Gibraltar Peak is located within Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, 45 minutes south of Canberra's city centre. The reserve is a popular attraction for nature lovers, with a variety of native animals and a long list of walking trails to explore. One of the most popular walks in the reserve is an 8.2 kilometre bushwalk to the top of Gibraltar Peak, to take in the sweeping 180 degree views of the region. This bushwalk is rated as "Hard" as the last part of the walk is a steep ascent up to the summit, which sits at 1038 metres above sea level. Although it is a long walk up, most of the walk is a gradual incline on a well-marked path, with a variety of signage and wildlife to see along the way. It is only the last section of the walk where it starts to test your fitness, determination and patience, to get to the very top. All that disappears however, once the view is revealed.
Start from Dalsatta car park and cross the road to begin your walk up to the peak
To start the walk, you need to stop at the Visitor Centre to buy an entry pass to the reserve, which costs $12 per car for the day. The Visitor Centre is open between 9am - 5pm daily, however if you want to start your walk earlier, you can also buy an annual pass beforehand for $35 and enter the nature reserve at 7:30am all year around. Once you drive in, it is just a 5 minute drive to the Dalsetta car park to start the most popular route up to the peak. Alternatively, if you enjoy a longer walk, there is also a 13 kilometre walk from the Visitor Centre.
On a personal note, this walk has been on my list of New Year's Resolutions since January, so it has been in my sub-conscious for the last few months waiting to be tackled. Finally, on a perfect autumn morning, I left Canberra early to begin my challenging uphill adventure. See below for my Top 5 Tips for hiking up to the peak, however if you have more suggestions, please leave a comment at the bottom of this article. It is one of the most popular bushwalks and scenic attractions in Canberra for a reason - you just have to get there first!
The walk begins as an easy amble over grasslands, past kangaroos and up a well-trodden path through the bushland. As you get higher, there are numerous uneven, granite steps to climb, so a good grip on your shoes is imperative - especially at one section where you have to pull yourself up a rock with a hand rail. It is also important to have good grip on your shoes at the peak itself, as there are no guard rails along the edge and it is a very long way down! Good grip is also handy on the way down, as the path is made up of small, crushed granite which is easy to slip and skid on - which I did a few times.
Even the most experienced bushwalker can get in trouble on a bushwalk - it is easy to turn an ankle, fall over or have a health episode that you weren't expecting. At the start of the walk there is a register to fill out with your name, mobile, car number plate, how many people in your walking party and what time you left. Hopefully these details will never be needed, but it is comforting to know that your whereabouts has been recorded. Ensure you fill in your return time at the end of your walk.
Approximately 500 metres from the start of the walk, there is a small brown sign which tells you to turn left off the path to Gibraltar Peak. If you miss the sign and continue on up the grassy hill, you can explore the Xanthorreahoa Loop, however you will still need to walk back down again to take the turn off to the peak.
If you want to make the most of this walk and appreciate the indigenous significance of the land that you are walking on, stop and read the signage along the path which explains the native flora, fauna, rock formations and history of this sacred site, which was used by the Ngunnawal people for cultural lore. As the signage indicates, walk through this site with the same respect you would give a church, mosque, temple or synagogue.
The walk up to the summit takes approximately 1 - 1.5 hours, depending on how many times you stop for water, take photos or have a rest to let your heartbeat slow down. When you do arrive at the summit, stay there awhile and soak up the feeling of being on top of the world, or so it seems. After so much uphill walking, sweat and effort, it is so rewarding to simply sit and appreciate the views in all directions. On my visit there were people sitting up the top with small eskies with cheese and biscuits, picnics and even a group of friends with a small gas cooker making coffee!
Tip 5: General Safety and Fitness
As with all bushwalks, it is important to take plenty of water, keep an eye on the weather forecast, tell someone where you are going and to also take a snake bite/ first aid kit for emergencies. Also be aware that there is no phone reception in the reserve and when you get to the top there are no guard rails, so please be careful when taking photos and when walking with children.
As the walk gets harder the higher you walk, a good level of fitness is ideal to make it more enjoyable. As I was walking down from the summit, I gave encouragement to a young woman on the way up, who looked just as hot and exhausted as I had been. She looked up and said "I thought I was pretty fit before I did this walk - gosh I was wrong!" - which were my thoughts exactly!
An enjoyable uphill zig-zag walk, before becoming steeper and rockier near the peak
If you love a good bushwalk and are looking for an adventure this weekend, why not take a hike up to the top of Gibraltar Peak? I personally am looking forward to doing it again with friends and to take a hot thermos and decadent picnic as a reward at the top. Canberra bushwalkers certainly know how to do it in style!