Soaring Over the Hudson: Walking the George Washington Bridge
May 30, 2012

Soaring Over the Hudson: Walking the George Washington Bridge

Among the things we love most about living in New York City is the way that departures and arrivals are always endowed with drama. This is thanks to the route we travel back and forth from Manhattan—the George Washington Bridge. From the time when both kids were strapped into infant car seats gripping sippy cups, traversing the bridge has provided our trips with an élan that makes up for some of the miseries (crankiness, sickness, traffic) that car travel typically entails. At some point one of us—we’re pretty sure it was our son Riley—suggested leaving the rental car out of the equation altogether. Why not just go for a walk over the bridge?

The decision to take a hike over the George Washington bridge (round-trip about 1.5 miles) is not obvious. The GW bridge is busy with automobile traffic even on the weekends and the cacophony is noticeable. Consider this a part of your walk. We—the urban hikers—are reclaiming spaces, and the GW bridge is low-hanging fruit.

Other bridges are also worth attention. High Bridge—the oldest bridge in New York City—is currently being renovated and its reopening will be a historic moment. In its heyday Highbridge Park was as central to New York City park life as Central Park is today. Another bridge of comparable size is the Brooklyn. The latter is much more of a tourist attraction, complete with displays portraying the history of the bridge and its construction.

What the GW lacks, however, in terms of deep history or reputation as a tourist destination, it more than makes up for in terms of scenery. The view from the middle of the bridge up and down the Hudson is spectacular. There are few places where one gets a better view of the soaring spires covering what one author has dubbed The Island at the Center of the World

Vertical versus Lateral

There are two ways to approach this destination. One is to attach it to a northward walk along the Hudson River; the other is to treat it separately as an experience in its own right. Both, depending upon your day and agenda, are highly recommended. If you choose the latter, take the A train to 181st Street and walk south along Fort Washington Avenue. You will see signs for the pedestrian/bike route over the George Washington Bridge. Hang a right on 178th Street and pick up the overpass at Cabrini Boulevard. You will then wind up a cement pathway that loops you up and around onto the bridge.

If you choose the former option, follow the Manhattan Greenway north along the Hudson River and head up east after you pass the Little Red Lighthouse. It’s a lovely approach that merits a blog post of its own some time. Stay tuned!

The Other Walkway Over the Hudson

If you’ve ever done the Walkway Over the Hudson  farther north, spanning between the towns of Poughkeepsie and Highland, you will particularly appreciate the experience of walking over the George Washington Bridge. We have done the walk several times, dating back to when our younger child, Halina, was still in a stroller. On our most recent sojourn over the GW bridge we were accompanied by friends visiting from Nebraska who considered it to be a highlight of their trip. When you go you are bound to see other families with young kids and babies, but be aware that on some days it can be quite windy, so beloved stuffed animals and whatnot should be stored away before you mount. In any case, the view is breathtaking and when you look up at the steel cables and towers hovering above you just may find yourself agreeing with Corbusier’s claim that the GW is “the most beautiful bridge in the world.”

 

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