New to Canberra, I love exploring this city and the secrets that it holds with my family.
Published February 20th 2017
A half hour scenic walk with BBQ's, views & sky high trees
The National Arboretum is a 250 hectare property located just 10 minutes from Canberra's CBD. The property has 94 forests of threatened species of trees dotted all over its undulating hills and a picturesque Village Centre at the very top, to enjoy the views of the city and forest plantations below. Many of the trees are still small, as they were planted after the devastating 2003 Canberra bushfires swept through the property and cleared the commercial forests that previously covered the hills. The bushfires are still fresh in the minds of many Canberrans today, as the unstoppable firestorm headed towards the city, destroying 500 homes in its path and killing 4 people. After the disaster, the ACT Government bought the property and established the National Arboretum that we see today.
Two of the previous forests survived the bushfires - the Himalayan Cedar Forest (planted between 1917 - 1930) and the Cork Oak Forest (planted between 1917 - 1920) below it. These impressive, sky-high forests have a series of short walking trails running through them, to take advantage of the shady, scenic areas of the property. To get to the carpark of the Himalayan Cedar Forest to begin the walk, drive along the main Forest Drive and turn right half way up the hill at the turnoff. The short walk between two forests may look easy going down the hill - however going down also means coming back up afterwards...which definitely isn't easy!
The majestic beauty of the Himalayan Cedar and Oak Forests
At the Himalayan Cedar Forest carpark there are spectacular views across to Telstra Tower and on my visit at 9:30am, the Captain Cook Memorial Jet was spraying water high up into the air on Lake Burley Griffin. At the top there are automated toilet facilities and a winding gravel path with wheelchair access, all the way down to the Himalayan Cedar BBQ area. This secluded spot, just a short distance into the forest, is a stunning area to stop for awhile and take in the scenery from the viewing platform and picnic tables. Our family discovered the Himalayan Cedar Forest BBQ area a year or so ago and have been here several times since, to enjoy the cool shade in the Summer months and have a quiet lunch amongst the trees.
Himalayan Cedar Forest BBQ area, Telstra Tower and the Captain Cook Memorial Jet in the distance
After this short and easy walk downhill, it is then time to find the Cork Oaks trail, however it isn't the easiest trail to find. There is a small marker and a narrow dirt path which takes you down to the forest and then a steeper, uneven walk down to the bottom. This walk is quite short, so it is ideal for families who are just looking for a short bushwalk or scenic explore through the forests without too much effort. When the trees open up and the 180 degree view below is revealed, it is worth the rocky walk down and the uphill walk to come.
Look out for this sign and narrow trail to the Cork Oak Forest, just a short walk from the Himalayan Cedar Forest BBQ area
The path then meanders past a magnolia plantation and then onto a wide gravel road within the property, which leads back to the main Forest Drive. At this point you can return the way you came, or turn right at Forest Drive and walk up the hill before taking the right hand turnoff back to the carpark. The road is steep, however if you are happy to fit in some uphill exercise into your walk, then this 10 minute roadside walk is particularly scenic, taking in the sweeping views below.
The road to the carpark is another hill and when you almost reach the top, there is a small bridge on the right which leads up to the Wide Brown Land sculpture, created by Marcus Tatton, Futago Design Studios and Chris Viney in 2010. This sculpture was inspired by the poem 'My Country', written by Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar and her own hand writing is represented in the sculpture. This 35 metre long and 3 metre high sculpture is worth the uphill climb as you can walk along its length and admire the scale and beauty of the steel sculpture, as well as the views over to the Village Centre and Pod Playground. Stay awhile and rest your legs and then it is just a short walk back to the carpark from here.
More uphill walking, then turn right at the bridge up to the 'Wide Brown Land' sculpture
This walk is short, as it only took me half an hour and I was also stopping to take photo's and admire the views. Although it was quick, the walk through the forests was picturesque and the extended uphill walk back up to the carpark had my legs working hard. If you do this walk on a chilly morning, like I did, it is at least a few degrees cooler under the shade of the forest canopy on the way down, however you soon warm up on the way back when it becomes more strenuous. This is the route that I chose to walk, however see the National Arboretum website for more details and more walks on the property.
When I was walking through the forests and stopping to admire the decades-old trees, I couldn't help but think back to when they were planted in the early 1900's and how the city of Canberra, below them, has changed. In the time they have grown, the city has grown equally as fast. When walking through the trees, there is almost a magical quality about the forests as the top branches sway and whisper together in the wind. If only we could understand what they were saying - and see what they have seen.
Forest magic, scenic views and walking trails at the National Arboretum
Why? Explore the forests on this walk, or discover your own way!
When:The Arboretum grounds are open from 6 am to 8:30 pm seven days a week during Daylight Savings Time and from 7 am to 5:30 pm seven days a week during Eastern Standard Time (Non-Daylight Savings Time).