There’s a sweet little section of the epic Australian Alps Walking Track in Namadgi National Park that’s easily accessible from Canberra. Here’s your guide to finding some serious space in the ACT…
- Experience part of the 655km Australian Alps Walking Track
- Prime stargazing location only 60km from Canberra
- Very inquisitive kangaroo mobs
- Start off exploring a historical space-tracking station used on NASA missions
Orroral Valley Tracking Station
Only an hour south of Canberra, this hike will make you feel like you’re miles away from civilisation. The track starts from the old Orroral Valley Tracking Station in Namadgi National Park. It’s worth having a look around here before heading out. The tracking station supported NASA missions from the 60s, until the telescope was moved to Tasmania in the 80s.
The trailhead is located just behind the remains of the tracking station and takes you along a service road, toward Cotter Gap. If the weather’s good, keep an eye out for kangaroo mobs scattered about, lazing out on the grassy clearings.
The Australian Alps Walking Track
The turnoff onto the Australian Alps Walking Track is marked with a sneaky knee-high white sign, so keep an eye out.
This was my first time on any section of the Australian Alps Walking Track and it was amazing. From the turn off, you’ll slowly climb towards Cotter Gap. A couple of steep sections will warm you up real quick. Unfortunately there isn’t much of view from the gap, however the Cotter Valley will show itself through breaks amongst the tall gums. Not to worry, you didn’t make the climb for nothing! The gap is littered with huge granite boulders unlike anything else in the area. Keep an eye on the sky for wedge-tailed eagles cruising overhead, as well as peregrine falcons perched up on the granite peaks.
Down To The River
Thankfully, the descent down towards the river is nice and gradual, with views out over the valley. Once you’ve made it to the Cotter River, you’ll notice that there’s no designated camping areas. It’s all good though, just set up anywhere along the grass flats, being sure to leave no trace of your time here. There’s a beaut spot near a poplar tree where a hut used to stand.
If you find yourself at the ranger’s hut, you’ve gone too far! Remember you pick up your camping permit from the visitors centre and set up far enough away from the ranger’s hut and river. If you’re planning to head out in winter, be aware that fires are not permitted in the park.
If you’re lucky enough to get out on a clear night, strap yourself in for a cracker of a night under the stars. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better stargazing spot so close to a city. And don’t forget to keep an eye on your food. There’s some very inquisitive locals (of the furry grey and jumping variety) that will come say hi.
The next day you can enjoy waking up in the woods beside the river before you make your way back the way you came.
- Camping gear
- Enough water for 2 days or a water filter/purification to fill up at the Cotter River
- Head torch/torch
- Toilet paper and shovel
- PLB (no phone reception)
- Camping permit
You will need to purchase your camping permit from Namadgi National Park info centre. They also sell a variety of maps and hire out PLBs from $10 per day, well worth hiring.
How To Get There
Leaving Canberra, it will take you about an hour to travel south to the Namadgi National Park info centre. Pick up your permit, maps and PLB and then carry on towards the trail. The trailhead is located near the old Orroral Valley Observatory. There is a car park nearby with picnic facilities and toilets for a final stop.
- Bird watching
Intermediate. There are no facilities at the camping area or on the trail. Adventurers will need to be totally self-sufficient.
Distance Covered / Elevation Gain / Duration
32km return / 900m elevation / 2 days (there and back, camping at the river)
All photos thanks to @Jack_Palma