Central Park in Fall – The Best Places to See and Photograph Autumn Foliage

If I could only visit New York’s famous urban respite once a year to make photos, I’d choose Central Park in Fall.

In winter, New York is a snow-capped wonderland. In spring and summer, a flower lover’s delight. But Central Park in Fall is utterly magical. There’s nothing like wandering the park’s winding paths and verdant meadows in the midst of a kaleidoscope of color.

Below is a self-guided walking tour to some of the best Central Park photo spots to capture the autumn views. While there are many places to enter the park, I’ve chosen to start at the southeast corner, the area called The Pond at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street.

At the bottom of this post, you’ll find an interactive map marking locations included here where you can get the best photos of Central Park in the Fall. Just click on the pins to see where they were taken.

Beautiful colors reflected in one of the many ponds throughout Central Park

Note: If you want the best experience, go early in the morning. In addition to 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 10 am, the tourists, horse-drawn carriages, pedicabs, and street vendors have arrived, and though it’s still lovely, it’s far less serene.

(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.)

Fall Pictures Tour of Central Park

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

1) Begin at the southeast corner of The Pond. Location: 59th Street and Fifth Avenue. Here, you’re looking west across town toward Columbus Circle and the twin towers of the Time Warner Center.

2) Head north along the path with The Pond on the left. After a minute or two you’ll see the Gapstow Bridge in the distance, one of my favorite views and a popular tourist Instagram spot.

Location: East Side at 62nd Street.

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

3) Keep your eyes on the edge of the pond as you walk. 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, turn around and look back at the famous (or infamous) Plaza Hotel and other Fifth Avenue skyscrapers.

Location: East Side at about 62nd Street. Enter at East 61st Street.

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

5) Not far past Gapstow Bridge is Wollman Rink, a wonderful place to spend a few hours ice skating with the family. The rink is open every day at 10:00 am. Closing times change depending on the day. You can check here for schedules, entrance fees, and rental skate costs. 

Location: East Side at about 63rd Street. Enter at 61st Street.1

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

6) If you go west from the starting point at Fifth Avenue and 59th street, you’ll walk along a beautiful stretch of the pond at the southern end where you can relax and enjoy the crisp air and beautiful scenery. This shot is looking back towards Fifth Avenue.

Location: Between Fifth and Sixth Avenue north of 59th Street.

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 place 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) Move further northwest into the Sheep’s Meadow facing Central Park West and not far from Tavern on the Green. In the summer, 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 but it will depend on the weather.  

Location: between 66th-69th Streets near the center. Enter at West 67th Street and head east.

10) Continue north toward The Lake and this path opposite the Cherry Hill fountain is one of my favorites. No matter the season, something about the curve of the pavement through the trees and the way the buildings in the back peek through the autumn foliage, always makes 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 and equally stunning photos. Here, the iconic San Remo from the path that begins opposite the Cherry Hill Fountain.

Location: Approximately West 72nd Street. Enter at West 72nd.

12) You’ll come to Bow Bridge on your left but for the moment, continue following the path until you come to Bethesda Fountain and Terrace. You’ll recognize this location from countless films. Most recently, it was featured in both John Wick films.

Location: Pretty equidistant between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West on the 72nd Street which passes through the park.

13 A) View from the west side of Bow Bridge.

13 B) Go back to Bow Bridge, 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 weekday 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

14) The southwest view from the middle of Bow Bridge

15) Cross Bow Bridge heading west and take the first path on the right that skirts the edge of the lake leading back toward the east and look back to get another view of Bow Bridge and the city skyline.

16) Continue on the path until you come across a little alcove on the right that faces south toward 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 all plump and furry.

Location: pretty much everywhere in the park.

17) If you exit at the northwest end Bow Bridge and go straight (don’t turn down the first path), 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

18) Walk farther north and you will see the Hernshead, a rock formation, on the west side of 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

19) Continue north along the east side of The Lake until you come to a little wooden bridge. It reminds me of something you’d find in a Grimm’s Fairytale.

Location: Enter either at West 72nd Street or West 77th Street.

Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

20) Continue down the path hugging The Lake on your left until you see a rock formation that juts out into the water on the northeast end. You’ll often find geese, mallards, and other waterfowl 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.

Best Places to see Fall Colors in Central Park

21) This is Tupelo Meadow. You’ll find on a path to the right before Oak Bridge. There is a beautiful open space with huge trees that blanket the ground with their leaves.

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.

22 A) View of the Oak Bridge from the east side path heading north

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

22 B) View just north of Oak Bridge on the west side along a dirt path

22 C) View of Oak Bridge from the west side.

22 A/B/C) At the north end of The Lake, you’ll find Oak Bridge shaded among a treasure trove of trees.

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

23 A) 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

23 B) Through the intricately forged balustrade of the Oak bridge, this is the northern view.

Location: Approximately West 77th Street.  Enter at West 77th Street.

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

24) After crossing the Oak Bridge, turn left. After a short walk, you’ll see a trail on your left that leads to the Hernshead.

Location: Approximately West 75th Street.

25 A) Ladies Pavilion

25 B) Ladies Pavilion

25 A/B/ C) Taking the path, just before the Hernshead rock formation is the Ladies Pavilion facing southwest.

Location: Approximately West 75th Street.  Enter at West 72nd or 77th Streets.

26 A) On the north end of the Hernshead looking south

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

26 B) 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.

26 C) Looking north to the Oak bridge from the Hernshead.

Location: Approximately West 75th Street.  Enter at West 72nd or 77th Streets.

Location: Approximately West 77th Street.  Enter at 77th Street.

27) There are plenty of geese and other birds to be on the lookout for.

28) Just south past the Hernshead trail is a beautiful view of The Lake and the south side end of the park.

29 ) Moving south from the Hernshead trail on West Drive across The Lake from Bow Bridge is a great place to capture bikers with panning shots like this one.

30) Another great view of Bow Bridge from West Drive.

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.

Best Subways for Central Park in New York City

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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78 replies »

  1. Beautifully written guide, Susan! Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and spots for autumn views, I’ve definitely added some on my list to visit.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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. πŸ™‚

  6. 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. πŸ™‚

  7. 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.

  8. 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! πŸ™‚

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

  9. 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. πŸ™‚

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

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