Whether you’re keen on an afternoon of exploration, a dose of nature over the weekend, or plan to stay a little longer, Canberra’s national parks are close to the city and packed with adventure.

Highlights:

 

We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the lands of the Ngunnawal people who have occupied and cared for these lands and waters for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Also Read: Best Places To Cool Off in Canberra

 

 

Standing on Ngunnawal Country

Gaze into the distance from the Canberra CBD, in any direction, and it’s not long before the mind begins to wander. The opportunity for a post-coffee or pre-dinner venture into the mountains might not be so distant after all. 

Only a stone’s throw from the city, you’ll feel an instant sense of calm as the scenery changes, and you head towards the mountains into Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Here you’ll find an abundance of rugged terrain and gentle forest walks waiting, as they always have been.

 

Hospital Hill Lookout, Where to Hike & Camp in Canberra’s Natural Spaces, photo by Tim Clark, Visit Canberra, Namadgi National Park, ACT

Gaze out over Namadgi National Park from Hospital Hill Lookout

 

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

The name Tidbinbilla comes from the Ngunnawal word ‘Jedbinbilla’ which means ‘a place where boys become men’. Very fitting as Ngunnawal men have a special connection to the valley and its use for ceremonies and passing on of traditional customary men’s law. 

This nature reserve is an important historical place to the Ngunnawal people, the Traditional Custodians of the Canberra region who’ve lived and gathered in the valley and its surrounds for thousands of years. There are even rock shelters used in the Tidbinbilla Valley that date as far back as the Ice Age, woah.

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is an easy 45-minute drive southwest from Canberra’s centre and is surrounded by the stunning Namadgi National Park. It’s a perfect day trip and the drive out is pretty great too!

 

Hikes in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Whether you like a slow-paced mosey or a full blown hike, you’ll find something you like in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. We’ve chosen some of our favourites, but there are 22 hikes on offer!

 

Cascade Trail

Distance: 1.8km
Duration: 1 hour

The Cascade Trail is an easy walk through wet forest to meet a cascading mountain stream. If you’re there after some rain like I was, this stream becomes a full-on waterfall and is a great opportunity to pull out the rain jackets and get wet.

Xanthorrhoea Loop

Distance: 2.5km
Duration: 45 mins

To start slow, check out the Xanthorrhoea Loop, a moderate 2.5km return (45 mins) walk that climbs to an impressive bunch of grass trees. 

 

Gibraltar Peak

Distance: 8.2km
Duration: 3-4 hours

If you want a bit more of a challenge, Gibraltar Peak might be up your alley. Starting from Dalsetta, this is an 8.2km return moderate hike that passes through grasslands on a relatively flat track before a tough climb to Eliza Saddle. 

At the summit you can take in the sweeping 180 degree views over the Canberra region – try to spot some iconic landmarks and admire the huge granite rocks that surround you. Please respect the area and don’t touch the rocks, as they’re part of a significant Aboriginal men’s site.

This is a great spot to reward yourself for the hard slog with a hot cup of tea from the thermos and a good old-fashioned packed lunch. 

With some of the best views in town, I’m not surprised this is one of Canberra’s most popular hikes! Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is bursting with hikes, so there’s always somewhere new to check out.

Basecamp

If you do choose an overnighter, Woods Reserve campground is a great spot to camp with friends. 

For those who want a rustic wilderness experience, Nil Desperandum is an old homestead with heritage charm and basic facilities that offers a sense of remoteness we all crave sometimes. 

Remember to pack all your own food and drink and make use of the fire pits, BBQs, and picnic tables scattered throughout the nature reserve.

 

Namadgi National Park

Namadgi National Park is also around a 45-minute drive southwest from Canberra’s centre and borders the nearby Kosciuszko National Park. Namadgi is so huge and wondrous, it covers nearly 50% of the ACT’s land area!

Unfortunately in the devastating early 2020 bushfires, over 80% of the park was burnt then shortly after, it was hit again by damaging floods. Despite adversity, Namadgi National Park is resilient and recovering strongly with an abundance of native wildlife and the regeneration of the natural environment. Pretty incredible really. 

With its strong connection to Aboriginal culture and heritage, Namadgi is home to several cultural sites which offer a great chance to immerse yourself in the region’s natural history.

