Escape the city & unwind on this scenic short walk
The Cooleman Ridge Nature Trail begins in the Weston Creek suburb of Chapman, 15 minutes south of the CBD. It is a 2.7km loop through a small section of the Cooleman Ridge Nature Reserve, making it one of the shortest and easiest walking trails of the Canberra Nature Park network. The walk also includes a scenic view from the top of Cooleman Trig, a hill which sits at 727 metres above sea level. Although it isn't as steep or as long as some of the other Canberra Nature Park walking trails, it is an enjoyable amble with peaceful rural views and two steep uphill sections - guaranteed to get the heart pumping.
To begin the walk, park your car at the entrance to the Cooleman Ridge Nature Reserve at the end of Kathner Street and walk towards the large sign (below). After walking through the gate behind, you will see on the right a small box containing brochures for the walk. When you read the brochure and map, the walking loop starts on the right hand path and continues up the back of the ridge first, before reaching the Trig at the summit. Many people on the trail however, were beginning their walk in reverse, so as long as you grab a brochure and follow the path in either direction you can't get too lost.
Relax and unwind on the Cooleman Ridge Nature Trail
I decided to take the path straight ahead (the map in reverse), to take the most direct route up to Cooleman Trig first. On the path straight ahead there is a sign which warns of the steep the hill to come, which is the first fitness challenge of this walk. When you get to the top however, the wide path flattens out and you get to see the picturesque views all the way across the southern suburbs of Canberra to the city in the distance. The path is perched up high on a ridge so you have a long, uninterrupted view over to Telstra Tower in the far distance, as well as over to the rural farmland to the west. It is an easy flat walk along this ridge, enjoying the views and variety of native bird calls along the way.
Grab a brochure and then begin the uphill walk to the ridge
After walking along the path for several minutes, the uphill staircase up to Cooleman Trig comes into view on the right hand side. At the entrance there is another box of brochures for those who have joined the walk along the ridge. For walkers interested in the natural attractions in the area, the brochure refers to markers along the trail pointing out native trees, birdlife, flora and types of rock in the area. It is supplied by the Cooleman Ridge Park Care Group, see here for more details of the reserve.
If you are wanting to extend this walk further, stay on the track and continue to Mount Arawang, further along the Cooleman Ridge Nature Reserve. If you are going up however, the staircase up to the summit of Cooleman Trig isn't far and you can see the summit from the bottom of the stairs. It may not be far, but it will make you work for the view!
The views from Cooleman Trig may not have the 360 degree views like other Canberra hilltops (such as Mount Arawang further along the reserve), however it is an enjoyable place to rest and look around in most directions. When following the map and brochure, the path then continues on through a brown gate, which you need to bend down and climb through. On the other side there is a narrow winding path down the hill in long grass, so I wouldn't recommend this section of the walk in the summer months, due to snake activity.
When I was walking down on this narrow pathway to the T-Junction in the path, two women on horseback came along the main path, saying "hello" as they went by. This main path is part of the Bicentennial Equestrian Trail and looking down onto the rural properties at the bottom of the hill, with horses in every paddock, I imagine it is a well-used path for local horse owners.
From the Trig, turn around and climb through the brown fence, down the path and turn RIGHT onto the Equestrian Trail
After turning right onto the Equestrian Trail, the path meanders along a farming fence line, with spectacular views to the Brindabella Mountain ranges and Tidbinbilla on the left. Although the scenery is stunning, keep checking the brochure for points of interest and also look for the numbered markers to tell you where to look. As the pathway is quite remote, it is always comforting to see a Nature Trail marker to know that you are still on the right path. As the nature trail heads back in the direction of the start of the walk, the path starts to twist and turn down the ridge and the mountain view opens up in a 180 degree view before you.
Stay on the main path and look for the markers - and the view
Stay on this main path all the way to the bottom, then turn right in the direction of the carpark and it will take you all the way back to the start. On my walk, I felt fairly isolated walking along the back ridge, however I met a few couples along the way enjoying the view, many of them with binoculars. This side of the nature trail is remote, peaceful and naturally spectacular.
The Cooleman Ridge Nature Trail is an ideal way to de-stress after a busy week, or if the woes of city life are weighing heavy on your mind. It is the same for any Canberra Nature Park around the city - if you strap on your walking shoes and breathe in some fresh country air, you will soon find yourself refreshed, centred and appreciative of the unique and rural city that we live in. They are the perfect country escape, in our own backyard.