Destination Tips

The Best Places to See Fall Colors in Central Park

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 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, I’ve created an 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.)

Facing west -- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

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.

Wood Duck -- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

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.

Gapstow Bridge --Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

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.

Wollman Rink -- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park -

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.

Path along fifth avenue near Pond - Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

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.

West end of pond - Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park -3202

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.

Rock formation in the sheep's meadow -- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park --3

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.

The Meadow -- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park -3340-2

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.

San Remo --Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park -3053

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.

Bow Bridge -- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park -3105

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.

View from Bow Bridge -- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park -3087

12A) The southwest view from Bow Bridge

North view from Bow Bridge -- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park -3094

12B) The northeast view from Bow Bridge

View of Bethesda Fountain -- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

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.

In the ramble --- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

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.

 

View to the Herns Head -- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

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.

A little bridge on the edge of The Lake -- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

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.

Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

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.

Bankrock Bridge -- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park -6146

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.

View from Bankrock Bridge - Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

18A) This is the southern view, another iconic image, taken from Oak Bridge. Location: Approximately at West 77th Street.  Enter at West 77th Street.

View from Bankrock Bridge - Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

18B) Through the intricately forged balustrade of the Oak bridge, this is the northern view. Approximately West 77th Street.  Enter at West 77th Street.

Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

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.

Best path to the Hernshead -- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

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.

On the Hernshead looking east Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

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.

Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

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.

 

Looking up at leaves -- Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

Don’t forget to look up, the colors and textures are worth grabbing a blanket, laying down and just letting the canopy delight you.

Jackie Onassis Reservoir --Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

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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The Best Places to See Fall Colors in Central Park -Where to go, what you'll see and a map!

64 replies »

  1. I so love central park in the fall. The colors changing gives this warm and cozy sort of feeling that is hard to explain. It’s such a beautiful walk around the park when the leaves are alight with color.

  2. Gorgeous, gorgeous photos! Not only so many shades and colors, there are equal number of activities in central park. You are right, there’s no other place to see such fall colors.

  3. Hi… what are the best dates to target for some good autumn viewing? How long is the window to come up and see some vibrant fall foliage before everything dies?

    • Hi Jack- unfortunately, I can’t offer specifics. This time last year the leaves were already changing. This year they haven’t started yet. My best guess would be end of October beginning of November. Also can’t speak to how long as that is dependent on the weather, but in past its been about a month… Maybe longer depending on the temperature.

  4. The fall leaves are one of the few things I miss about home (Im from Pennsylvania). I’ve been to Central Park a bunch of times but, it looks like you know it like the back of your hand. These shots are amazing and looks like you got them on a quiet day!

    • Thank you! It was a quiet day. I like to go when it’s a bit overcast because the colors really pop and early in the morning. Both those factors made for a quieter visit. 🙂

  5. Absolutely beautiful photographs! I’m so jealous of your photography skills! I’ve been to Central Park twice, once in April and once in December, so I haven’t been fortunate enough to experience Central Park when the leaves are changing. By the looks of it, I really missed out! You are totally right, in the winter the snow capped trees are pretty, but I think the colorful leaves look even better.

    • Thank you so much. In winter, it’s definitely beautiful but I also find it a bit sad. Something about all the bare trees. I really love the vibrancy of Fall. 🙂

  6. I have never seen fall colors like these. I am sure my blood pressure drop a few points, just to look at your stunning fall pictures of Central Park. Great work! Every doctor’s office should have one of your pictures on their walls.

  7. Over a decade ago I visited the US to work at a summer camp (Im from Australia). I met and fell in love with a beautiful boy who I travelled for a month with after camp, he took me to all his favourite places. One of which was Central Park. The leaves were just starting to turn, we spent the whole day strolling hand in hand around the park. I didnt know that little wooden bridge was called The Gill Bridge, but he got down on one knee and proposed marriage to a future me. We made one of those silly pacts to find each other when we celebrated our 33rd birthday, because 20 was too young to marry. That date came and went, but it sure was one of the most romantic moments of my life. Central Park is incredible! 🙂

    • Noel – So sorry for the late reply… Your comment went straight to spam for some reason. Thank you very very much!!

  8. We were only talking yesterday, and putting a rough plan together for our 40th wedding anniversary (not for another 5 years yet). We’ve been planning NY, New England, and a bit of Canada including PEI. Our anniversary coincides with the fall. We were thinking around five days would be ok in NY, but after seeing your stunning, amazing, awesome, brilliant, gorgeous photos – I think we’d better at least double that length of time. It looks like we’ll need at least five days just to see the park! A timely post from our neck of the woods.

    • It’s true, there’s a lot to do in and around New York that could take up at least 10 days. Your plan sounds great, including the PEI inclusion. I’m hoping to go there myself in 2018. 🙂

  9. Ahhh this just gave me all the feels! I love walking through the park on a nice day to get to work, and the reservoir is one of my favorite running trails! Incredible stunning pictures as always! <3

  10. Beautiful, wonderful photographs – as always. Your post also made me realise that I have visited Central Park in every single season with the exception of Fall. That is crazy because Autumn is my favourite season. We may have to take a day trip when the colours start to appear properly.

  11. Thank you Susan for sharing your beautiful work and for the hidden, and some not so hidden, spots in the park. The images evoke wonderful memories and inspire me to book a flight now!

Would love to hear from you!