The Hills of Northern Manhattan

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General Information
Way Points: 

Hudson Greenway just south of the GW Bridge > Hudson River Greenway (north)>Dyckman> Bennett Av> 187th St> Overlook Terrace> Fort Washington Avenue> Fort Tryon Park> Fort Washington Av> 190th St/Overlook Terrace> 187th St> Broadway> Nagle> Fort George Hill bike path> Fort George Av> Amsterdam Av> 182nd St> Broadway> 181st St> Riverside Dr> Hudson River Greenway (south) > south of GW Bridge 

Interest Tags: 
Hank Schiffman
Signature Route : 
B, C
Vertical Gain: 
Difficulty Rating: 
4 out of 5
Attached Files

Hillclimbs in Manhattan? Sure enough. Just don’t expect bucolic. We’re talking in your face NYC: speed bumps, pedestrians, open door hazards, traffic lights, and possible broken glass; the whole catastrophe. But warts and all, these are legitimate ascents. The bones underneath that thin veneer of civilization we call Our Fair City are genuine hills. Manhattan is blessed with a series of long ridges faced with steep escarpments; behold the sheer cliff face just above the start of Bennett. Here you get the benefit of climbing hills without crossing the GW Bridge and the routine of Central Park.

A commonality of these climbs is their relative safety in that they do not have street traffic crossing them. Sure pedestrians can walk out between parked cars, and cars can pull out of parking spaces, but those are things you must be congnizant of in a city environment anyway.

The assumption is riders will access this route from the Hudson River Greenway at their point of convenience. Thus it starts by the tennis courts just south of the GW Bridge. [Note that water is seasonally available in one of the caged courts.] You immediately take on the easier of the 2 part steepest climb of the ride. You will descend these at the end of the route: take note of foot traffic, lines of sight and turns in preparation for that descent. 
The greenway along the Henry Hudson Parkway sorely needs repair. The surface has bumps, ruts and constrictions; consider them challenges. In case you have never seen it, Inspiration Point, a colonnade is right out of a hundred year old post card, is worth a stop for its Hudson views.
Be mindful of the poorly designed final section of the greenway as it descends to Dyckman Street. Who thought 90 degree turns with sharp corners was a good idea? Let us hope this does not bode poorly for the upcoming GW Bridge bike path design. 
The right on Payson improves upon the seemingly logical right on Seaman Avenue in that the left on Riverside Drive (how did that get here?) is less confusing. 
Featured climb #2 becomes progressively steeper from 187th to the finish at Fort Washington Avenue. Plan accordingly. Fort Tryon Park loop is your treat for that ascent. However, there is a climb out. You might be surprised that the nadir by the Cloisters is lower in elevation than Fort Washington Avenue at 168th Street. If you want to visit the highest point in Manhattan, you will have to ride further south on Fort Washington Avenue. descend, then ascend to the crest; it is in Bennett Park on the right. But including it in our ascent is not wise as the left at the traffic light off 190th St/Overlook Terrace is dangerous. 
You will return from whence you came, down 190th St/Overlook Terrace and 187th Street, but now you will cut across Bennett, make a left on Broadway and descend to Nagle. The Fort George Hill is on the bike path, starting at Nagle under the #1 Train. You will be safe from getting doored and motor traffic; just be mindful of broken glass. If you wish to continue the climb to the highest point on Fort George Hill, take a right on Audubon Avenue after your left on Fort George Avenue. It will shorten the ride just a bit should you stay on it to 182nd St, you will miss riding on Amsterdam Avenue with the park on your left, but more importantly, taking the climb to the top on Audubon, unlike the other ascents requires crossing traffic.
Crossing 182nd and 181st Streets will dial you back to your city riding skills. At Fort Washington Avenue you will crest the ridge and descend back to the greenway by way of the 182nd Street Overpass. Traffic gets confusing here; stay alert. Once back on the Greenway, test your brakes for the steep descent to come. Get out of the saddle and stand over your bottom bracket, bend your knees slightly, push with your heels, feather your brakes, lift your chin up and look ahead. Enjoy the descent; you’ve just ridden the hills of northern Manhattan.
Here is the route expanded to include a scenic tour through Inwood Park:
After riding this route numerous times, I now take that right on Audubon Avenue and ascend Fort George Hill to its summit, mindful of crossing traffic on Fort George Avenue, then down Audubon to the right on 182nd Street. Doing so gives me the full climb. But I left the RWGPS route as it was.
I've altered the scenic tour of Inwood Park, now going counterclockwise to include the ascent in Isham Park, Park Terrace West to Isham Street's crest: 0.12 mile, 46' gain, 7.3%, and the ascent of the northernmost hill in Manhattan, which crests under the Henry Hudson Bridge. It is a 2 part climb broken with a level middle section. As all paths in Inwood Park, it is a multiuser path: children, walkers and strollers; be mindful.
Hudson Greenway from level south of GW Bridge to leveling off above final steep grade:
0.4 mile 100’ rise 4.7% average grade, but not representative of the 2 steeper sections
Bennett Avenue from Broadway to 187th St:
0.41 mile 82’ rise 3.8% grade
Overlook Terrace from 187th St to Ft Wash Ave:
0.17 mile 81’ rise 9% grade
Fort Tryon return hill:
0.3 mile  72' rise  4.5% grade
Fort George Hill: from Nagle Av/Dyckman St to Fort George Avenue:
0.4 mile 166’ rise 7.9% grade
YouTube video of ascending these hills:
HS 3/26/2021
HS 12/8/2022
HS 7/13/2024


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