The spectacular gardens are like nothing else on the island of Manhattan, and the setting on a ridge high above the Hudson River quietly sparks one's sense of the sublime. The sheer size of the 67-acre park, which is sliced through with curving, sloping paths and staircases, makes it suitable for a nice mini-hike too.
Walking through vast archways and up and down picturesque stairways, you can wend your way all the way down to the West Side Highway and back. Along the way you'll appreciate the natural contours of the island itself, something you just can't do downtown—even along the rivers, narrowed there by centuries of landfill.
Up here—In the Heights, as it were—the air feels cleaner, the sky looks bluer, and the Manhattan schist looks as old as the hills, because it is.
You can get deep enough inside the park that you feel you've entirely left the city behind, and you won't find the big crowds that bluster through Central Park on a nice day. Peace is within reach. Even the children seem to feel it, staying quieter than usual.
The birds, of course, sing their usual songs, delighted to be in the kind of high place where they belong, taking in the view of the New Jersey Palisades, the Hudson and Harlem Rivers, and the gravity-bound primates who tend the green spaces below as if nature were its own reward.
Large recessed stone benches make perfect spots to read in the shade. There's even a big grassy field for kids to run around in. But Fort Tryon Park, now 75 years old, is a playground for the soul—that "adult" mind that can exist in a body of any age—and for the legs, the exercise of which, for me, are the key to that soul.
There's Revolutionary War history here, too. And inside the park, at the north end, you'll find the Cloisters with their famous tapestries. But the greatest work of art here is the park itself, a creation of man paying honest tribute to nature.
All these photos were taken in Fort Tryon Park at the height of spring in 2008.