The oldest bridge in NYC is not the classic Brooklyn Bridge but a hidden relic uptown, High Bridge and it’s perfect for scooter riding. This is a pedestrian bridge which crosses the Harlem river, connecting Manhattan to the Bronx. The original version of this bridge was constructed in 1848 as an aqueduct to carry water from the Croton River to Manhattan. It was closed to all foot traffic sometime during the 1960’s due to people throwing rocks off of it. Fortunately it has been renovated and is now open for the public to enjoy once again. Let’s hope our culture has shifted and there will be no more rock throwing.
Since we live up in Washington Heights my daughter and I decided to ride our scooters to explore this foot bridge. High Bridge entrance is located in Highbridge Park at 172nd St and Amsterdam from the Manhattan side. Once in the park we found clear signage directing us to the actual pedestrian bridge. We enjoyed scooting through the grounds, then over to the High Bridge Water Tower which is an impressive 200-foot octagonal tower. This is a marker for my daughter whenever we’re driving on the FDR as a sign we’re close to home so it was nice getting up close to this ‘castle’ as she calls it.
Once you reach the water tower you have to descend a steep staircase of about 90 stairs to get the the entrance of the foot bridge. I slung our scooters over my shoulder and pretended I didn’t mind while I second guessed if bringing them was a good idea. The steps were quite steep, fortunately there were a couple landings so we could take a quick break to readjust the scooter slinging method I wasn’t mastering. (There is an alternate ramp route, see directions under tips).
Once we made our way to the bridge I was very pleased we had our wheels. The pedestrian walkway is actually a lovely wide brick promenade and there was a nice breeze coming off the river. There is a high fence which runs the length of the bridge on both sides which helped me feel secure about my four year old looking over the edge. The fence provided security but it didn’t really obstruct the view. The bridge was shockingly empty, probably because it isn’t particularly easy to access. We took advantage of the rare wide open space in NYC and scooted as fast as we wanted and giggled as loud as we could. We enjoyed the interesting views facing both north and south, even though they weren’t particularly beautiful. The views are of 95, the GWB, the Deegan, a spaghetti junction of interlocking on and off ramps as well as the Metro North railroad tracks. In the distance we could see midtown. While it wasn’t as scenic as some bridge views, it was really interesting. Since this bridge is only for pedestrians it was nice not hearing the jarring sounds of traffic right next to you. I’ve crossed most of the NYC bridges (post to come on those) and found this bridge to be the most enjoyable one to cross with young children. The promenade is also wide enough that you won’t have to compete with bike traffic, even if it’s crowded.
We had a lot of fun playing on the High Bridge and I’m really glad we went on this adventure – I’m sure we’ll do it again. If you’re in the neighborhood it’s a nice way to spend time outdoors. The park area is heavily wooded and has some secluded parts so it’s safest to make your visit during daylight hours.
- The High Bridge is located at approximately 172nd Street and Amsterdam in Manhattan, and 170th Street in the Bronx, and is open for passage every day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Best way to get here is public transportation, parking in this area is difficult.
- Bring water, it was hot when we visited and there were no food vendors or water fountains nearby.
- Public bathrooms are located in the parks, not the bridge.
- Highbridge Park on the Manhattan side has a playground and two very large outdoor public pools. The entrance to pool is on 173rd street. Security is very tight to access the pool. Please read the Highbridge Pool rules before planning your visit, I’ve been turned away before.
The 168th St. stations on the No. 1 and A/C subway lines are about a 10 minute walk to the park.
- Stairway – enter Highbridge Park at West 172nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue and walk east to the High Bridge Water Tower Terrace staircase down to the bridge level.
- Paved path – enter the path at 167th Street and Edgecombe Avenue (one block east of Amsterdam Ave.)
The park is uphill from the 170th St. stop on the no. 4 line; the 170th St. stop on the B/D line is a little further away.
Entry to the bridge is at street level from Bronx Highbridge Park, located at W. 170th St. and University Ave. (Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.). Ramp access is north of 170th Street and University Avenue.