When people visit Canberra, they often don't realise the elevation of the Capital City is 580 metres above sea level, which explains the cooler winters and warmer summers. Amongst the city and suburbs are also large hills, which are even higher and create recreational areas for walkers and exercise enthusiasts to run up each morning. Mount Arawang is one of these hills, positioned just 15 minutes south of the city in the areas Western Creek and Tuggeranong. It is part of the Cooleman Ridge Nature Reserve and sits at 765 metres above sea level. Although there isn't a road to the top, there is a direct walk up to the top to experience the view. If you are looking for a way to get fit, then this uphill walking trail offers a workout much better than any gym. Walkers and joggers enjoy the challenge of getting to the top and are rewarded with sweeping 360 views of the city, the Brindabella ranges and surrounding countryside.
Mount Arawang at Cooleman Ridge Nature Reserve - the start of a walking adventure
On a surprisingly cool Summer morning, I embarked on a walking adventure up Mount Arawang for the first time. The path up to the top is only estimated to take 45 minutes return, depending on where you start, so it was the perfect length of time before the sun would start to pierce down and the local snake population would start to wake up. Although there are many options of where to park the car along the ridge, I chose to park my car on Namatjira Drive in Chapman and take one of the most popular walking routes up to the summit. If you want to shorten your walk however, the closest parking area to the uphill walk is is at Lincoln Place in Chapman, which then comes out directly in front of the summit walk. For more details, see the Cooleman Ridge Nature Park map.
It was then time to pack the water, tighten the shoelaces and start exploring Mount Arawang and the Cooleman Ridge Nature Reserve - hopefully snake-free!
Starting point from Namatjira Drive, or for a closer entrance to the start of the walk, park your car at Lincoln Place, Chapman (the second red dot on the map). Original image from Google maps
Leaving from the Namatjira Drive carpark, just a short way into the walk there is a fork in the path which leads bike riders to the left and walkers to the right, following the blue and yellow icon of the Centenary Trail, which is a 140km walking loop of Canberra. This wide, red gravel path runs along the base of the hill and past the back of local homes and gardens, before slowly beginning to climb. After 5 minutes of walking, a small green bridge comes into view on the left with an arrow to send walkers up a set of steep wooden stairs. (This is where the Lincoln Place car parking area joins the path). The easy part is over - this is where walkers have to work for the view!
Follow the walking signs, then turn left at the green bridge...
At the top of stairs and narrow path there is a small path to the left with signage showing dog walkers are able to walk up it. This is the path to take. It is very easy to get side tracked by the many paths around the hill, but as long as you keep going up, you can't go too far off track.
Evidence of Canberra's dry, harsh summer is all around at this part of the route, with prickly brown grass and crispy leaves underfoot. As I continued to walk up the steps up to the top, I was distracted from my ever-increasing heart rate by a variety of bird calls and the sounds of wildlife in the bushland around me. Rosellas chirped my arrival from high branches and little finches with flashes of blue feathers hopped between small twigs on the lower bushes, closer to the ground. Lizards scattered away, birds hopped overhead and I was grateful once again for starting this walk early, to experience the wildlife in the cooler part of the day. After walking up more stairs, with more heart rate palpitations, the path opens through the tree line and the summit can be seen just up ahead. An unusual circular marker announces the top of Mount Arawang and then the view embraces you from every direction.
Stairs up to the summit, with birdlife along the way
If you walk up on a fine day, every fine detail of homes and city landmarks can be seen in clarity. On my walk, I was also fortunate to see the Captain Cook Memorial Jet, a fountain in Lake Burley Griffin that shoots water up 147 meters into the air, in all it glory the far distance. After admiring the view from this vantage point I then continued along the top of the ridge to the other end of the hill top to view the sweeping scenery south, towards Tuggeranong Town Centre, Brindabella mountain ranges and beyond.
The Captain Cook Memorial Jet seen in the far distance
There are a few options of returning back down the hill, including going back the way you came, taking a short cut from the summit on a treacherous rocky path down to the carpark or continue along the ridge and circle back to the start (the longer option). As I preferred to explore a different way going down, I followed a much more vertical and direct path from the marker (or Trig) back down the hill to where I had begun the walk, near the carpark. This narrow pathway has wooden steps down, however this route isn't recommended for people who may stumble easily or are not sure-footed. On my way down I startled two kangaroos, who also startled me in return, before they hopped away to safer ground. At the bottom of this narrow track it eventually meets up at the original track, over rocky outcrops and more unstable ground. Although the way back was certainly faster, there is a greater risk of an ankle turning or injury, so it is always a good idea to let someone know where you have gone before you leave. Brown snakes have also been sighted here, so keep that in mind when walking or jogging on the paths in warmer weather.
The walk only took me less than 45 minutes, however the intensity of walking uphill and then down was much better than any gym workout - and with much better views. I look forward to doing this walk again in different seasons and seeing snow on the Brindabella ranges and also walking up at sunrise, to experience the spectacular view under the light of a new day.
In Summer however, everywhere you look is an iconic Australian landscape painting, waiting to be painted.