You Can Go on an Epic 32-Mile Hike—Without Leaving NYC

The Great Saunter is a longer haul than the city’s famous marathon.

The exterior of Fraunces Tavern in New York City

The Great Saunter begins and ends at Fraunces Tavern in the Financial District.

Photo by Mariusz Lopusiewicz/Shutterstock

The New York City Marathon has nothing on the Great Saunter.

The former event, held the first weekend of every November, is a 26.2-mile route through all five boroughs of New York. The latter event, coming up May 4, 2024, is a 32-mile circumambulation (that means you walk the perimeter) of Manhattan Island. In one day.

Festivities begin just after sunrise at Fraunces Tavern near South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan. The staggered start kicks off between 7 and 8 a.m., and walkers—“Saunterers,” as some like to call themselves—advance clockwise around the island, following a predetermined route along city streets and through more than 20 parks.

The route follows Manhattan’s Waterfront Greenway, the path that surrounds the island. Specifically, from Fraunces Tavern, it stretches around Battery Park City, up the Hudson River and into Inwood Hill Park, then cuts around South Harlem, past the old Polo Grounds, and shoots down the East River to the finish.

There’s a scheduled lunch break along the way at Inwood Hill Park, and the map notes public bathrooms to use along the way.

The Great Saunter map route that circles the island of Manhattan

The map of the 2024 route of the Great Saunter points out public bathrooms to use along the way.

Courtesy of Shorewalkers

Although walkers go at their own pace, it takes between 10 and 12 hours for most of the hikers to return to the starting point. Everyone who finishes receives a certificate of accomplishment. Then they sidle up to the bar.

The atmosphere during the trek is collegial, with participants mostly ignoring competition in the name of fun. More than half of the 2,500 participants are from the New York metropolitan area; the rest drive or fly in from all over the world. Some walkers wear costumes the whole time. Others bring along picnic meals. Still other Saunterers stop at bodegas or delis or even McDonald’s restaurants along the way.

(I know these details because I did the Saunter with my father in 2001. But I’ve also read some great articles about the walk over the years.)

The Saunter is the brainchild of a nonprofit organization called Shorewalkers, which aims to protect parks around NYC. An annual membership costs $20 per person and offers a 20 percent discount for the Saunter (to $24), plus access to members-only walks throughout the year. Non-members can register for the Saunter for a one-time fee of $30.

Oh, and if you think a 32-mile walkabout sounds easy, think again. The course requires more than 62,000 steps—roughly six times the suggested number of steps for an average person on a healthy day. As long as you bring water, extra socks, and some patience, you’ll get there eventually.

This article was originally published in 2017; it was updated on February 8, 2024, with current information.

Matt Villano is a writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. To learn more about him, visit
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