Norton Summit is a favourite site for walkers, cyclists and families, particularly the Scenic Hotel founded in the 1870s. On any weekend, cyclists pause for sustenance and to compare distances and times at the hotel. Walkers heading to Horsnell Gully, Mt. Lofty or Morialta Conservation Park or returning after a walk mingle with the cyclists and families.
The hotel is directly opposite the Playford reserve where the statue of Thomas Playford IV, one of the longest serving Premiers of South Australia, overlooks the heart of Norton Summit. The town centre sits in the middle of an intersection worthy of a city location rather than a small town. From the balcony of the Scenic Hotel or the reserve, watching traffic navigate through the intersection of Colonial Drive, Norton Summit, Old Norton Summit, and Lobethal Roads can be an interesting diversion.
The Kookaburra views the traffic with amusement. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
The town is located 12km east of Adelaide, named after Robert Norton who made the first reported climb in the area in 1836, and has been the home of two former Premiers of South Australia, Thomas Playford II and Thomas Playford IV.
Following the Heysen and Yurrebilla Trails, the walk to Mount Lofty comprises a few challenging, steep inclines and a small section of road walking. Incorporating parts of the Reed Bed Ruins and Woods Hill Ridge Walks, walkers are rewarded with scenic views of Adelaide, historical ruins and often a koala or two along the way.
The 12km walk starts near the Summit Community Centre on Crescent Drive, which runs alongside Lobethal Road. Look out for on coming traffic as the trail continues along the edge of Lobethal Road for about 500 metres. The Heysen Trail sign on the right, leads the trail off road, following a dirt zigzag path uphill through the trees and grass. Looking back toward Norton Summit at this point provides impressive views.
Scenic views of Norton Summit. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
The trail continues on Woods Hill Road, then Ridge Road heading towards the Giles and Horsnell Gully Conservation Parks. Walking on the tree lined paths in the Giles Conservation Park, previously the eastern section of the Horsnell Gully Conservation Park, leads to the ruins the remains of a property including stables and shed.
Horsnell Gully, named after John Horsnell the coachman to Governor Gawler, was declared a conservation park in 1964. John Horsnell settled on 10 acres near Magill in 1842 after arriving in Adelaide in 1839. He established a market garden as well as an English cottage garden and a house constructed from local sandstone. In 1860 he built a new home for his wife and 14 children.
The trail continues on dirt tracks with loose rocks and some uphill sections through the bush land, along Coach Road following the Heysen Trail into the Cleland Conservation Park, meeting up with the Waterfall Gully-Mt Lofty track to the summit.
The moderately difficult up hill track crosses Mt Lofty Summit road before continuing up the steps to the steep last leg toward the Mt. Lofty Summit about 710 metres above sea level and 15km east of Adelaide.
The Steps to Mt Lofty Summit. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Mt Lofty, named by Matthew Flinders in 1802 during his circumnavigation of Australia, is the home of the obelisk now known as Flinders Column, built in 1885. Overlooking the summit, the obelisk, formerly a Trigonometrical Survey station was dedicated to Matthew Flinders in a ceremony in 1902 and again commemorated by the unveiling of a plaque by Governor Marjorie Jackson-Nelson in 2003.
The summit, with panoramic views of Adelaide is a popular place with walkers, cyclists and tourists. A public telescope and interpretive signs provide further insight into the Adelaide Hills area.
The new restaurant, cafe, information centre and gift shop stand proudly at the summit, rebuilt after the kiosk and restaurant were destroyed by the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983. The Mt Lofty Summit Information Centre is open daily from 9-5pm, excluding Christmas day. Toilets, including disabled facilities are available at the summit.Water bottles, which might be empty by the end of the walk, can be refilled at the fountain on the viewing platform near the gift shop.
For those who start the walk at the Mt Lofty Summit, public transport available to the summit from Grenfell Street to Crafers Interchange and then to Mt Lofty. Fees apply for car parking at Mt Lofty Summit.
The challenging walking trail combining the beauty of the bush, the hills and a diverse collection of vegetation, will take about 3 hours one way. Parking at car at each end might be advisable if the idea of completing the return walk is not feasible.