The 145km Canberra Centenary Trail is a loop track that winds from the political heart of the nation to the countryside, passing dozens of historic and natural sites along the way. Tackle it as a 7-day hike, or as 12 manageable day hikes.
- Spend time on Ngunnawal Country and check out spectacular views across all of the ACT
- The whole trail is easily accessible and well signposted with trail markers
- Can tackle cheeky little sections or all at once
- You get to see the best of Canberra’s city and bushland
‘There’s nothing to do in Canberra!’
As a born and bred Canberra girl and adventure enthusiast, I have two words for anyone who says there’s nothing to do in Canberra: think again!
The 145km Canberra Centenary Trail is for hikers and cyclists to experience the best of Canberra’s urban and rural glory. By looping around the ACT and ducking in and out of suburbia, the trail is designed to be divided into as many sections as you like, to give you bite-sized chunks of Canberra goodness. And if you’ve been in Canberra for more than a minute, it’s likely you’ve walked a fair bit of the track already!
I walked the trail with my family under the façade of bonding, but in reality, we just wanted an excuse for an impressive walk and breakfast on Sunday mornings. We walked the trail in 12 sections, over footpath, dirt track, and fire trails.
Section 1 – Lake Tuggeranong to Chisholm
Time: 1hr 10min
This first section of the walk was the perfect starter package of very gentle slopes and easy footpath walking – we were even lucky enough to get the mist over Lake Tuggeranong. This section of the Centenary Trail follows roads and suburban paths, but the classic bush capital and its urban parks never disappoint.
Café Stop – Common Grounds, Gowrie
Section 2 – Chisholm to Isaacs
Time: 1hr 50min
Starting in the suburbs, the path quickly turns to dirt as you negotiate the ACT’s remnant and now urban pine forests, skirt the back of Wanniassa Hills Reserve towards Isaacs Ridge, and stumble through the Long Gully Pine Plantation – a mountain biking playground for the locals.
The view from the top at the Trig Station is supposed to be great, but the ridge was coated in the thickest layer of fog I’d ever seen. The fog along and cute red-capped mushrooms nestled in the fallen pine needles was enough to make me believe in fairies.
Café Stop – Fox and Bow, Farrer
Section 3 – Isaacs to Lake Burley Griffin
Time: 3hr 10min
I was dubious about this section given it’s smack-bang in the middle of the capital’s Parliamentary Triangle, but yet again, Canberra’s iconic gems kept turning up. The strangest by far was while we were walking around Mount Mugga Mugga quarry, we spotted a man walking a ferret.
In Red Hill, we walked along streets named after ships and explorers. We were greeted by a statue of the Comte de Lapérouse, a French explorer who arrived in Botany Bay less than a week after Captain Cook in 1788, and then mysteriously disappeared later that year, never to be seen again…
We also passed the Surveyors Hut on Capital Hill which is all that remains of Robert Scrivener’s camp, where he drew up the plans for Canberra with Walter Burley Griffin in 1913.
Walking around New Parliament House towards the lake was something I’d never done, but now I highly recommend it. The path is surrounded by native flora with the backdrop of that lush, green parliamentary grass. The sports grounds at the back of New Parliament House are an unusual view of this iconic site.
Café Stop – Coffee N Beans, Red Hill
Section 4 – Lake Burley Griffin to Mount Majura
Time: 3hr 20min
This part of the trail follows the Central Basin of Lake Burley Griffin, past the Carillon, and up Anzac Parade to the Australian National War Memorial. The next part, however, puts the glutes to work, climbing both Mount Ainslie and Mount Majura.
The Centenary Trail divides in various locations to make it both bike and foot accessible, with the bike sections circling the bottom of most mountains, and the walking trail climbing up and over. The views from the top are spectacular, sweeping across Canberra in all directions. If you’re lucky, in winter, you can spot snow on the Brindabella Ranges.
Café Stop – The Knox, Watson
Section 5 – Mount Majura to Forde
Time: 3hr 50min
Following the trail markers, the track directs you up the Federal Highway past the Royal Australian Air Force Memorial Grove, then turns around and through the underpass and back towards Canberra. This part of the trail was the only section that didn’t correlate with the directions on the web site and the app, but I do always love to take the scenic route.
