18 May 2018

Canberra Day Trips: Take an exhilarating drive on the Snowy Mountains Highway

| Canberra Day Trips
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Snowy Mountains Highway, Kosciuszko National Park. Photo: NSW National Parks.

Breathtaking scenery awaits you as the Snowy Mountains Highway wends its way along the scenic, high altitude driving route through Australia’s high country. The beautiful winding mountain drive is full of sharp curves, blind corners and hairpin turns, but the views are some of the best you’ll find in the region.

The Snowy Mountains Highway connects the Princes Highway at the NSW South Coast to the Hume Highway, via Cooma, making a path across the high country of the Snowies and the Monaro Region.

Adaminaby in the snow #adaminabynsw #snowymonaroregion

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We focused on the section of the road between Gundagai and Cooma on this day trip.

Why you’ll love it

  • The scenery is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and the area is an Instagrammer’s dream;
  • There’s plenty to do and see if you stop for a break – caves, trails to hike, spots to go biking and barbecue areas;
  • The highway is the access road into northern Kosciuszko National Park and the many activities this region of NSW offers;
  • You’ll often see interesting wildlife like brumbies on the high plains, emus and black cockatoos to name just a few;
  • There are some terrific, short historical walks like the Kiandra Heritage Track, or longer strolls to scenic lookouts, such as Landers Falls lookout;
  • Jobname Dam and Blowering Dam offer spectacular sights; and
  • Yarrangobilly Caves and the thermal pool nearby are awesome and can be a day trip all on their own.

Getting there

Start the scenic driving loop from Canberra. Option 1 is to head to Gundagai via the Barton and Hume Highways before picking up the Snowy Mountains Highway and completing the circuit back to Canberra via Cooma and the Monaro Highway. Or do the trip can be done in reverse, heading to Cooma first and returning via Gundagai.

The road is mostly a two-lane undivided rural highway. The roads are sealed and carry little traffic most of the time. In the winter months, the road is often subject to snow and frost, and it is advisable that chains are carried. The high-altitude sections of the drive have yellow lane markings and red reflector posts.

When to go

If enjoying the splendid scenery is the focus of your trip, then spring, summer and autumn are the best times to enjoy the drive. In winter, conditions can be extreme and change rapidly and can present safety issues if you’re not prepared.

Key details

  • Length: the drive from Gundagai to Cooma on this section of the Snowy Mountains Highway is around 240km one way.
  • Duration: approximately five hours from Gundagai to Cooma, plus time to get to either starting point.
  • Distance from Canberra: Gundagai is just under 150km from Canberra, and Canberra to Cooma is around 115km.
  • Recommended for: enthusiastic drivers who don’t mind the challenge of hilly and steep terrain, anyone who enjoys national parks and spectacular scenery, and those who prefer the great outdoors with few others around.
  • More information: Snowy Mountains Highway.

SPOTTED: Good dog, very obedient, has been sitting for 85 years

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If you’ve driven the Snowy Mountains Highway, do you have any tips for other visitors? Which section of the highway do you think is the most interesting?

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