In today’s post (which I originally started in April 2015), I share with you a pretty good, Manhattan-adjacent trail run. It’s “pretty good” for a number of reasons. It can be a long-, mid-, or short-run. It gets pretty technical (challenging) for a beginner. It is an 11-minute jog from Manhattan and you get great views of the Hudson and the city.
It is part of the Long Path which is a trail that runs from Fort Lee, NJ (where the George Washington Bridge is anchored on one side to in New Jersey) to Albany, NY. It is maintained by the New York New Jersey Trail Conference. Support them by buying trail maps. They are well worth the price. It only gets a “pretty good” rating because it doesn’t have much in the way of challenging elevations, but I highly recommend it as a starter trail.
You can use this trail to run distances of varying lengths which I’ll cover below. This particular run ended up being about 15 miles, round-trip.
For Those New to Trail Running
Before I delve into the specifics of the trail, let me describe for the new-to-trail-running runners a few things, in no particular order, that they should keep in mind before embarking on this really exciting journey. Speaking as a novice trail runner, take these points with a grain of salt.
- Trail running is not road running. I like to describe trail running as a continual exercise in trying not to trip and fall flat on your face. We’re not talking about the luxurious, crushed-gravel, 10-foot wide service roads that snake through beautiful hiking areas. We’re talking about paths that are carved out of the landscape by foot traffic which are littered with irregular-sized rocks, roots, branches, large puddles, or fallen trees. And these are obstacles you will encounter with every step.
- Trail running is usually slower than road running. Are you a long run 10-min/miler? Figure on a 12- to 13-minute mile pace when trail running. This is mainly because you are actively vetting every step you take if you are trying to avoid the falling-on-your-face part I mentioned above.
- Ticks. Not a big deal a few decades ago, but now everyone is talking about them and their ability to transmit Lyme Disease. Take precautions before you go on a run, cover as much of your legs as you can (high socks and/or long shorts) and do a post-run check of all your exposed skin areas and the non-exposed skin areas too! Then wash your clothes promptly in case they are hanging out there. Click here for a little more detail on how to deal with ticks.
- If in a group, run with at least 20 feet of space between runners. Make sure each runner has enough time to assess and react to the trail as it unfolds. Running too close to each other can cause an unexpected fall for trailing runners.
- Look out for one another. If you are in a group, it’s always a good idea to stop every few miles to make sure everyone is still alive and well.
- Running alone? Let someone know of your plans. Always a good idea to text someone if you plan to do some extensive trail running on your own. Just a quick note about your route and expected finish time should be enough. You never know.
Click on the map above to get a better look at the route run for this blog posting.
(Run 4/19/15) This route starts at the corner of 177th St. and Ft. Washington Ave. near the 175th St Station of the A train in Washington Heights.
Head north to 178th St. and make a left. Just after Cabrini Blvd. you should see the spiraling, ramp entrance to the bike/pedestrian path across the bridge. On a clear and sunny weekend morning, you can just follow the packs of bikers to the entrance. If you are running in a group, make sure to run single file as it gets pretty congested with bikes, runners, and walkers.
Here’s an example of how crazy crowded it gets on the GW Bridge bike/pedestrian path. Those bikers are usually trying to go 14 MPH with tourists walking 2-3 abreast. If you run with a group, try and run single file across the bridge and watch out.
After you cross the bridge, make a right on the first cross street you encounter, Hudson Terrace, and cross under the overpass to the Long Path entrance.
Here is what the entrance to the Long Path looks like. Ignore the arrow pointing you back they way you came. The entrance to the Long Path shares the entrance to the now closed GWB Northwalk. The Long Path is atop these steps and over the pedestrian bridge (not pictured). If the entrance to the Long Path ends up closed, you can always take the long way and head to the other side of Fort Lee Historic Park and take Henry Hudson Drive down to the water and then back up to the trail.
Once you get on the trail heading north, keep the cliff on your right and don’t take any of the branches that head down to the bottom of the cliff. Stay on the high side of the trail.
Follow the aqua trail blazes (markers) to stay on course on the Long Path trail.
Here is an example of a Long Path trail blaze.
This particular run hit the turnaround at the far side of the Alpine Lookout, roughly 8 miles from our starting point. However, there are many variations you can take with this run. Here are a few examples, below.
Out-and-back Turnaround Points
5 mile – Head to the back of the Gas Station on the Palisades Parkway and turn around.
6 mile – Head to the far end of the St. Peter’s College campus boundary and turn around.
10 mile – Go about a quarter mile past the Rockerfeller Lookout and turn around.
16 mile – Alpine Lookout Rest Stop (far end) and turn around.
One-way Routes with Bus Return Options
Coach USA runs a bus up and down the Palisades Parkway. Here is a link to a schedule for you to review. Note some of the busses go back to the GW Bridge Bus Terminal and some go to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Make sure you pick the one you need on the way back.
The fare is somewhere between $7 and $10 depending on where you catch the bus and the driver takes cash (up to $20). You can also buy a ticket in advance from the GW and Port Authority bus terminals. Check out their site for exact fares if you prefer.
