Length of hike: 1.5 miles
Difficulty of hike: easy
What to wear: In early spring it was in the 30’s so we wore plenty of layers, gloves, hats and scarves.
What to pack: sunscreen, walking shoes, water, camera
How long did it take you to complete the hike?: about an hour, depending on how often you stop to stare at the views.
A History of the Highline – Trains and Cowboys
I’ve done this walk in its entirety twice. The sights are unforgettable, and offer a unique view of the city. The first time was just me and some friends walking along and exploring an incredible city. It was stunning. The second was also a visit with friends, but this time our friends happened to be walking encyclopedias of NYC Fun Facts. This time, my husband and I got more of an education while we took in the sites.
So, what is it?
Let me tell you what I learned! It is… drumroll please... an old abandoned elevated railway that has been converted into a park and greenspace! Back in the late 1800’s, rail lines were constructed along 10th and 11th avenue on the West Side. The freight trains that used these lines were transporting goods such as coal, dairy products and beef. The rail lines were so dangerous that the railroad hired “West Side Cowboys” to ride in front of the trains to wave flags and alert people that trains were coming. Despite this brilliant plan, the rail lines were deemed too dangerous, and the city developed a plan for an elevated rail line in the early 1900’s. As time went on, the increase in interstate trucking as a delivery method caused the rail line to become obsolete and it was eventually abandoned.
The High Line sat collecting native plants and drawing the interest of adventurous folks for years. In 1999 the Friends of the High Line, a nonprofit organization, was formed. One photographer was given permission to photograph the High Line for a year. Joel Sternfeld’s photography drew attention to the beauty and nature of the High Line and was even used at public meetings to help grow support. By 2004 there was enough support in the community that the city committed $50 million to establish the proposed park. I love the idea that nature photography helped save this incredible park. Hashtag GOALS.
Walking the Highline – Where to go
The park runs from W 14th Street, north through Chelsea to the Hudson Yards. So grab yourself some coffee and bagel at the Chelsea Market, and hop up the stairs onto the High Line. You’ll be heading north from here for about a mile and a half, an easy stroll with plenty of places to stop and take in the sites, or to sit down and shove that big delicious NY bagel in your face. I’m ruined for bagels now. RUINED I SAY.
Anywhoo. What I love about walking the High Line is that the entire thing is designed to preserve the old rail lines. The decking of the walk way is built around parts of the rail so you’re walking right on top of them. Other parts have you go around the old rails because they are overgrown with local flora and fauna and are treated as a restoration area, no trampling! There is plenty of signage to teach you fun things along the way. Of course we didn’t need that, we had personal tour guides in the form of locals. Otherwise we would have walked right by the old Star Line port where the Titanic was supposed to dock. The walk ends at Hudson Yards. I wouldn’t have thought myself a train person, but the sight of ALL those trains in the yard is really something. Not to mention views of the city and the Hudson River. I could not stop taking pictures.
A Different Way to Hike
Trust me, I am a lover of the outdoors, forests, rivers, lakes, all of that. I prefer the fresh air and quiet. But I also LOVE New York City. There is just something magical about it. It’s a totally different kind of magic than the magic I feel in a dense green forest. And just because you’re visiting a city, doesn’t mean it has to be all subways and taxis. New York is full of parks and green spaces. The High Line is a great way to get out and walk, take in the sites, and not get bulldozed by a speeding bicycler. I’m not saying that almost happened to me. I’m just saying. Stay on the sidewalks. For real.