Looking for a soft trail that’s just long enough to get you out the door? This Bridle Path 5k Route takes you from the Southwest entrance of Central Park up to the Jackie O. Reservoir and back, all on a soft dirt trail. It’s the perfect route for an easy after-work jog or a quick nature-laden run to start your day. The Bridle Path Running Trail is ranked #1 on our list of the top 10 running routes in NYC.

bridle path 5k running route new york city
Central Park Running Route: Bridle Path Out-and-Back (~5km)

Bridle Path Running Route

  • Length: ~5k (1.6 miles each way)
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Terrain: Soft Dirt Trail (Central Park Bridle Path)
  • Meeting Point: USS Maine National Monument, Columbus Circle (Southwest Corner of Park)
  • Neighborhoods: Columbus Circle, Upper West Side
  • Train Station: 59th Street–Columbus Circle station
  • Amenities: Public Restrooms along the route

Getting to the Bridle Path in Central Park

Starting at the USS Maine National Monument at the Southwest entrance to Central Park, run along the pedestrian walkway (that parallels the Central Park Driveway) and cross West Drive. After crossing the street, veer right towards the beginning of the Bridle Path. Keep on Bridle Path until you reach the southwest ‘corner’ of the Jackie Onassis Kennedy Reservoir. Turn around here (at 1.6 miles) and head back on the Bridle Path toward the USS Maine National Monument.

History of the Bridle Path

The bridle path in Central Park was not originally planned as part of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s initial design for the park. As the park grew in popularity, more and more equestrians began using the paths for recreational riding. Responding to the growing demand for equestrian trails, the Central Park Conservancy (then known as the Central Park Administration) officially designated a bridle path in 1930.

Changes Over Time

Over the years, the bridle path has undergone several changes and renovations. A section of the path was widened in the 1960s and improved for better accessibility for horse-drawn carriages. In 1977, the Conservancy implemented a major restoration project to improve drainage and prevent erosion on the path.

The bridle path was extended in 2003 to include a loop around the Reservoir. This addition made the bridle path a total of 6 miles long.

The Bridle Path Today

Today, the bridle path remains an important part of Central Park’s landscape and continues to attract runners from all over the city. The path offers stunning views of the park’s natural scenery, including the Reservoir and Rambles areas. A peaceful escape from the bustling city streets.

Why the Bridle Path is the best running trail in NYC

Repetitive sports, like running, are hard on the body. Any advantage you can get – i.e. softer ground – helps to keep your joints from getting damaged. As a long-time trail runner, I find it hard (literally and figuratively) to run on city streets. I love to escape the city streets and jog the much softer gravel Bridle Path. If you are training consistently and get knee pain, give trail running a shot. Not only is the Bridle Path an peaceful setting, it has just enough rolling hills to activate different muscle groups.