3.5 mile – Englewood Cliffs (Palisade Ave. and Rt. 9W) – In case you just wanted a quick taste of trail running or something goes horribly wrong, this stop is available around mile 3.5 along the Long Path. You’ll know this as the first road you encounter after passing St. Peter’s College. This road is further highlighted by a short set of stairs that you’ll have to descend to get to the cross-street. This should be Palisade Ave. and you should be able to take a left and walk to Sylvan Ave (Rt. 9W) to catch the bus back.
9 mile – At around the 9-mile mark (assuming you are watching your GPS watch info), you will notice a tunnel on your left that leads under the Palisades Parkway. If you walk through this tunnel to the other side, you will end up on Route 9W. Make a left and head about 200 yards to the intersection with a traffic light and you should see the north- and south-bound bus shelters off Closter Dock Road.
15 mile – This run gets you to The Filling Station which serves great food and offers a clean bathroom to clean up in. There is a bus station about 1/4 mile south of The Filling Station which you pass on your way in which is referred to on the schedule as “Palisade” (Oak Tree Road and Rt 9W).
Also along the way, you will run into various bathroom options.
- Mile 0 – The GW Bus Terminal Restrooms at 179th St. and Ft. Washington Ave. They seem to clean them around 8am on weekends so might be a good option around then.
- Mile 2.5ish – Gas Station on the Palisades Parkway. You run past the back of the gas station that sits along the Palisades Parkway on the Long Trail which has a snack shop and a public bathroom.
- Mile 10ish – Palisades Park Headquarters. There are administrative offices and the park police station here along with the public bathrooms.
- Mile 13ish – State Line Lookout. This is a visitor’s area that also includes a restroom.
- Mile 15ish – The Filling Station. A great way point/end point with great food and drink options.
15.88 miles (Alpine Lookout turnaround).
The GPS elevation map indicates a very small variation in altitude. It varies from 292 ft to 400 ft so not too crazy elevation wise.
For this particular run it is 10 hills for 16 miles or 0.625. Not too bad.
Cigarette Smokers Per Mile Run:
Pretty healthy – no smokers on this run.
Safe after dark?
I recommend this run in the daytime only. No lights on-trail and the secluded nature of the run don’t lend itself to a safe running environment at night.
No. It is a pretty nice, quiet run. I figure you run into another runner or group of hikers once a mile. On the other hand, I recommend a running buddy near dusk or dawn.
Concrete sidewalk on the bridge and leading to the Long Path. The Long Path varies from gravel road to knotted root/rocky technical trail.
Not really one here. You can maybe hit the bathroom at the GW Bridge Bus Station at 179th St. and Ft. Washington Ave., but I only recommend that space only if absolutely necessary. The bathroom situation maybe better after the renovation is done…whenever that will be. If you make it all the way to The Filling Station, they have a pretty clean bathroom, but only one communal bathroom. So, try not to hog it as other bikers and runners need to use it too.
The runner’s (and biker’s) oasis after 15 miles on the Long Path: The Filling Station.
Points of Interest:
In addition to experiencing the wonders of Washington Heights, you’ll be treated to great views of Manhattan and New Jersey from the Hudson River. Also, here is a nice tourist map to review and possibly print out to take with you.
- George Washington Bridge
- Allison Park
- St. Peter’s College
- Rockefeller Lookout
- Alpine Lookout
- Palisades Park Headquarters (with Public Bathrooms!)
- Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
- The Filling Station (in Palisades, not West Haverstraw)
Good for Groups:
Workable for 2 to 8, at the most. Be prepared to be spread out single-file with at least 20 feet between runners.
Safe from Cars:
Safe for the most part. The most dangerous part is getting over and back on the GW as mad bikers try to motor past you on the oh-so-narrow multi-modal bike/pedestrian path. They really need to open the other side for bikers-only. Maybe we’ll see that in 2024 once the GW Bridge renovation is complete (separate from the GW Bus Terminal renovation). On trail, you will cross a few, low-traffic-volume roads.
Prospects for a Break-Free Run:
Pretty good! Once you get on-trail you are free to move as fast and as far as you like. Well, break-free for at least 14 miles until you get to the Filling Station.
Friends Run Into During Run:
0. It is a pretty remote location after all. And it’s totally not because I don’t have lots of friends!
- Budding Ultramarathoners – Run to Nyack via the Long Path for a training run and take the bus back. It’s a challenge and is good for a 22 miler. Or run to Harriman State Park for a 30+ mile run via the Long Path.
- Don’t run after a heavy rain – Unless you really like mud and splashing in large puddles, be flexible with your running plans after a heavy rain. I suggest that for a more pleasant first-time trail run, wait until a few days after a heavy rain before venturing onto this trail.
Is there a route you’ve always wanted to run, but wanted someone else to run it first in case of hidden axe murderers or marauding street cat gangs? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to cover it! Or is there any other route criteria you’d like me to cover? If so, drop me a comment below.
© 2017 Danilo Torres. All rights reserved.