Central Park: The Ramble

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

If you don't mind crowds, visit this popular spot in the heart of Central Park to cross a trickling stream and spot tons of songbirds.

Quick Info:

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Map: See bottom of page

The commute:

Take the B or C train to 72nd St. Alternatively, take the 1, 2, or 3 train to 72nd St and walk east to reach the park.

The hike:

1. Enter the park on the uptown side of the 72nd street entrance. Head straight following a sign for Strawberry Fields, the legendary memorial to John Lennon. Do your best to make your way through this crowded circle filled with tourists and covers of Lennon songs, exiting on the left side.

2. Cross the busy road ahead, watching out for speeding bikers. Continue straight to pass by the towering Daniel Webster Monument on your left.

3. Keep straight past an information booth and follow the path as it curves to the left. Soon you'll come to stairs leading down to the water.

4. Follow this trail leading along the shore for some nice views of the lake and the popular Bow Bridge. If you're here on a warm day, the park's paths won't be the only thing crowded with tourists; the lake is also often covered with rowboats. You might see a red-tailed hawk soaring over the lake as well.

The lake and Bow Bridge (4)

5. Continue walking alongside the lake (don't cross Bow Bridge) and you'll soon reach the famous Bethesda Fountain, another packed tourist attraction.

6. Next you'll pass the Loeb Boathouse (featuring bathrooms and food). Keep left as you walk around this restaurant. Now continue straight on the path leading uphill.

7. You've now entered the Ramble, a pretty forest that is also somewhat of a maze, so bear with me here. Take the middle path at the intersection, then turn left where the path splits, then right as you come to another split. Still with me?

Flowering dogwood in the Ramble (7)

8. Head straight through the next intersection and you'll notice bird feeders all around. In the spring, birders flock here to see the shocking number of songbirds that stop by. It gets so popular that some have nicknamed this phenomenon "warbler mania".

9. Continue straight at the next intersection and you'll come to a trickling stream called the Gill. Turn left here to follow along the stream.

10. Look out for the azalea bushes, which produce remarkable pink blossoms in the spring. On the other side of the path are huge rocky outcrops.

Azalea bushes (10)

11. Turn right at the coming split, then left onto a mulched trail leading alongside the stream. This trail will quickly end, bringing you back to the path. Turn left here and cross a wooden bridge over the stream.

The Gill (11)

12. Once across the bridge, pick up the mulched trail to your right. This takes you to a rocky path where you can see the stream flow downhill and end its journey at the lake.

13. Turn right, then choose the middle of three paths in front of you (the one with steps leading up the hill). This will drop you off at a junction, turn left here.

14. Now turn right at the coming intersection to head uphill. Keep left on this winding path, passing nice views of the lake and the midtown skyline.

The lake (14)

15. As the path starts to bend away from the water, turn left to pass over an arch. Now turn left where the path splits, then left again at the bottom of the stairs.

15. Cross over the scenic bridge ahead, which sadly brings you out of the forest.

16. Once across the bridge, turn left and head up to the park road. Head to the left and walk downtown along the roadside path.

17. Soon you'll see a path on your left, which is a worthy detour leading to a gazebo and more nice views of the lake. You'll also have a close up view of people who just can't seem to figure out how to rowboat.

18. Once you've explored this scenic spot, continue following along the lake. As you make your way downtown, you'll continue to get some great views of the water.

Rowboats on the lake (18)

19. Eventually you'll return to where you began your loop, where you'll usually find a hot dog stand. Here you can cross the street, head back up the hill through Strawberry Fields, and out of the park.