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Explore Upper Manhattan with These 6 Amazing Running Routes

The Top of the Island Route takes runners by the Little Red Lighthouse.

By Sam Renikoff

With its historical sites and sweeping river views, Upper Manhattan has running routes that have been embraced by a large and passionate community of runners.

The area includes dirt trails, paved paths, a recently refurbished outdoor running track, and there is certainly no shortage of hills, making it a playground for any type of runner.

To help you discover what Uptown has to offer, here are six breathtaking routes, complete with links on MapMyRun.

Keep in mind they are highly customizable—they can be combined, lengthened, or shortened depending on where you’re beginning your run or what you’d like to see.

Use these trails as a starting point and feel free to create your own Uptown adventure!

(Prefer to run in a group? Be sure to check out Harlem Run and We Run Uptown.)

This loop, which roughly traces the boundary of Hamilton Heights, is all about variety. You’ll find yourself running on a track, along a wooded path, next to a scenic Harlem overlook, and along the busy St. Nicholas thoroughfare.

History buffs will find this route particularly appealing, as it passes Hamilton Grange (the former home of Alexander Hamilton), Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man Memorial, Trinity Cemetery, and even 409 Edgecombe Avenue, the one-time residence of Thurgood Marshall.

Route info:

• 4.1 miles

• Difficulty: 3 out of 5

• Somewhat hilly

As the name suggests, this route showcases the bridges of Washington Heights, most notably taking runners across the High Bridge. Connecting Manhattan and the Bronx, this beautiful span was a key segment of the Croton Aqueduct in the 19th century, providing New York City with fresh water for decades. The route also showcases something with even more history: the Morris-Jumel Mansion, the oldest surviving house in all of Manhattan.

A glimpse of Lower Manhattan along the Bridges Route.

By crossing both the Harlem and Hudson Rivers, the trail provides an opportunity to gaze at different views of the New York City skyline, in addition to the gorgeous Palisades cliffs in New Jersey.

Route Info:

• 8.1 miles

• Difficulty: 3 out of 5

• Somewhat hilly

This straight-lined route takes runners past some of the most iconic locations in history-filled Central Harlem. From museums to statues to famous Harlem streets, there’s something for everyone.

Runners will come across the statues of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Duke Ellington, in addition to the plaques on the Harlem Walk of Fame. Strivers' Row and the Harlem YMCA, landmarks of the Harlem Renaissance, are also on the route.

For music lovers, the path passes the National Jazz Museum and the famed Apollo Theater, and foodies can scout out their next restaurant while running along Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

As an added bonus, the stretch along 124th Street is also a brief section of the New York City Marathon!

Route info:

• 4.3 miles

• Difficulty: 1 out of 5

• Very flat

For runners looking for the best pure running paths in Upper Manhattan, this is the route for you. There is uninterrupted running for miles along the Harlem River Greenway, the Hudson River Greenway, and in the hills of Inwood Park.

Views of the Harlem River from the Top of the Island Route.

The route is also quite scenic, with plenty of skyline and river views. But pay close attention, as you’ll also pass the iconic Little Red Lighthouse underneath the George Washington Bridge, as well as the towering arches on the eastern border of Fort Tryon Park.

Route info:

• 9 miles

• Difficulty: 4 out of 5

• Very hilly

This short loop showcases the highlights of Morningside Heights, including paths through the beautiful Riverside and Morningside Parks. In between, the route snakes past the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (one of the largest churches in the world), and through the Columbia University campus.

As the route descends down the hill from Grant’s Tomb, the unique steel arches of the Riverside Drive Viaduct come into view. (Did you know it was featured in Rihanna and A$AP Rocky’s pregnancy announcement photo shoot?)

Route info:

• 3.2 miles

• Difficulty: 2 out of 5

• Somewhat hilly

This out-and-back route cuts straight through the energetic, beating heart of Washington Heights. Runners will pass the ornate United Palace Theater, in addition to J. Hood Wright Park, a filming location in the movie version of “In The Heights.”

The route also retreats into the serenity of the gardens surrounding Fort Tryon Park and the Met Cloisters. There’ll be sweeping views of the Hudson River from Chittenden Overlook, and in a nod to running fans, the route concludes by passing the historic Armory Track.

Route info:

• 4.3 miles

• Difficulty: 3 out of 5

• Somewhat hilly

As a resident of Harlem and an avid runner, Sam loves exploring Uptown on foot. He is a 20X marathoner who has raced distances from one to 50 miles. He is a member of multiple running groups throughout the city, and is also a local running coach. His favorite places to run Uptown are the Riverbank Track, High Bridge, and the hills of Inwood Park.

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