Autumn in Central Park? There is nothing better than fall in New York City and the fall foliage in Central Park. If you’re looking for the best spots to take in the stunning fall foliage in Central Park, along with other park tips and things to do, keep reading.
Central Park is home to over 18,000 trees across its’s 840 acres. Which means there are many opportunities for NYC leaf peeping in this one massive space. To make things easier for you, I’ve compiled over 23 epic spots to enjoy the changing leaves this autumn.
As someone who lives just an 8 minute walk from the park I’m enjoying it’s beauty and peacefulness several times a week and feel quite lucky to enjoy it in all it’s seasons.
There is something extra special about Autumn in Central Park and I’m excited to share that with you!
Best time to see fall foliage in Central Park
The optimal time to visit Central Park (and New York City) for peak fall foliage varies year to year. And Central Park, specifically, is very unique.
As the park is surrounded by many tall buildings, these shadows give the trees a distorted sense of the seasons, which means Central park often hits peak fall colors later than other areas in New York.
More specifically, early November is peak fall foliage in Central Park, but sometimes late October.
However, you will be greeted with gorgeous changing leaves in the weeks leading up to the peak as well.
Central Park Fall Foliage Dates 2023
As the 2023 Autumn season arrives, I’ll continue to update this post to reflect the optimal timing for 2023 leaf peeping in Central Park.
When to Visit Central Park for Fall Leaves
In addition to trying to find the peak foliage dates, there are other considerations for the best time to visit Central Park to see the leaves changing.
Mornings and weekdays means fewer crowds to contend with. This is always true when touring NYC.
I always find the park to be most packed on Sunday afternoons during the fall season. Likely because it’s the weekend and folks have fewer obligations on Sunday than they do on Saturday.
23+ Fall Foliage Spots for Autumn in Central Park
On the West Side to Mid-Park from 101st to 110th Street you’ll find the North Woods. Here you’ll spot vibrant changing leaves from 7 varieties of trees including American Elm, Black Cherry, Red Oak and more.
The North Woods feel so far from the noise of the city you forget you’re still in Manhattan. You can take in the fresh air and enjoy the lush landscape.
Within the North Woods, you’ll want to ensure you check out The Ravine. The trees are so tall and close it’s like walking under a canopy of changing leaves.
Here you can take in the Loch, the long, narrow watercourse and enjoy some birdwatching. Last time we walked through here we came across a very popular owl.
Depending on the direction you’re heading, you may want to spot the arches that mark the entrances on both sides of the Ravine.
Glen Span Arch
On the west side you’ll find this rustic stone arch with the loch running under it and trees flocking both sides.
On the east side of the ravine you’ll find this gorgeous arch made up entirely of massive boulders that were found in the surrounding landscape. It’s so lovely to walk underneath and makes for a great Central Park autumn photo spot!
On the West Side from 104th to 106th Street you’ll discover The Pool which is surrounded by water-loving trees including the Red Maple, Bald Cypress and Sweetgum as well as the Hickory, Tupelo and Sugar Maple trees.
So you’ll see gorgeous bronze and yellow shades, to various oranges and reds to deep scarlet and even purple leaves.
This area of the park is typically pretty quiet compared to the southern section and relaxing around the pool can feel like a real dream.
The Harlem Meer is so charming. It’s often bustling with families and kids, and the energy is just so happy and positive.
Here in the North East corner of the park (between 106th to 110th Street) you can take in the beauty of the trees around the water.
Head south from the Harlem Meer towards 104th to 106th Street on the East Side to take in the Conservatory Garden. Here you’ll spot the yellow and bronze Star Magnolia trees, Crabapple and Stewartia trees.
Similar to the other northern parts of the park you’ll find fewer tourists here and they’re clearly missing out because these gardens are literally breathtaking.
Mid-Park from 97th to 102nd Street you’ll find the North Meadow. The meadow is home to Sugar Maples, Hickory and Flowering Dogwood trees that turn yellow, orange, red and maroon in the fall.
I just love the Reservoir and often find myself circling it during my morning walks.
There are a few sections of the Reservoir that I’d like to note for leaf peeping:
- This is the path closest to the water. You want to take it in a counter-clockwise direction and be mindful of any runners since the path itself isn’t that wide.
- Entering at the E 90th Street Entrance is a great place to start, but you can also access it in multiple spots around it. Near E 90th you can also pop into one of my favorite NYC lunch time spots, Bluestone Lane.
North Gate and South Gate Houses
- The North Gate and South Gate House are both gorgeous buildings that offer some shade and a lovely point of interest for photos.
- The Bridle Path also circles the Reservoir, but is a much wider dirt path making it great if you’re walking in a group. You can take either direction here and hop on/off the running track.
Bridge No. 28
- If you do take the Bridle Path you’ll be treated to seeing this rustic white cast iron bridge that connects the running path and tennis area. It’s very charming and looks stunning against the backdrop of changing leaves.
West Side Between 86th & 90th Street
- Between the bridle path and running track there is a sort of “hidden” dirt path that sort of feels like a secret pathway. I always detour off the bridle path to take this route. It’s absolutely one of the best spots for cherry blossoms in Central Park during the spring season, but lovely during autumn too.
Both viewed from the southern end of the Great Lawn as well as inside the castle (access via Mid-Central Park at 79th Street) where you can look out upon Turtle Park and Great Lawn and take in all the colors of the changing leaves.
