The “bush capital” earns its nickname from the extraordinary spread of forests, bushland, national parks and sweeping plains surrounding it.
Lucky for keen walkers, the trails that explore these stunning wilderness areas are accessible, achievable and plentiful. We’ve broken up our favourite walks around Canberra into categories so you don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Short walks around Canberra
Bridge to Bridge at Lake Burley Griffin
Lake Burley Griffin is arguably the centrepiece of Canberra. This huge man-made lake is a central hub for sports, recreation, picnicking and all-around good times. The breezy 5km loop from the Commonwealth Bridge to the Kings Avenue Bridge and back is a great way to start the day, or end it.
If you’re up for it, you can circumnavigate the entire lake on an lengthy 40km journey. Many of the paths are shared with cyclists so keen an ear out for bells.
One Tree Hill
At an achievable 8.5kms, the One Tree Hill hike is one of the most popular Canberra outdoor activities year round. Offering an incredible view and a shamelessly instagram-able photo opportunity at the top, the walk takes around two-hours return. The trail begins and ends in the town of Hall, 30-minutes drive from the city. The One Tree Hill walk makes up part of the Canberra Centenary Trail – a 145km loop around the city of Canberra.
No trip to Canberra is complete without a stroll down this gumtree-lined boulevard. The wide, red-paved road showcases two of Canberra’s most notable buildings – Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial. No doubt you’ll rack up a few steps wandering around the two sites but the walk between them is a nice way to fill in an hour or so. At the end of ANZAC Parade, continue through Commonwealth Park and cross the Molonglo River towards the National Library.
Booroomba Rocks in Namadgi National Park
For an unspoilt panorama of the ACT’s sweeping valleys and granite cliffs, this short but sweet trail will do the trick. There are various starting points that add on a few extra kilometres. The shortest route is a steep 2.5km trail from the Baroomba Rocks carpark. Joining the trail at Honeysuckle Campground turns it into a 10.5km return hike.
NOTE: Namadgi National Park in the ACT is closed for bushfire recovery (April 2020).
Full day walks around Canberra
Canberra Centenary Trail
The Canberra Centenary Trail is a hugely popular 145km track, loved by walkers, runners and cyclists alike. It was officially opened in October 2013 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Canberra being named the country’s capital. The trail is made up of fire trails, walking tracks and shared paths that wind through Canberra’s urban and wilderness areas.
Take the normal hiking precautions – check the weather, tell someone where you’re going, pack lots of water. You’ll also need to take note of trail closures. During total fire bans, some of the sections will be off limits.
Remembrance Park to Watson
Section One of the Canberra Centenary Trail begins in the heart of the city at Remembrance Park near the Australian War Memorial. From there, it stretches to the town of Watson 35kms away. Along the way, you can take the “walk-only detour” up to Mt Ainslie for a fantastic view of the city and rejoin the shared path further along. The first section is great for walkers who are staying in Canberra and can easily catch public transport back to the city after their hike. Alternatively, you can start in Watson and walk back towards Canberra.
Black Mountain to Stromlo Forest Park
Section Five of the Canberra Centenary Trail includes a tough but rewarding summit of Black Mountain. The trail also winds through the Cork Oak Plantation, part of the National Arboretum Canberra. You can pay a small fee to ride to the top of the telecom tower on Black Mountain. From here, you’ll enjoy uninterrupted views of Canberra and its surrounding landscape. The entire stretch from Black Mountain to Stromlo Forest Park covers just over 21kms and takes around seven hours.
National Arboretum Canberra
This remarkable 250-hectare piece of land is home to an impressive 44,000 trees from all over the world. With 94 distinct forests, the National Arboretum is one of the world’s largest living collections of rare, endangered and significant trees. It’s not just one of the best walks around Canberra – it’s a great day trip in it’s own right.
The Arboretum offers a choose-your-own-adventure style of day hike. You can join a guided tour with one of the knowledgeable volunteers or take the self-guided approach. Most of the walking trails begin at the village centre and branch off to different areas of the Arboretum. The Himalayan Cedar Forest and Dairy Farmers Hill are particularly popular. Don’t forget to download the augmented reality app so you can hear soundscapes and stories, and see holograms that tell the stories of the landscape.
Multi-day walks around Canberra
Canberra Centenary Trail
The Centenary Trail gets another mention here because, although it’s broken up into smaller sections, loads of people take on the entire 145km trek in one go. It takes the average hiker around seven days to complete the trail, covering about 20kms per day. Although, people have knocked it over in as little as three days.
According to Australian Hiker, the trail surface varies between asphalt, concrete, compressed granite, fire trails and formed dirt trails. As a result, it can be really tough on the feet. A good pair of walking shoes and a thorough stretch each day will do wonders.
Limited camping facilities along the trail make it a little difficult, but not impossible to complete in one go. However, many hikers do it as a section hike, driving or catching a bus to/from their start/end points each day.
Long Plain Circuit
While not technically in the ACT, this 40km trek is a popular one for those looking to escape the capital for a few days. The Long Plain Circuit is reminiscent of Waltzing Matilda, following brumby tracks and wrapping around shady billabongs. The trail begins at Cooinbal Hut and loops around through Kosciusko National Park. The track includes a total elevation gain of 1,530 metres so prepare or those calves to burn. It generally takes four days to complete the trek at a leisurely pace.
Looking for more outdoor fun in the ACT? Check out our round up of top outdoor activities in Canberra.