Red Hill Nature Park is located just 10 minutes south of the CBD, as part of the Canberra Nature Park. The central location of this reserve makes it popular with local dog walkers, with 360 degree views around the entire region from the top. There are two vantage points to enjoy the views - from Davidson Trig (750 metres above sea level) and Red Hill Lookout (720 metres).
On a personal note, I have been aiming to walk a Canberra Nature Park hill each week as a fitness challenge and also as a way to explore the natural beauty of the city. So far I have ticked off Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain, Mount Painter, Tuggeranong Hill and Urambi Hills, with many more to explore. I must admit, walking uphill isn't one of my favourite types of walks, however the steep inclines are a great way to get the heart pumping and the legs moving - and the reward at the top is worth the effort! Another enjoyable part of these walks is that they don't take long, with most taking less than an hour - this Red Hill Nature Park walk included.
Although there are various walking paths up to the top - see map here - I parked my car at the Red Hill carpark (opposite 67 Mugga Way) and layered myself up in thermals for the brisk, early morning walk. Although the temperature was only hovering above zero on my winter jaunt, I soon warmed up on the first uphill mission up to the summit...
When setting off along the walking path behind the sign, you soon realise how Red Hill got its name, with bright red dirt on the walking path creating a striking contrast against the green scrub. The first uphill section doesn't take too long to climb before you reach an intersection area (the "Saddle" on the map), with several forks in the path leading in different directions. On my walk, as I stood there looking lost, a lady who was jogging with her dog stopped to see if she could help. She then directed me up the left path (which was a steep red path upwards) for a 500 metre walk to the Davidson Trig, the official summit of the walk. She then suggested that I return back to that spot and then take the right path, which would lead me up to Red Hill Lookout, which has toilets, views and the scenic Little Brother cafe. This way, I would experience both hills within the Red Hill Nature Reserve, which was just what I wanted to do (thanks local lady!). See map below.
Map showing my route to the Davidson Trig first (1), before returning back the way I came then walking up to Red Hill Lookout (2)
The first uphill walk to Davidson Trig is steep and rocky underfoot, so ensure you wear sturdy footwear and watch your step. The muscles burning in your legs slowly start to disappear once the views to the east come into view, looking down over the Grammar School below and all the way to the airport and beyond. Also along this path, look out for rosellas that hop before you on the path and twist and flit amongst the scrub, creating a blur of colour. As you get higher, there are also views on the other side down to Woden, Canberra Hospital, Deakin and suburbs of the Inner South.
The walk from the car park to the Davidson Trig takes less than 20 minutes, making it an accessible hilltop walk for most fitness levels. I then returned the way I came and headed back down to rocky path to the intersection of paths at the Saddle. If, like me, you want to walk up to the Red Hill Lookout and Little Brother Cafe, keep walking straight across the intersection and then up the next hill. The path down and up are both treacherous with loose rocks, so watch your step along this section of the walk.
At the top of this next hill there is signage to read about the geology of the hill, with some rocks on the hill dating back 425 million years. Further along there is also a turnoff to the Lookout, which then leads onto a concrete loop path starting from the back of Little Brother cafe, which takes you around the Lookout, across the car park and then back to the start. From here you get a closer view of the cityscape and also the mobs of kangaroos on the hillside below.
If you want to explore futher, there is also a steep set of stairs from behind the cafe which goes down to another entrance to the reserve (on the corner of Mugga Way and Flinders Way). For myself however, I chose to return back the way I came, admiring the views and birdlife along the way. Red Hill Nature Park is a beautiful way to experience views of the city and if you time your walk with the cafe being open at the top, then you can also stop for a rest and a coffee halfway. Although the map and multiple paths made it confusing at first, it was easy to navigate after some exploration (and help from the locals!). I did notice however, that it is much noisier than some of the other Canberra Nature Park walks, with a steady background noise of lawn mowers, children at the local school and highway noise funnelling up the hill. Although the walk may not be silent, there is plenty of kangaroo life and birdlife - particularly rosellas - happily living in the reserve that you can see along the way.
With all this nature and scenic beauty less than 10 minutes from the city centre, it is the ideal city escape to explore this weekend.