ACCESSIBLE BY

The first time we experienced the North Woods, it was the most pleasant of surprises. As we accidentally stumbled upon these majestic woodlands, we were left thinking… This is in… New York City? As one of the quietest getaways in all of New York City, within a matter of minutes the North Woods can make you forget that you’re actually in the city. Even on weekends, crowds can almost never be found in this area of Central Park. City-goers tend to congregate on the Great Hill, which sits just west of the North Woods. In our opinion, the most breathtaking stretch begins at the Glen Span Arch adjacent to 102nd Street, taking you on a journey that ends at the Huddlestone Arch at 105th. Traveling alongside a winding trail, you’ll get to soak in the gorgeous waterfalls and soothing streams of water. Like the Ramble, the North Woods resembles the Adironacks and Catskills a few hours north in Upstate New York. Sitting at the northernmost end of Central Park, the North Woods spans from 101st all the way up to 110th, offering multiple areas for entry right off the street. Which means that this spot is favored by those living in Harlem, Manhattan Valley and Morningside Heights. But the North Woods also can be easily accessed by anyone via the 2 and 3 train on 110th and Central Park, in addition to the B and C trains on 103rd and 110th. But if you live in areas like the Upper East Side, Lenox Hill or Midtown and you want to frequent the North Woods, consider investing in an electric scooter or e-bike. You may not want to go through multiple train switches to get here and depending on the time, e-bikes can be sparsely available. Ever try to run one down… only for someone to take it by the time you get there? This might leave you a bit more cranky than you’d like, especially if you’re in a time crunch and trying to make North Woods visits a regular occurrence. So let’s explore the North Woods a bit deeper together, beginning with a curated list of locations we’ve put together for you. These off-the-beaten-path treasures will likely give you a different light into Central Park than what you've experienced before.

THE RAVINE

As we mentioned briefly above, the most magnificent stretch in the North Woods sits alongside the Loch, a narrow watercourse. The Ravine creates a true immersive experience by blocking out both the noise and views of the surrounding city. This is quite different from the typical park experience in New York City, in the best of ways. Your venture into green spaces like Bryant Park, Morningside Park or Washington Park is often complemented by the sights of cars passing by and the noises of the city. But the Ravine leaves you feeling like you’re somewhere else. The trees tower over you. The sounds of birds chirping are like music to the ears. And as you walk along the trail, you’ll notice multiple alcoves, designed for you to sit next to Loch watercourse and listen to the stream go by. If you’re looking for a more active contemplative experience, you could do worse than wandering through the Ravine every morning. The benefit of the Ravine is that it’s a four-season landscape. You may have to bundle up, but wintery snow only adds to its magnificence.

LOCATION

THE LOCH WATERFALL

We wouldn’t truly be giving you the inside scoop of the North Woods if we didn’t highlight this magnificent waterfall at the Loch. One of our favorite spots in the entire city, the Loch Waterfall sits directly at the beginning (or end) of the walking trail, depending on what direction you’re coming from. Arguably the most impressive of all the waterfalls in New York City, the surrounding rocks offer the opportunity to sit and soak in the scenery. The waterfall provides a picturesque backdrop for morning journaling and contemplation. Because of where it sits in the Ravine, it’s worth noting that the Harlem Meer just north is undergoing construction through 2024. If you’re coming from 110th Street, you’ll have to walk alongside East Drive next to the (now closed) Laser Rink to enter via the Huddlestone Arch.

LOCATION

GSA WATERFALL

Next up on our list sits at the polar opposite end of the Ravine, the waterfall at Glen Span Arch. Like a true Adirondack-esque waterfall, the surrounding rocks offer opportunities to lounge at the top or sit at the base. Some of our favorite moments have been sitting in silence at the top, eyes closed as the cool mist from the waterfall flows upward into our faces. As we mentioned in our feature on the Ramble, spirituality and meditation apps often try to mimic waterfall-like sounds, but the North Woods offers us the opportunity to experience it first-hand. For those that live in the Upper West Side or Manhattan Valley, the GSA Waterfall can be accessed via a short stroll from 100th Street, creating favorable conditions for a morning routine.

LOCATION

THE POOL

Next up on our list sits at the polar opposite end of the Ravine, the waterfall at Glen Span Arch. Like a true Adirondack-esque waterfall, the surrounding rocks offer opportunities to lounge at the top or sit at the base. Some of our favorite moments have been sitting in silence at the top, eyes closed as the cool mist from the waterfall flows upward into our faces. As we mentioned in our feature on the Ramble, spirituality and meditation apps often try to mimic waterfall-like sounds, but the North Woods offers us the opportunity to experience it first-hand. For those that live in the Upper West Side or Manhattan Valley, the GSA Waterfall can be accessed via a short stroll from 100th Street, creating favorable conditions for a morning routine.

LOCATION

SILENCE & SOLITUDE

The common thread between all of these spots within the North Woods is that they are lightly trafficked and off-the-beaten-path, providing an oasis from the hustle and bustle. They provide the ideal environment to reflect, contemplate and be present with ourselves. As we previously discussed in our intro to NYC getaways, science has shown that getting at least two hours each week in green spaces is essential to our well-being. Concluding a remarkable report from Yale, we’re left with this telling statement: “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.” Perhaps no one understood these rhythms better than Jesus, who we find often getting away into the wilderness, before returning back to engage the culture around him. He modeled what would later be known as silence and solitude. 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 the North Woods, which include:

1) Pick a time & place

Scheduling time to get away is essential. The hectic nature of life in New York City increases the need for intentionality. So consider where you will regularly visit the North Woods and when it's practical do that. Is it before work in the morning? Is it midday during lunch? Which part of the North Woods is most accessible to you?

2) Start small & build

When it comes to getting away, success is in merely doing it, 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 the North Woods 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 in the North Woods for 2-3 times a week. And so forth.

3) Put your phone on silent

Smartphones breed distraction and will pull you away from being present in the moment. So while you might use your smartphone to navigate to some of these locations initially, try putting your phone on silent and resisting the urge to pull it out once you get there. Build up your tolerance over time.

4) Consider your wiring

Depending on your personality and temperament, you may want more of an active experience for your contemplative getaways. In this case, the North Woods is perfect for you. Personally speaking, this walk has been one of our most cherished contemplative experiences in all of New York City. As you navigate the Ravine and Loch, take in all the sights and sounds.

5) Bring a blanket

Particularly for the area surrounding the Pool, consider buying a blanket and using it to rest as you enter a place of contemplation.

6) Bring a journal

Fight against the urge to stuff away your thoughts by actively processing them through this form of feeling prayer. How are you feeling? Why are you feeling that way? Name the emotions coming up - envy, greed, sadness, grief, etc. Like Jesus, our emotions are a place to meet with God.

7) 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.

8) 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.

9) Be silent

The North Woods is so beautiful and diverse, that some days you might find yourself just wanting to be silent. Embrace this. Walk the Ravine. Listen to the sounds around you. The birds. The breeze. The water, if you’re in front of the lake.

Whatever you decide to do with your time, consider the opportunity to start today. Retreat from the hustle and bustle, opting to get away into the beautiful woodlands in the North Woods.

GOOD NEWS, RIGHT IN YOUR INBOX

Get the inside scoop on all the good things happening around New York each week, including upcoming events, inspiring stories, beautiful getaways and more!

*Your data is covered through our privacy policy.