If I could only visit Central Park once a year, I would choose a day in the Fall.
In Winter it’s a snow-capped wonderland. In Spring and Summer, a flower lover’s delight. But in the Fall, it’s utterly magical. There’s nothing like wandering the park’s winding paths and verdant meadows in the midst of a kaleidoscope of color.
Below are some of my favorite spots to soak up the autumn views, starting with the southeast corner of the Central Park at the pond at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street and moving north.
If you want the best experience, go early in the morning. Besides the beautiful light, there’s a serenity that belies the park’s place in the center of one of the world’s most frenetic cities. By 10am, the tourists, horse-drawn carriages, pedicabs and street vendors have arrived, and though it’s still lovely, it’s far less serene.
At the bottom of this post you’ll find a Fall foliage interactive map marking the various locations each photo was taken. Just click on the pins.
(Photographers: You’re going to want some wide-angle lenses for these views. I switch off between my Canon 16-35mm f2.8, my 35mm f2.8 and my 24-105 f4.0 depending on what else I may want to shoot at the time.)
1) Beginning at southeast corner of The Pond, you have two options: you can take the path up the east side of the pond or head west to the left. Lets start with the east. Location: 59th Street and Fifth Avenue.
2) Heading east along the path next to The Pond, you’ll see the Gapstow Bridge in the distance, one of my favorite views. Location: East Side at 62nd Street.
3) I found this gorgeous wood duck, (I think must have been a pet that was released, they’re not endemic to the area) with a flock of geese and various other birds resting on the shore near the base of Gapstow Bridge. No matter when I’ve visited, there’s always some wildlife in this area. Location: East Side at 62nd Street.
4) Once you pass Gapstow Bridge, don’t forget to turn around and look back at the famous (or infamous) Plaza Hotel and other Fifth Avenue skyscrapers. Location: East Side at approximately 62nd Street. Enter at East 61st Street.
5) North past Gapstow Bridge is Wollman Rink, a wonderful place to spend a few hours with the family. The rink is open everyday beginning at 10:00am. Closing times are varied depending on the day. You can check here for schedules, entrance fees and rental skate costs. Location: East Side at approximately 63rd Street. Enter at 61st Street.
6) If you go left from the starting point at Fifth Avenue and 59th street, you’ll walk a long a beautiful stretch the pond at the southern end where there are plenty of park benches where you can relax and enjoy the crisp air and beautiful scenery. This shot is looking back towards Fifth Avenue.
7) At the west end of The Pond, if you look back towards the south at the southwestern end, there’s a lovely view so obscured with the surrounding trees you might forget you’re in the middle of the city. Location: Approx: at 59th Street and 6th Avenue.
8) This rock formation at the southeast end of the Sheep’s Meadow is a great location for pretty colors and selfies. Location: Approximately at 67th Street. Enter at Fifth Avenue and head west.
9) Moving northwest into the Sheep’s Meadow and facing west towards Central Park West. In the summer on a pretty day, you’ll find half of New York City here playing Frisbee, picnicking and having a good time. In the Fall, you’ll still find folks depending on the weather. Location: between 66th-69th Streets near the center. Enter at West 67th Street and head east.
10) This path opposite the Cherry Hill fountain is one of my favorites. No matter the season, something about the curve of the path through the trees and the way the buildings in the back peek through, always make for a winning view. Location: Approximately West 72nd Street. Enter at West 72nd.
11) The Lake in Central Park is one of the best destinations for incredible scenery. Here, the iconic San Remo taken from the path that begins opposite the Cherry Hill Fountain. Location: Approximately West 72nd Street. Enter at West 72nd.
12) Bow Bridge is one of the more iconic landmarks in the Park. The best time to have it to yourself is early in the morning. Ideally, on a week day before it becomes deluged with people. Location: Approximately West 72nd Street. Enter at West 72nd and head north.
12A) The southwest view from Bow Bridge
12B) The northeast view from Bow Bridge
13) If you exit Bow Bridge on the northwest end and take the path that skirts the edge of the lake heading east you’ll come across this little alcove that faces Bethesda Fountain. Location: Approximately West 72nd Street. Enter at East or West 72nd Street.
Ok… they’re not a “view” per se, nor the most exotic animals, but they sure are cute and you’ll find them pretty much everywhere in the park.
14) If you exit northwest end of the Bow Bridge and go north towards The Ramble, there’s a small break in the tree cover on the left that looks as if it were a boat launch at one time. It’s a great place to see fall colors as well as a straight on view of the San Remo and other buildings along Central Park West. Location: Approximately West 74th Street. Enter either at West 72nd Street or West 77th Street.
15) Walk farther north and you will see the Hernshead, a rock formation west across The Lake. Location:Approximately West 75th Street. Enter either at West 72nd Street or West 77th Street.
16) The Gill Bridge: Continue north on the path along the east side of the The Lake until you come to this little wooden bridge. It reminds me of something you’d find in a Grimm’s Fairytale. Enter either at West 72nd Street or West 77th Street.
17) Continue down the path hugging The Lake until you see a rock formation that juts out into the water on the northeast end. You’ll often find geese, mallards and other water fowl here. Bring a loaf of bread and they’ll find you in 10 seconds. Location: Approximately between 75th -76th Streets. Enter at West 77th Street and access via the Oak Bridge.
18) At the north end of The Lake, you’ll find Oak Bridge shaded among a treasure trove of trees. Location: On a dirt path at the west end of the bridge and slightly north looking back. Enter at West 77th Street.
18A) This is the southern view, another iconic image, taken from Oak Bridge. Location: Approximately at West 77th Street. Enter at West 77th Street.
18B) Through the intricately forged balustrade of the Oak bridge, this is the northern view. Approximately West 77th Street. Enter at West 77th Street.
19) On this spot on the west side of The Lake, there are Saturday afternoon concerts during the summer and the head of a trail leading to the Hernshead, a rock formation that juts out into the water and is a favorite spot for people watching, photography and picnics. Approximately West 75th Street. Enter at West 72nd or 77th Streets.
20) The path leading to the Hernshead. Location: Approximately West 75th Street. Enter at West 72nd or 77th Streets.
21) Just before the Hernshead rock formation is the Ladies Pavillion, the lake and the city beyond (facing southwest). Location: Approximately West 75th Street. Enter at West 72nd or 77th Streets.
22A) A view south to one of the many little sitting areas on the west side of The Lake from the Hernshead. Location: Approximately West 75th Street. Enter at West 72nd or 77th Streets.
22B) Looking north to the Oak bridge from the Hernshead. Location: Approximately West 75th Street. Enter at West 72nd or 77th Streets.
23) Tupelo Meadow in the Ramble, there is a beautiful open space with huge trees that blanket the ground with their leaves. Location: Approximately West 77th Street. Enter at 77th Street.
Don’t forget to look up, the colors and textures are worth grabbing a blanket, laying down and just letting the canopy delight you.
24 ) Further north is the famous Jackie Onassis reservoir. Joggers and walkers alike circumnavigate Shuman running track (1.5 miles) that borders the water. Location: Approximately West 87th Street. Enter at West 86th Street.
If you’re looking for some other things to do in Central Park while you’re there. Here’s a great guide provided by the park.
Subways that have stops on the edge of Central Park:
C (blue) & B (orange) trains run along Central Park west.
N, R, W (yellow) trains for stops at the southeast end of the park
6 train (green) on the east side runs parallel but a few long blocks away. Exit and walk west from Lexington Avenue to Fifth Avenue.
1,2,3 trains (red) run along the west side. Exit and walk east to Central Park West.
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