 

Hike in Namadgi National Park

Like Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Namadgi National Park has a range of great hikes to satisfy the explorer in all of us. 

 

Settlers Track

Distance: 6km or 9km
Duration: 3.5-5 hours

For a trip back in time, check out Settlers Track which has a short 6km option or long 9km option and will take you past historic huts (once ramshackle but now perfectly restored) and stunning native bushland. At the start of the track, take a look inside Brayshaws Hut which will give you a glimpse into life in the early 1900s. There are some steep hill sections but overall this track is suitable for everyone. 

 

Brayshaws Hut, Where to Hike & Camp in Canberra’s Natural Spaces, photo by Tim Clark, Visit Canberra, Namadgi National Park, ACT

Rustic charm oozes out of Brayshaws Hut

Square Rock

Distance: 10km
Duration: 3.5 hours

If you’re looking for the perfect half-day hike with a rewarding view at the end, Square Rock is ideal and showcases some of the best scenery Namadgi has to offer. Taking you past forests of mixed eucalypts, impressive granite boulders and amazing views of the wilderness, this walk is around 10km return on a relatively flat track with some steep inclines (gotta keep it interesting right?). 

Take in the beautiful array of native Snow Gums and Alpine Ash and if you go in spring or summer, you’ll be sure to see the wildflowers sitting pretty. Once you reach Square Rock, you can climb a small metal ladder up onto the gigantic granite boulders to take in the expansive view over the surrounding mountains and Orroral Valley.

Watch out for that clumsy mate though, the cliffs are pretty intense and you wouldn’t want anyone too close to the edge!

Booroomba Rocks

Distance: 2.5km
Duration: 1.5 hours

Tight on time? Or are you the friend who can’t handle the lengthy walks? Never fear, Booroomba Rocks is here and it’s no wonder it’s one of the more well-known and well-loved bushwalks in Canberra. This hike is a short 2.5km return and winds its way upwards at a steady but sometimes steep incline through a forest of native trees. 

Reward is waiting for you at the top with some of the best views of Canberra city through the Brindabella Ranges. Pick one of the huge boulders to perch yourself and take it all in (with snacks, of course). Inhale, exhale.

Despite fire damage, it’s pretty spectacular and the regeneration of native plants reminds you of how resilient the Australian bush is.

Basecamp

If you’re wanting to stay overnight, check out Honeysuckle Campground (close to Booroomba Rocks for those seeking a sunrise or sunset hike) or Gudgenby Ready-Cut Cottage for a cosy cottage to base yourself out of.

 

Closer to Canberra

Seeking something closer to town? There’s a few golden spots that are definitely worth a visit. 

 

Kambah Pools & Red Rock Gorge

First on the list are Kambah Pools and Red Rock Gorge, only a 20 minute drive south of the city. Kambah Pools is a hit with the locals and is known for being a nudie swimming spot in the summertime. 

Red Rock Gorge is the perfect Sunday afternoon hike and only a bit over 2km through flat grassland before you reach the track down to the gorge nestled on the Murrumbidgee River. The gorge itself is the result of millions of years of erosion from the flowing river and looks pretty spectacular with morning or afternoon light shining on it.

 

Red Rock Gorge, Where to Hike & Camp in Canberra’s Natural Spaces, photo by Tim Clark, Visit Canberra, ACT

The striking walls of Red Rock Gorge

 

Dhawura Tour

To truly appreciate Canberra, its Aboriginal culture and its unique natural spaces, book a Dhawura Tour with an experienced Aboriginal guide. A half or full-day tour will help you switch off from modern life, centre yourself with the land and learn about the local Ngunnawal culture. Bring a group of friends and try your hand at traditional weaving or a bush tucker cooking class.

 

Capital Brewing

A road trip to the capital wouldn’t be complete without dropping in for a good-natured brew at Capital Brewery in Fyshwick’s industrial area. Sit back and enjoy the relaxed vibe in the expansive warehouse with 12 brewery taps to choose from. 

Bring a crowd and pair a cold beer with a delicious burger from Canberran phenomenon Brodburger, the city’s favourite food truck. This is the perfect place for afternoon sessions in the sun and don’t forget to stock up the bar fridge at home with your new favourite drop.

Canberra is so much more than the nation’s capital. Grab a few mates, take advantage of the natural wonderland at your fingertips, and get exploring. It’d be rude not to.