Wild When You Want It: Summer in the North Woods

The North Woods
The North Woods is a 90-acre hardwood forest just below the Park's northern border.

The summer is near, and so is vacation planning. There are those who believe that "getting there is half the fun," and then there are the rest of us. The stresses of air travel, security checkpoints, and long trips in the car leave most of us needing a vacation from the trip itself. Thanks to Central Park, you can get away without going away. One of the Park's best and most secluded refuges is the North Woods.

Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux to simulate an Adirondack mountain experience, the North Woods is an oasis within the oasis of Central Park. Within the woodlands, traffic disappears, buildings are hidden by trees, and a gentle stream bubbles over sounds of the city.

The wild heart of the North Woods is the Ravine. The Ravine is unlit at night. Fallen trees, or snags, are left where they land (unless hazardous or obscuring paths) providing nutrients to surrounding plants, homes to wildlife, and a natural look to the landscape. A favorite stop along the Atlantic flyway, the Ravine is an excellent location for bird watching.

Water is a defining feature of the North Woods. The Pool, on the West Side between 100th to 103rd Streets, is one of the Park's most intimate and placid water bodies. The Pool is home to turtles, ducks, and other wildlife. Downstream, the Loch, rebuilt by the Conservancy in the 1990s, offers a shady spot to sit and cool down in the summer heat.

Nearby, the Harlem Meer sits at Central Park's northeast corner, just above the North Woods. Fishermen (and fisherwomen) are invited to catch and release in the Meer. Nearby, Lasker Pool offers free swimming all summer long.

With so much to offer, and just a walk or subway ride away, the North Woods provides endless opportunities to get out, get active, and get away this summer. If you would like to learn more about the North Woods, you can attend our free "Manhattan Adirondacks" tour, offered regularly.