The path, a narrow ribbon of pavement that separates a teeming urban waterfront from the near constant din of a major highway, opened in 2001, giving cyclists their first unimpeded access from Lower Manhattan to Midtown. And the cyclists love it — it was crowded with spinning wheels and zipping 10-speeds at noon yesterday — making the Hudson River path one of the nation's busiest.
Length: About 12.5 - 13 miles from the Staten Island Ferry to the street access by the George Washingon Bridge. Mostly pretty flat except the steep hill just north of the George Washington Bridge. Between Staten Island Ferry and GWB, it's about 250-300 vertical feet of climbing in the South-to-North direction, 50-100 vertical feet in the North-to-South direction.
Highlights: Long pleasant stretches of flat riding right next to the Hudson River -- grass and trees, views over the water, interesting path by the buildings of the World Financial Center. Freedom from motor vehicle traffic: This off-road pathway along the Hudson river puts a whole new perspective on riding in Manhattan -- especially south of 72nd St.
Characteristics: Path is paved (except for a short unrepaired section as of June 2002). Almost all off-road, except for the access from the George Washington Bridge, the section around 132nd to 138th streets, and a few places where it crosses a driveway or street extension. But there can be lots of non-motorized users. Flat, except for the access from the George Washington Bridge.
Hill climbs: (South-to-North direction): About 200 vertical feet of steep climbing to get from the North end of the path up to Fort Washington Ave. A steep downhill from Fort Washington Ave to the South Walkway of the GWB. (North-to-South direction): No climbs worth mentioning -- except for the street from the GWB sidewalk access entrance up to Fort Washington Ave.
Downhills: (North-to-South direction) Some short very steep downhills on 181st St and on the paved path North of and underneath the George Washington.
Traffic -- Streets: Typical heavy urban Manhattan motor vehicle traffic on the streets between the GWB walkway and the North end of the path, and on the required detour onto the streets somewhere around 132nd - 138th Streets. If you are not sure you have the skills and judgment to handle this kind of traffic, then turn around before you get to these sections.
Traffic -- Path: The path itself is mostly off-road except for a few places where it crosses a driveway or street extension -- special care is required in crossing those. The rest is normally free from motor vehicles -- except occasional maintenance and patrol vehicles. But there can be lots of non-motorized users, especially on weekends and nice evenings, and especially outside the North sections: walkers, runners, skaters, bicyclists, etc -- sometimes at high speeds, sometimes oblivious to other users, sometimes not following rules or the directions of signs. Need to take seriously the risk of interactions and collisions with them. It is worth thinking about how to choose days and times to ride on it when there is less traffic.