The first time we came across Cedar Hill in Central Park, it was not by intention. As we pedaled our CitiBikes up the east side of the park, we couldn’t help but stop and notice the exotic trees on our right hand side. What is this place? We soon discovered that Cedar Hill is a little-known gem of Central Park, an expansive oasis in the middle of a bustling city. Plush with evergreens, exposed rock and slanted hills, Cedar Hill provides the ideal landscape for warmer seasons. Cedar Hill is mainly a three-season getaway, as the hills are often closed in the winter for sledding. Perhaps the most remarkable part of Cedar Hill is how secluded it feels for being so close to the street. Situated just east of the Ramble under the 79th Street Transverse, it can be easily accessed via a short stroll from East 76th to 79th Streets. The closest subway station is on East 77th, running the 6 train. Make sure to take the local line. Given that Cedar Hill is located on the east side of the park, this might dissuade West Siders from making regular visits here, but it shouldn’t. As we’ve recommended elsewhere, consider buying your own e-bike or electric scooter. For example, you could be from 85th & Columbus to Cedar Hill in just 15 minutes (or faster) with an electric scooter. We would tell you to rent a CitiBike, but e-bikes are sometimes hard to come by at certain points of the day and normal bikes will have you working up a sweat by the time you arrive at Cedar Hill in Central Park. With that in mind, let’s explore some of the specific features of Cedar Hill that make it one of our quintessential getaways.


Sloped areas make it pretty difficult to play sports, so naturally Cedar Hill doesn’t attract the same types of crowds you’ll see on the Great Lawn or Sheep’s Meadow. This is welcomed news, especially for those who come here to sunbathe, read and journal. With rock outcroppings located all across the hill, you can choose to naturally recline on one of these or opt to bring your own blanket. That said, Saturday afternoons tend to be the most highly-trafficked part of the week. NYC Parks host free outdoor movies on multiple occasions in the summer, usually somewhere between 6pm - 10pm on the hillside. In the mornings, you’ll also find dogs joyfully playing on hillside, as they are able to be off-leash up until 9am. As you make your way towards the top of the hill, there are rustic benches to sit on which provide picturesque lookouts to the east side of the city.



On the west side of Cedar Hill, you can find exotic red cedars facing the bikers passing by on East Drive. The composition of the trees have you feeling like you are actually somewhere else in the world. Initially what drew us in, it’s hard to put into words the delightful experience of sitting under these trees on a sunny day. Clearly, the man above reading the newspaper knows what we’re talking about. Because this part of Cedar Hill is somewhat secluded and hidden, there are almost never crowds here, even on weekends. This makes for the ultimate contemplative experience.



As with all of our getaways, we’ve chosen to feature Cedar Hill because it is lightly trafficked and off-the-beaten-path, providing a gorgeous reprieve from the non-stop nature of the city. Cedar Hill provides an opportunity for us to start developing rhythms of reflection and contemplation, as we learn to be present with ourselves. Why do this? Science has shown that getting at least two hours each week in green spaces is essential to our well-being. A report from Yale University revealed, “the studies point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive function.” But long before science made these discoveries, we find that Jesus was adopting these rhythms, retreating into the wilderness. In what would later be called silence and solitude, we learned that what happened in the wilderness became the fuel for him to return back and engage with the culture around him. You can argue this has never been more relevant than in modern times. When we’re out in nature and captivated by its beauty, it often produces a wonder and heightened awareness of the world around us. How could such a beautiful place exist? That wonder can lead to an awareness of the One who created all the transcendent beauty that surrounds us. And here’s the transformative part — we can allow that awareness to drive us into connection with God. For Jesus, this is what getting away was all about. Being out in nature was about who he connected with whilst he was out there. When we encounter God in these environments of refreshment, we are able to acquire the strength and perspective we need to go back out into the world. We need this to love other people well. To create the change we long to see. To become the truest and best version of ourselves. These rhythms are essential for our well-being. As we see from the science, they are built into the very fabric of our existence. We benefit spiritually, mentally and physically from these environments of refreshment. For much of human history, these were our natural habitats. You could argue that the construction of modern city life is unnatural in this sense, as the constant busyness and distraction prevents us from getting perspective and moments of reflection. So especially living in New York City, modeling this “in-and-out lifestyle” will help us thrive amidst the weariness of 24/7 connectedness and hustle culture. We’ll leave you with a few practical tips before you wander into Cedar Hill, which include:

1) Pick a time

If you're planning on regularly visiting Cedar Hill, consider when you'll do that. Is it before work in the morning? Is it midday if your schedule is flexible? Being intentional with this is key towards developing a rhythm at first.

2) Start small

When it comes to developing contemplative rhythms, success simply equals to showing up. Nothing more. If you’re making the effort to get away regularly, you’ve already hit the goal. But remember, habits are formed by starting small. Rather than saying we’re going to visit Cedar Hill for 90 minutes every morning, try retreating for 30 minutes at least 2-3 times a week. If you get in a rhythm doing that, maybe increase that to an hour for 2-3 times a week. And so forth.

3) Put your phone on silent

It probably goes without saying, but having your smartphone out and present would be counterproductive for the purposes we’re trying to accomplish here. Consider putting your phone on silent after you arrive and resisting the urge to use it while you’re at Cedar Hill. Over time, build up your tolerance.

4) Bring a blanket

Whether it be the slopes or under the red cedars, a blanket would be a great investment as you seek to rest in Cedar Hill and enter a place of contemplation.

5) Bring a journal

To jot down your thoughts is to start learning to be present with yourself. Take a temperature check daily. How are you feeling? Why do you think you’re feeling that way? That said, fight against the urge to stuff away your thoughts by actively processing them through this form of feeling prayer. Write it down. Name the emotions coming up - envy, greed, sadness, grief, etc. Like Jesus, our emotions are a place to meet with God.

6) Contemplate scripture

This ancient practice, called Lectio Divina, involves picking a small passage to meditate on. Even if you haven’t read scripture in ages, this could be as small as a Psalm, a Proverb or the words of Jesus in the gospels. Let’s say a verse comes up about humility or loving your neighbor, we then pray for a greater understanding of how to model that in our lives. See what comes to mind. You can pick up a copy of the new Passion Translation here.

7) Practice gratitude

Gratitude is hard for us. Sometimes it feels like we suffer from chronic short-term memory loss, only able to see what we don't have or how our circumstances are less than ideal. And while there might be truth in that, this perspective causes us to miss the precious things of life that are sitting right in front of us each and every day. Take some time to write down prayers of gratitude, even for the smallest of things.

8) Be silent

Particularly around the red cedars, some days you might find yourself just wanting to be silent. Embrace this. Take in the sounds around you. The birds. The breeze. And start becoming more aware of yourself.

However you decide to spend your time, consider the invitation to start today. Cedar Hill is only a walk away, giving you the reprieve you need from the hustle and bustle of the city.


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