Wadsworthe Avenue and enter Gorman Memorial Park. Descend through the park to Broadway.
-As you exit the park, take a right, and either enter the 1 train through the long tunnel, or continue north along Broadway to the large intersection where Broadway meets Bennett, Nagle, and Hillside Avenues.
-Take a left and cross the street, heading west, and enter the A train (just around the uphill bend) through the long tunnel.
Depending on how long you take to look at the scenery and smell the flowers in Heather Garden, this hike should take you about 1.5 – 2 hours to complete. There are plenty of opportunities to stop for a quick lunch along the way. Try the New Leaf Café in Fort Tryon Park, or the Park Diner, on the NW corner of Dyckman Street and Broadway.
Here’s a link to a great mapping tool for planning your NYC Urban Hike!