The first thing most visitors to Canberra notice is Telstra Tower on Black Mountain. The Tower is one of Canberra’s most visited sites and you can get to it by car or bicycle (if you are very fit) or you can walk. Most people, thankfully for those who chose to walk, get there by car. This review is on the Summit Walk, which is, in my view, without doubt the best way to get to the summit. Ensure that you take some water with you.
There are two approaches to this short walk with both following the same track for 90% of the way. Firstly (and the one I recommend for people who have not visited the Australian National Botanic Gardens) is via the Gardens which makes the Summit Walk a walk of around 35-40 minutes up (from the exit at the back of the Gardens marked one on the sketch map below) plus a little less to get down. You need to add a couple of hours to this for your Botanic Gardens visit and maybe an hour for the Tower. Secondly, for those who have previously visited the Botanic Gardens or who, inexplicably (unless due to lack of time), don’t want to visit these wonderful gardens you can start the walk at Firth Road carpark at the back of the Gardens. This approach (which gives you free parking) adds about 5-10 minutes each way to the walk.
Note that if using the Gardens’ route you are restricted in terms of time, as the gate is locked outside Garden opening hours (in fact it closes at 4.30pm – half an hour before the Gardens).
Ok, enough preamble.
The well marked walk comprises two sections, from point 1 or 2 on the sketch map attached to point 3 and then from here to the Summit via the dotted white line. Turning left or right at point 3 takes you on a circular loop around the summit, a walk which I thoroughly recommend you do – after you have been up to the Tower. This will be the subject of a separate review.
The path, mainly formed though a little uneven and containing steps at times, follows a moderately steep ridge though eucalypt trees which, to be honest, block any decent views of the city or surrounding areas. There is certainly enough vertical incline on this enjoyable walk to increase the heart rate of a middle aged gentlemen of declining agility and fitness. The three types of eucalypt – Scribbly Gum, red Stringyback and Cherry Ballart – found along the walk shelter a variety of shrubs, wild orchids and undergrowth which add colour to the walk , especially in the springtime. Another thing I especially like along this walk are the ‘deformed and twisted’ trees you encounter – life is hard growing up as a tree in this terrain.
I most recently did the walk on a rather cold and foggy Canberra morning in early spring and in addition to the colourful shrubbery I was rewarded with sightings of some crimson rosellas, cockatoos, parrots and a couple of kangaroo. I should point out that kangaroos are much rarer here than in other parts of the city so a sighting of them on this walk should be seen as a nice bonus if it happens.
In times past, this wooded mountain provided an ample meat supply in terms of possums, wallaby and kangaroo to supplement fish obtained from the Molonglo River for the Ngunnawal Aboriginal people who inhabited the “Limestone” valley where Canberra now sits. The Molonglo Rver was dammed in the early 1960s to create, what is today, Lake Burley Griffin.
You will note that my attached pictures do not include a view from the summit. The reason for this is quite simple and that is that there is no view!
Before you conclude that I am (yet again) writing this review having just engaged in some form of substance abuse and suggesting that you huff and puff your way up a mountain which has a view neither en-route nor from the top, let me assure you that a fantastic view can be obtained by going up the Telstra Tower at the end of this walk but, be warned, you will have to share it with people who come up by car!. This is the subject a separate review – Black Mountain Tower.
Address: Firth Road (or through the Botanic Gardens)
Directions: Firth Road is a little hard to find – so ensure you have a map – look at sketch map above. Access is via Barry Drive out of the City centre.