Central Park Loop: A Favorite for Running, Walking and Biking in NYC
Central Park, located in the heart of NYC, is an extended backyard for New Yorkers that live in apartments with usually no outdoor space to call their own. Offering a haven in all four seasons, it gets 42 million visitors every year, which is a large number for this 843 acre oasis in Manhattan. My favorite part is walking the Central Park Loop, which I love all times of year, and especially valued during the pandemic as I walked it at least one or two times a week, weather notwithstanding.
The Central Park Loop, also known as the Full Loop, circles the entire park, and covers a distance of approximately 6.03 miles, which translates to 9.7 km. The route that I take starts and ends at Columbus Circle on 59th Street and Central Park South, though there are paths to join to the Central Park in various places depending on your location. The loop is a mix of flat and hilly terrain, offering runners, walkers and cyclists a challenge in certain sections of it, and crosses iconic Central Park landmarks all the way through.
Central Park offers other loops with different terrains as well, including the Lower Loop, Upper Loop, and the Reservoir Running Track, which we will take a look at below.
Central Park Loops
Central Park has various loops of varying distances, which are typically navigated in a counterclockwise direction, though you can take either direction.
Park Drive Loops
The park drive loops form a continuous loop that circle the park, providing easy routes for running, biking and walking. These are paved roads and predominantly level, although there are some hilly sections in the northern area. The park drives are easily accessible and come in various distances, offering the longest uninterrupted running routes within Central Park. The most popular loops include:
The Full Loop circles the entire Central Park, and is 6.03 miles of paved terrain.
The Lower Loop mainly covers the southern part of Central Park. It is 5.14 miles long and excludes the area north of 102nd Street Crossing.
The other option is a 1.71-mile Lower Loop which excludes the area north of Terrace Drive. For this, East Drive and West Drive intersect at Center Drive at the bottom of the loop, and at Terrace Drive at the top of the loop.
Central Park’s Upper Loop provides a more challenging course, taking runners through the park’s higher elevations. The loop includes steeper inclines and beautiful views of the park’s northern section. This is a great option for experienced runners and those looking for a scenic and challenging run.
There is a 4.92-mile Upper Loop that does not include the area south of Terrace Drive.
The 1.42-mile Upper Loop bypasses the area south of 102nd Street Crossing. East Drive and West Drive meet at 102nd Street Crossing at the bottom of the loop, and at Central Park North & Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd at the top of the loop.
The 4.04-mile Loop excludes the areas south of Terrace Drive and north of 102nd Street Crossing. In this loop, Terrace Drive is at the bottom of the loop, and at 102nd Street Crossing is at the top of the loop.
Reservoir Running Track
This picturesque 1.58-mile loop is located around the park’s iconic Jacqueline Kennedy reservoir, offering stunning views of the Manhattan skyline and the surrounding greenery. This track has a soft surface crushed gravel surface, making it more forgiving on runner’s joints. Water fountains are available during warmer months, but bring cash for bottled water from vendor carts in the winter. Runners stay on the outside and run counterclockwise, while walkers take the inside track. There is no biking around this track.
Bridle Path Loops
Bridle Path Loops in Central Park are shared by walkers, runners and horse riders alike. These loops meander through the park’s wooded areas and are dirt tracks. The shorter Bridle Path Loop circles 1.66 miles around the Reservoir, which can be extended to a 2.5 mile loop by extending into the North Meadow fields up to the 102nd Street Transverse.
Horseback riding is permitted in Central Park, and horses have right of way on the Bridle Paths.
Great Lawn Oval Loop
The Great Lawn Oval offers a 0.55 mile paved pathway that is well suited for running laps.
New York City Marathon
Central Park is famous for hosting various special events and activities throughout the year, among which the most famous is the New York City Marathon. This world-renowned marathon is sought after by runners from across the world, and there is a drawing for most runners to participate, though there are other ways to get chosen for this. The marathon concludes in Central Park, which includes a significant portion along the Central Park Full Loop.
Fred Lebow, the co-founder of the New York City Marathon, infused his passion for running into the New York Marathon, and was instrumental in transforming the race into one of the largest and most prestigious marathons in the world. New York Road Runners honor his memory with the NYRR Fred Lebow Half Marathon with multiple loops of Central Park.
Central Park Loop FAQ
What is the Central Park Loop?
The Central Park Loop is a 6.03-mile-long route, ideal for running, biking, and walking, that circles around the entire park.
What is the Central Park Loop distance?
The Central Park Full Loop distance is approximately 6.03 miles or 9.7 km.
What is the circumference of Central Park?
The circumference of Central Park is 6.03 miles around the Central Park Loop.
How many miles is Central Park?
Central Park is approximately 2.5 miles long, stretching from 59th Street to 110th Street, and about 0.5 miles wide, spanning from 5th Avenue to 8th Avenue.
What is the Central Park loop length?
The Central Park loop has a total length of 6.03 miles or 9.7 km.
What is the Central Park Reservoir loop?
The Central Park Reservoir Loop is a popular running path around the scenic Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, which is around 1.58 miles long.
What are the Central Park running loops?
There are various running loops within Central Park, including the Full Loop (6.03 miles), the Reservoir Loop (1.58 miles), and other running loops routes that can be adjusted to fit individual preferences, including Upper and Lower Loops within Central Park.
How many miles is the Central Park loop?
Central Park loop is 6.03 miles long.
What is the Central Park full loop?
The Central Park full loop is a 6.03 mile long route that encircles the entire park, and is popular with runners, bikers, and walkers
Is there a Central Park Running Map?
Yes, Central Park has a great running map for the park.
What is the Central Park 6 mile loop?
The Central Park 6 mile loop refers to the Central Park Full Loop which encircles the park.