The rest of the walk is through Goorooyarroo and Mulligans Flat Nature Reserves. This is flat, easy walking through gorgeous bushland, which is home to numerous threatened and protected wildlife.
Café Stop – Frankies At Forde, Forde
Section 6 – Forde to Hall
Time: 3hr 50min
This section follows the ACT/NSW border almost the entire way, with some of the old border survey posts still in place. We reached the designated halfway point, at the Northern Border Campsite that has great facilities available to those staying overnight. It’s the only official campsite along the Centenary Trail with toilets, but no vehicle access.
Further on, One Tree Hill is a steep climb that provides a really beautiful lookout and a rest stop at the top. The walk then continues down to the main street of Hall.
Café Stop – 1882 Bar & Grill, Hall
Section 7 – Hall to Bruce
Time: 2hr 20min
The trail changes from fire trails to footpaths and is a perfect change of scenery. This section runs along main roads, bike paths, and urban parks, between Hall and Lake Ginninderra.
Café Stop – Two Before Ten, Aranda
Section 8 – Bruce to Black Mountain
This section couldn’t be more iconically Canberran if it tried. Highlights include The Australian Institute of Sport, GIO Stadium, and more stunning views from Black Mountain overlooking Lake Burley Griffin. If that’s not enough, you can climb Telstra Tower to get 360° views over the whole of the capital.
Café Stop – Pollen, Acton
Section 9 – Bruce to the National Arboretum
Time: 1hr 30min
I’d never walked through this part of Canberra before, but I’ve driven past more times than I can count. Even though this section of the walk is in the middle of Canberra’s ‘Glenloch Interchange’, somehow, you’re still walking through bushland, with kangaroos in abundance, and an amazing cork oak plantation along the lake.
Finishing up at the National Arboretum is an absolute win, as this is one of the absolute best spots to watch a sunset in Canberra. There’s far more to the Arboretum than just the Village Centre, so bring a picnic, and take advantage of one of the numerous public barbeques for a summer afternoon.
Café Stop – Sprout Café, Molonglo Valley
Section 10 – National Arboretum to Stromlo
Time: 1hr 30min
The walk resumes and takes you over Scrivener Dam and along the Molonglo River. Across the river, you can see the National Zoo and Aquarium, where you can get a glance of the giraffes in all their glory. This section ends at the ACT Bushfire Memorial dedicated to the 2003 Canberra bushfires. Next door is Stromlo Forest Park – mountain bike central for the ACT. And for those with an affinity for the stars, Mt Stromlo Observatory is just at the top of the hill.
Café Stop – The Handlebar, Stromlo
Section 11 – Stromlo to Kambah
This was such a gorgeous walk around Cooleman Ridge. The Cooleman Ridge Nature Trail, with its accompanying pamphlet and numbered markers, gives an interesting insight into the geology, Aboriginal history, and present information about the ridge.
Out towards Brindabella National Park, catch a glimpse of the dish at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Centre out amongst the mountains. There’s also a nice big rock for a bouldering sesh if you’re game!
Café Stop – Meating Room, Weston
Section 12 – Kambah to Lake Tuggeranong
Time: 2hr 45min
As a proud Tuggeranong resident, this walk shocked me in all the right ways. I had never walked down past Kambah Pool along to Red Rock Gorge, but let me tell you, it’s like free drugs for the eyeballs.
The track was busy with mountain bikers, hikers, and kayakers enjoying the sights from below. Past Red Rock Gorge and through the Urambi Hills Nature Reserve is an extensive wombat warren estate – we even saw one rambling across the path.
Fun Fact: Wombats poo in cubes on rocks as a form of communication, and boy, are these guys chatty!
The last iconic Canberra landmark on the trail is the remnants of the 1.8km dry stone wall that marked the boundary of the Lanyon and Yarralumla properties 150 years ago. Look out for the native Rakali (water rats) in the creek as the trail takes you back to Lake Tuggeranong.
Café Stop – The Barracks, Tharwa
How To Get There
Pick a spot to start and go for it! There’s great parking at all pickup/drop off sites, with public transport readily available at most places.
Distance Covered / Time Taken / Elevation Gained
145km (we did about 155km total) / 30hr / 2,944m