Central Park starting to feel a little tired? Get up to the Bronx and do some exploring. It may take a while, since Van Cortlandt Park is actually a whopping 1,146-acres, making it one of the biggest parks in the city, and home to NYC’s largest freshwater lake. OK, it’s no Adirondaks, but when you’re living in Manhattan, you take what you can get when it comes to the great outdoors, even if you’re more likely to see a mouse than a moose.
It’s a less-traveled but still bustling park, and a great spot to do some combination road and trail running if you’re looking for some adventure.
It’s home to one of the most legendary New York cross country courses, with Cemetery Hill being the high/low point of the three mile course, depending on who you ask. In fact, in 2013 alone, it hosted 12 collegiate cross-country competitions. Pretty serious business.
What Makes It Great
You won’t be expecting hills in this area, but you’ll get them—gnarly, off-road hills, at that! The best spot to hop onto the course is by the Nature Center, so park on Broadway if you can (I’ve been warned that the parking police are pretty tough, so make sure you pay the meter!) and head right over. There are also restrooms at the Nature Center, as an added bonus.
And if you’re looking for a place for a serious track or interval workout, the park also has a killer running track. It’s right near the Nature Center as well, so punish yourself with a “warm up” on the cross country course and then do your workout on the track. Plenty of running clubs and teams use both the course and the track, and they’re definitely worth a visit if you want to be challenged by a few young college kids taking off in front of you.
When the track and cross country course get old, there are tons of other trails worth exploring—the John Muir nature trail is a fun one, and want to go even farther? The Old Croton Aqueduct runs through the park and can take you into Tibbetts Brook Park. It’s across the Moshulu Parkway from the cross country course, on the other side of the park, so you’ll have to cross over to access it, and it can be hard to spot—if you follow the John Muir trail, though, you’ll connect with it almost immediately after going under the Parkway. You’ll run along Tibbets Brook, a nice, relaxing creek that makes you forget you’re even in the city.
Who is Going to Love It
Van Cortlandt is a great spot to go for a hard running workout in the city, or a relaxing run/walk along the creek.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Parking can be found on the far side of the park off of Jerome Avenue, or limited parking near the John Muir trailhead off of Broadway. Street parking is ample though, and you shouldn’t run into much trouble.
It’s easiest to access via public transportation though: just take the 1 train to West 242nd Street.