Mount Taylor is a prominent hill (856 metres in elevation), located in the southern Canberra suburb of Kambah. It is part of the Canberra Nature Park series of reserves around the city, with 33 to explore. Each has walking trails through the reserves and up some of Canberra's highest hills. Although Mount Ainslie would have to be the most popular hilltop walking trail in Canberra, Mount Taylor comes in an easy second, with hundreds of cars lining the road at the start of the walk each weekend. There are several entry points to walk up the hill (see map here), however the most popular entrance is on the corner of Sulwood Drive and Mannheim Street in Kambah, with a gravel path that leads up to the entrance gate. If you have a pooch, dogs on a leash are allowed on the walking trails if you pick up after them. There is even a large doggie water bowl at the top, provided by a thoughtful, dog-loving local (see photo below).
Feeling energetic? You will need to be to tackle this strenuous - and scenic - uphill challenge!
"Uphill" is the only way to describe this walk, as it pulls no punches and takes a direct route up to the top of the hill. There is a short section of respite about three-quarters of the way up the hill before it returns to uphill again. Whilst walking up Mount Taylor, I could only compare it to how I felt when I walked up Mount Ainslie - beetroot red in the face and sweating profusely! If you want to get fit, then join the locals and walk up Mount Taylor every week, to build up your stamina and endurance. It is better than any gym.
The surface of the walk varies between dirt, concrete, stairs and more dirt - however, it is a fairly good track to walk. Firstly, however, just take the walk in stages and aim for the informative sign at the start of the walk as your first stop. Even if you aren't interested in what it says, it is a good excuse to rest and have some water before the steep part begins!
Walking up to the information sign at the start of the walk...
The path then winds up the side of the hill and flattens out along a ridgeline. This gives you the opportunity to catch your breath and start to appreciate the views that are starting to show on the left. Along the path there are two benches positioned at scenic locations, to take in the views and recover before the next stage.
As you walk up, you may see people walking back down, smiling at you as they walk by. It is a very friendly walk with people saying "Good Morning" and "It's worth it at the top", which keeps you motivated. The walk flattens out for a short while and then comes to two series of stairs, which ramp up the heart rate, and then eventually reaches a clearing and the path turns to concrete. From here you can see the communications tower at the top of the clearing and then it is just one last, hard slog up to the top. From this tower, you can pause for awhile and walk over to enjoy the 180-degree views of Tuggeranong and the Brindabella mountain ranges beyond.
To get to this point took me 30 minutes, however, there is still some more walking to do - over a small hill and up to the Trig that sits at the top of each hill around Canberra. This is the official summit of the hill and a place to celebrate, wander around the grassy summit and marvel at the spectacular views in all directions. When you stand at the Trig it is one of the best views of Canberra that you will ever see - looking across to Telstra Tower in the far distance and all over the region. Even though you will have just got your breath back after the uphill climb, this view will literally take your breath away all over again.
The Trig, the best place to sit and enjoy the views
From the top, there are two other paths down the hill that you can take if you want to explore further (see map here), but for most people, it is a walk back down the way you came, watching your footing and looking at the views at the same time. It is much easier going down, but it is still hard work, using different muscles and putting pressure on your knees and ankles.
Mount Taylor is a challenge - and that is why it is so popular. The friendly locals who walked alongside me on the walk worked hard, sweated a lot, but did it for their own reasons - fitness, health, fresh air or the views from the top. I did it for all those reasons. As I was walking up, with my heart pounding like drum, I never thought that I would want to do it again - but I was wrong. Just like the hundreds of people who walk up Mount Taylor each weekend, I'm now hooked on the feeling that you get when you reach the top - and I can't wait to do it all over again next weekend!
Why don't you take the Mount Taylor challenge and try it for yourself?