The first time I ran Inwood Hills, I almost passed by its sister park, Fort Tryon. It looked small from the outside, and man, those stairs to just get into the park looked steep. But I love a challenge, and so up I went. I wasn’t disappointed.
What Makes It Great
Ready for some Rocky-esque stair repeats? Sure, we’re in New York and not Philadelphia, but we’re taking a few dramatic liberties here. But if you want a kick-in-the-ass stair run, the best spot to go is easily Fort Tryon in Harlem. Another Frank Olmsted (architectural landscape designer of Central Park) design, the park is a fantasyland of forest and stairs, with what basically counts as a medieval castle perched at the top, in the form of The Cloisters.
The trails may not be ultra-wild, but the stairs alone will improve your technical running skills. And despite its diminutive size compared to some of the other parks in the city, the trails in Fort Tryon still add up to almost eight miles, which is pretty impressive if you look at the mere 66 acres devoted to it.
This is one of the many parks in the city that brings to mind The Secret Garden. With vines hanging off of rocks and stairs covered in moss, it has a sense of romanticism to it—on weekends in the summer, you’ll often see weddings, or at least wedding photos, in the park for just that reason.
If you’re just visiting, plan a run that ends with a trip through The Cloisters, which are a branch of the Metropolitan Museum housing almost 5,000 medieval works within the reconstructed medieval monastery. Pretty badass.
The park is rarely as crowded as some (ahem, Central Park) and despite the fact that the trails are densely packed in a small space, once you’re in, it doesn’t feel packed—it feels almost magical, and you feel completely protected from the city.
As you wind your way around and up in the park, you’ll also get some gorgeous views of the Hudson, plus scope out a truly beautiful and well-maintained garden just below the Cloisters. The trails are almost exclusively throughout the Alpine Garden, so take advantage of them there, and take a break from all of those stairs!
As with plenty of the other city parks, Fort Tryon also has plenty of free outdoor classes including yoga, so if you’re in a cross-training mood, this is a great spot.
After 45 minutes of exploring as many of the trails as I could, my tired quads screamed at me for a snack, and thankfully, the New Leaf Café was right nearby, inside of the park. After a snack, I was ready to keep exploring—Fort Tryon also has some epic bouldering potential, for the runner/climbers out there!
Who is Going to Love It
Whether you’re in the mood for road or trails, if you’re doing hills, this is the place to go, and it has plenty of each.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Fort Tryon almost directly neighbors Inwood Hills Park, so for a longer loop and a mix of road and trails, this is definitely the spot to head to.
Street parking is fairly easy to find, and the parks are both well-maintained. If you’re taking the subway, head up to 192nd Street on the A Train.