Inwood Hill Park

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Situated at the northern tip of Manhattan is Inwood Hill Park, featuring a scenic waterfront and lush forest that gives a taste of what Manhattan was like long ago.

Quick Info:

Distance: 2.5 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous

Map: See bottom of page

The commute:

Take the 1 train to 215th St. Walk up a few blocks and turn left onto 218th St. Head up the hill past Columbia University's athletic facilities to reach the 218th St. entrance to the park. Alternatively, take the A train to 207th St. Walk up the hill until you reach Seaman Ave. Turn right here and walk alongside the park. Take a left at 214th street, walk down Indian Road, and you'll reach the 218th St. entrance to the park.

The hike:

1. Right away you'll have a nice view of the Harlem River and a cliff marked with a big "C" for Columbia University. Columbia's crew team might be rowing by as you read this. Look for peregrine falcons, which hunt for pigeons along the waterway.

2. Pass through the park's peaceful lawn as you head down to the rocky waterfront. Here is a great view of Inwood's forested hillside and the Henry Hudson Bridge, which frames a view of the Palisade Cliffs. At low tide, this inlet becomes an expansive mudflat popular with shorebirds.

Waterfront along the Harlem River (2)

3. Head to your left and follow the path along the water. As the path curves, you can see the Metro North train across the water. This path will eventually turn away from the views and reach a junction.

4. Facing the Parks Department sign that says "Shorakapok Rock," make a slight left and follow blue blazes into a forest called the Clove. The enormous trees (many are hundreds of years old) will cut out the sounds of the city, and you can think for just a second that you're somewhere far away. Look up at the impressive rock formations looming over you.

Rock Formations in the Clove (4)

5. Take a left ahead to continue following blue blazes. Head straight through a junction and then go right to stick to the Blue Trail.

6. Hope you're ready for some hiking, because an uphill climb begins. The path will soon level out at a junction - keep following those blue blazes! If you're here in the spring, look out for colorful wildflowers on the side of the trail.

7. You'll now reach a 3 way split. A log by your feet indicates that the blue trail is farthest to the right. Keep following the blue blazes ahead and take a right, leading you further up the hill. Now turn left onto the narrow trail marked by a tree with a blue-blazed smiley face.

8. Ignore a path coming up on your left (I know it has a blue blaze, just trust me) and continue straight through a grove of pine trees. Next you'll come to a fork, turn right here. After walking a few minutes, ignore a narrow trail leading downhill on your left, as well as paths to the right, and instead opt for a wider path up ahead on your left that heads uphill.

9. Finally the reward for all your hard work comes, as the forest opens up to remarkable views of the Hudson River and Palisade Cliffs.

The top of Inwood Hill (9)

10. Once you've sufficiently taken in the view, continue on and keep right at the fork ahead. Soon you'll come to an intersection, go straight here and then turn right (passing by a trail map).

11. Remain straight on the Blue Trail until the path starts to head downhill. Now go left at a junction and then take another left to pick up the Orange Trail. You'll know you went the right way if you pass a line of shattered lamp posts.

12. You might notice what geologists would call a "glacial pothole", which I believe looks more like a giant stuck its finger into a rock. I did some research and learned that this was actually formed by pebbles swirling around as a glacier melted thousands of years ago. My Earth Systems Science professor would be proud.

13. Stick to the orange path on your way through the valley. You'll eventually pass the rock formations from the beginning of the hike. Now go right at the coming junction and you'll return to Shorakapok Rock.

14. From here you can exit the park as you entered it, by following the path along the waterfront and passing through the lawns to return to the 218th St entrance.