New York County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: May 22, 2007
Author: Andy Hatzos

The two highest points on Manhattan Island are pretty easy to reach, and are in a nice part of town as well. They are about a mile apart from each other, on the far north end of the island (close to the Bronx).

southern area in Bennett Park (260+ ft)

This area is in Bennett Park, which can be found within the Washington Heights neighborhood -- a busy residential area. Taking I-95 to the west, I took the northbound exit to the Henry Hudson Parkway (just before the George Washington Bridge). This exits off at 181st street, which I took to the east. Fort Washington Avenue is near the top of a steep hill; I headed north. One block north from there, I found Bennett Park on the left.

Parking was at a premium -- it was mid-afternoon on a weekday -- but I was able to find a spot on the north side of the park. The drive is the hard part about getting to this high point. From here, it's just a walk up the stairs to the park. There were hundreds of people there, obviously taking advantage of a beautiful spring day.

The highest point is on a set of large rocks that are located on the park's west edge. This area of the park is surrounded by a black chain link fence, but there were dozens of children on the inside. I put my camera down on the outside, hopped the fence, walked up to the rocks, and returned to my starting point in about 20 seconds. I may have frightened one young girl who had been pacing the rocks for five minutes on her cell phone, but I think we both survived. Near the fence, there is a stone marker declaring the point as the highest on Manhattan - at an elevation of 265.05 feet above sea level.

The park was absolutely packed with the most diverse group of people I've ever seen. Male and female, young and old, and just about any race you can think of. I sort of felt privileged to join in their fun for a few minutes, before I was off on my way to complete the county.

northern area 1,200 feet south of The Cloisters (260+ ft)

From Bennett Park, I went north on Fort Washington Avenue for about a half mile. It meets up with Margaret Corbin Drive in a circle at the entrance to Fort Tryon Park. Margaret Corbin Drive continues northeast, and as it bends back to the north, there are parking lots on each side of the road. I parked on the west side, near the New Leaf Cafe in an old stone building. The parking lot on the east side offers some nice views over to the Bronx.

It's an easy walk up to the high point area, through some beautiful landscaping in a historic park. There is an overlook built at the top of the hill, adjacent to a shaded area with park benches. It's obvious that the highest natural ground is somewhere underneath the built-up area. Looking around the edges, I agree with Dan Case that the highest remaining ground is to the south and southeast of the overlook. The area is partially fenced off, but quite easy to get into. I also walked along the southern and eastern walls of the overlook, as they looked to be about as high. It's hard to tell for sure.

The fact that the trees do not allow a view to the real hustle and bustle of Manhattan Island is perhaps a blessing; this park does not feel at all like it belongs on an urban island that is also the most densely populated county in the entire United States. This is truly a great place to visit -- but aside from that, it's also a very easy COHP.

report with links to photos