Mount Painter is a large grassy hill situated just a short drive north of Canberra, in the residential suburb of Cook. It sits at 732 metres above sea level, with a walking trail up to the top to experience 360-degree views of the surrounding region. Although it may not be as high as Mount Majura (890 metres), Mount Arawang (765 metres), Mount Ainslie (842 metres), Black Mountain (812 metres), or Red Hill (750 metres), a walk to the top of this large hill offers something uniquely different.
Mount Painter was initially cleared in the 1870's and was utilised for sheep and cattle grazing until it became part of the Canberra Nature Park in 1996. Due to its grazing history, the hill is often described as being "bald" - and that is exactly what it looks like. Devoid of any bushland or scrub, the hill makes for an impressive view once you get to the top, as there are no trees to look past or forests to look around. Its "bald" nature is also advantageous for people who walk alone, as you can see other joggers or walkers coming towards you, well in advance. Another positive attribute of this small hill is that it doesn't take long to get up to the top. It takes approximately 20 minutes to get up and 15 minutes to walk down, stopping to admire the view along the way. It has a gradual incline that is attainable for most fitness levels and when you get near the top, you aren't thinking about your tired legs - just the view!
Mount Painter has several paths leading up to the top from various locations around the bottom (see map here). The easiest starting point is from the pathway next to the house of 20 Booth Crescent, Cook. After parking your car along this suburban street, walk up the concrete path in between No. 20 and 22 Booth Crescent and you will find one entrance to the walk, meeting up with the Bicentennial Trail. Once you get to the top of the path, turn right and start walking up the wide, dirt pathway. As you progress up the hill and around a bend, you see two large water towers on the right of the path. Keep following the path and after a short distance, the tree line thins out and you get the first opportunity to have a look at the magnificent view below.
Looking back to the water towers from the top of the path...
After stopping at this first lookout, keep walking up past a gate and a sign explaining the regeneration work on the hill, to build up the bushland and stabilise the area. After years of farming and drought, it is hoped that new plants and shrubs planted on the hillsides will prevent further erosion and gullies forming down the inclines. Since the year 2000, over 6000 native trees and shrubs have been planted on Mount Painter by the Friends of Mount Painter.
Start walking up through the gate up another small hill...
After another short hill, this is where the open terrain presents itself and the wide expanse of scenery in all directions takes your breath away. From here you can see all the way to Mount Stromlo and Western Creek in the south, the forestry regions to the west and then on the other side of the ridge, the view over to Telstra Tower and Lake Burley Griffin. Take the short downhill detour to read the signage overlooking the view out to the west. Although the view takes your attention, it is also interesting to read the signage explaining the farming history of the hill, future regeneration and scenery landmarks.
From here there is just one last uphill walk to the top of Mount Painter, where you will be rewarded for your efforts with views in every direction. If you are going on this walk for exercise, don't expect to get the heart-rate pumping as you will be stopping too many times to take in the scenery. When you get to the top and the obelisk, take a look back the way you came to see stunning views to Lake Ginninderra and the Belconnen Town Centre.
Continue walking and read the signage and look across to the forests of the National Arboretum and the city surrounding the glittering Lake Burley Griffin. View the newly formed estates and construction of Denman Prospect in Western Creek. The signage at this lookout explains the impact of bushfire on the region and the aboriginal heritage of the land. Allow some time here to simply just stand at this point and literally look around 360 degrees.
Just when you think you have made it to the top, on the other side of the peak is a short walk down to another small lookout area, which is equally as stunning. On my visit I was lucky enough to have this whole mountain to myself once I reached the top, however I met a few groups of friendly dog walkers, runners and hikers on the way up, making it a comfortable place to walk with locals also utilising the pathways.
After enjoying the view of the entire surrounding region from the top of Mount Painter, it is a little disappointing to walk down after such an uplifting experience. Although I have enjoyed all my walks around Canberra's hilltops, this has been my favourite so far in terms of view. The walk itself isn't long (unless you begin at William Hovell Drive or another path), however the view has been the most memorable. It is also a walk that I look forward taking friends, family and our young daughter on, as it can be walked at their own pace - with perhaps still a piggy-back ride required for our daughter.
If you live on the north side of Canberra, then this is a "must-do" for any local. For those who live on the south side, it is just a scenic 20 minute drive up the Tuggeranong Parkway. Although this "bald" looking hill doesn't look like an inspiring walk - it will exceed your expectations and more. It may be small on elevation, but it is big on views.
With such big views of the entire region, the "panoramic" setting on your camera is definitely required!