The Shakespeare Garden is in bloom year round with various plants, flowers and trees. It’s such a unique part of the park that is often overlooked as it’s a little bit tucked away in the middle of the park.
You can find it to the southwest of the Delacorte Theater. There are many stairs and levels in the garden.
Conservatory Water / Model Boat Pond
Towards the East Side you’ll find this completely charming part of the park. I’ve seen the model-boat pond in so many movies set in NYC and it really is that cute.
This area isn’t as lush as others, but is surrounded by trees and you can take in the Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Andersen Monument sculptures.
Mid-Park from 73rd to 79th Street you can take various meandering paths through The Ramble which itself is 38 acres of tall trees and woodsy atmosphere.
Given the size of the Ramble you’ll find 8 different types of trees including the Sassafras (which turns purple and red) as well as the Red Oak, Pin Oak and more.
From within The Ramble, you’ll want to head to Bow Bridge. Bow Bridge is Mid-Park at 74th Street and is the most photographed bridge in Central Park. It’s not surprising as it’s within a beautiful setting surrounded by gorgeous trees and some tall buildings in the far background.
In Google Maps, you can find the “Wood Chip Vantage Point” which is a great spot to take photographs from. Cross the bridge and head to the next spot on the list.
Bethesda Fountain and Terrace
This bi-level, lakeside terrace is a historical landmark. Views are top notch year round, but especially in the fall and spring.
You can take in the pond nearby and people watch those on rowboats as well as see all the geese floating by.
To the east of the fountain you can spot the Loeb Boathouse. You can take a row boat rental out for a unique vantage point of the lake and it’s surrounding trees.
While I’ve read that the new owners of the boathouse have upgraded to accept cards, I suggest bringing cash for your rental just in case!
The Mall & Literary Walk
Another iconic part of the park is The Mall. It always feels like I’m in a commercial walking through here. Mid-Park around 72nd to 66th Street you’ll find the Mall and Literary Walk surrounded by yellow leaves on American Elm trees.
A Native Meadow aka Dene Slope
If you head East at the end of The Mall, above 66th Street and just East of East Drive (enough East for you? LOL), you’ll find A Native Meadow.
I came across this Meadow just by accident one afternoon and made it a point to visit during several seasons. It’s a 1.25 acre area that was just recently a weedy, overgrown hillside but has been transformed into a growing meadow.
It’s a simple native path through the meadow where you can take in some of the wildlife like birds and butterflies and the various grasses and wildflowers.
It offers a peaceful respite in what is one of the busier areas of the park and given that it’s quite new, I actually have not seen it listed on other Autumn in Central Park guides.
The Pond & Gapstow Bridge
From the Meadow, let’s head down to Gapstow Bridge and The Pond. I adore the views around here from on the Bridge as well as the various pathways around The Pond.
If you grab some photos on or near the bridge facing south, you’ll get some stunning shots of the many various trees and the tall skyscrapers just outside of the park.
Hallett Nature Sanctuary
Another underrated spot that I haven’t seen on other lists, but which I think is GORGEOUS is the Hallett Nature Sanctuary.
Similar to the North Woods, Ramble and the Meadow, the Nature Sanctuary feels like you’ve stepped into a secret little world inside the park.
You’ll find 7 different types of trees in all the shades from yellow bronze, to orange and scarlet.
Wander the different pathways that intertwine and you’ll be treated to scenic viewpoints, rustic benches for taking in the surroundings and even a waterfall.
I hope this guide helps you to visit and enjoy all the fall colors in Central Park. Please visit with respect and help keep the park clean and green with advice from the Central Park Conservancy.
Bonus: Bars with a View of Central Park
These rooftop and high-rise bars near and inside the park offer a stunning view year round, but especially during the Autumn season. Cheers!
Life Rooftop Central Park
120 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019
36 Central Park S, New York, NY 10019
The Cantor Roof Garden Bar at The Met
1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
Central Park Foliage Map
Central Park in the Fall Recap
Glen Span Arch
Bridge No. 28
North & South Gate Houses
Conservatory Water & Model-Boat Pond
Bethesda Terrace and Fountain
The Mall and Literary Walk
A Native Meadow aka Dene Slope
Gapstow Bridge & The Pond
Hallett Nature Sanctuary
FAQs about Autumn in Central Park New York
Does Central Park have fall foliage?
Central Park has stunning fall foliage. Every Autumn, across the 240 acres you can find 18,000 trees whose leaves change into gorgeous shades of yellow, orange, red and purple.
What is the best time to see fall colors in New York?
Peak leaf peeping can vary from year to year, but generally speaking late October and early November offer the best chance to see fall colors in Central Park and all of New York.
What is the best Autumn month in New York?
October is hands-down the best Autumn month in New York. You’ll find the changing leaves, crisp weather without it being too cold, and just the best energy the city has to offer before the busy, hectic holiday season.
Where can I take fall pictures in Central Park?
Some great spots to take fall pictures in Central Park include Gapstow Bridge, Bow Bridge, The Mall and Bethesda Terrace.
This article was all about Autumn in Central Park. I hope you’re inspired to visit New York City in the fall. You can pin the image below to reference this article later.
Casey is the founder of Casey La Vie & has been running this travel and lifestyle blog since 2016. She’s on a mission to balance her career as a social media manager with exploring her home of New York City and seeing more of the world.