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Published May 3rd 2017
An 5km return walk to the top of Black Mountain
Telstra Tower is a 195-metre high tower located on Black Mountain, overlooking the city of Canberra. Built in 1980, its primary purpose was for radio and television transmissions, however it is now a tourist attraction in its own right attracting on average of 430,000 visitors a year. There are indoor and outdoor viewing platforms to take in the 360-degree views and a small cafe inside, to enjoy a coffee or lunch.
If you are feeling energetic, there are also various walking trails to climb up Black Mountain to the base of Telstra Tower. One of the most popular places to start is from a track that begins at the substation on Frith Road in Acton, however if you are looking for a scenic walk through native bushland, then why not start your walk from inside the Australian National Botanical Gardens and hike the "Flower to Tower Walk". From the Visitor Centre at the gardens, it is a 5.4-kilometre return walk, taking just over an hour - depending on how fast you walk. The route takes you through various parts of the gardens, allowing you to admire the many native wildflowers along the way.
Enjoy the scenery and follow the signs on the Flower to Tower Walk
On my visit to walk the track, I first went to the Visitor Centre at the Australian National Botanical Gardens to get a map and ask for directions. The friendly staff at the Visitor Centre gave me multiple maps, however it was just as easy to follow their directions and the many clear signs around the gardens. From the Visitor Centre, you stay on the Main Path through the gardens and follow the signs for the Red Centre Garden. When you arrive, walk up the path to the left of the garden and follow the signs to the tower, which then takes you on a labyrinth of paths and bridges heading in all directions. Walking through the gardens takes just 10 minutes, however it is an enjoyable walk past a variety of Australian native gardens. A concrete path then leads you up to the gate to Black Mountain Reserve. This gate is open between 9:30am - 4:30pm, so keep this in mind when planning your walk.
Follow the red line up the summit. (Map provided by the Friends of Black Mountain)
Through the gate you enter into Black Mountain Reserve and join up with the Frith Road Trail and Summit Track (red on the map). Follow the signs through a large gate and continue on the uphill track. The path at this stage is dirt and rock, however when you reach the bottom of the uphill stage it has returned to concrete. The sign says it is 900 metres up, so keep your water bottle handy and start climbing...
On this uphill concrete path, the scribbly gums tower above and rosellas fly through the trees in a blur of bright red. If you look back, you can catch glimpses of the city through the trees. Although I walked this path in the cooler autumn months, if you walked this track in Summer, be aware of snake activity in the dry undergrowth and along the pathways.
On my walk up Black Mountain, I said "Good Morning" to several groups of seniors who had already been to the top and were now on their way down. I must admit that on this walk, I struggled. I am of average fitness - not fit by any means, but not unfit either - however I found the unrelenting uphill climb a battle, with no areas of flat path to recover. At each turn, there were more stairs or paths to climb, with views of the tower showing through the trees to the left. Although it didn't look far away, it was a fitness challenge to say the least. According to the map there is also the option of joining up with the Forest Trail (blue on the map) which is a 2km walk around the summit of the mountain. With my heartbeat pumping out of my chest, I decided not to detour and kept my eye on the prize at the top of the mountain.
The walk only took me 40 minutes, however I was stopping to take photos and drink water along the way. Just near the top, I took the turnoff to the Centenary Trail, which seemed to be the quickest last few metres up to the tower. At the top there is a small Lookout that used to have a view, however it has now grown over and there is little to see from this vantage point. For a spectacular view, pay the entry fee and take the lift up to the top of Telstra Tower to experience the full extent of this unique location - see article Telstra Tower Outdoor Viewing Platforms for more details. Seniors cost just $3.
Views from the indoor viewing platform, Telstra Tower
Walking back down took half an hour, with a more direct route back through the gardens, following the signs to the Visitors Centre. For people looking to get fit, this walk is a good one to add to your exercise program or it would be ideal for those who live close by, to walk daily and maintain a healthy fitness. During the Spring months, this walk would also be dotted with wildflowers throughout the gardens and growing wild in the reserve. Although I personally may not have enjoyed this walk as much as other Canberra walks (such as the Mount Ainslie Summit and Mount Arawang walk), it was still an enjoyable explore through a part of Canberra's bushland that I hadn't been to before.
If you are looking for a rest (or perhaps a reward!) at the end of your walk, then why not stop off at the newly opened Pollen cafe back near the Visitors Centre. Go on, after such a tough uphill climb, you deserve it!