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Take a hike: to the National Arboretum!

By Fiona Grimmer - 3 March 2016 27

As I’ve recently moved to the lovely Molonglo Valley I thought I’d profile a local walk this week. With so much development already completed and much more planned for Denman Prospect and beyond, Molonglo Valley is fast becoming one of the most sought-after locations in Canberra. I hope readers will find this walk just as easily accessible as I did.

One of my favourite things about living in this beautiful area is the many picturesque walks right on my doorstop. Another of the great things about Molonglo Valley, is its close proximity to the National Arboretum – one of my absolute favourite places in Canberra. The National Arboretum was created after the area was destroyed in the tragic bushfires of January 2003. The site has been planted on since 2005 and includes a number of ceremonial trees planted by visiting heads of government and ambassadors. It was officially opened in February 2013 and there are now 44,000 trees from over 100 countries growing across the huge 250-hectare (618 acre) site, making it one of the world’s largest living collections of rare, endangered and significant trees.

My journey to the Arboretum starts from the north-east corner of Coombs where Harold White Avenue trails off to a gravel road leading down towards the Molonglo River. There are a couple of bridges in the area crossing the river into the pine forest, however the bridge at the end of Harold White Ave is my preferred route as it’s river crossing is quite pretty and conveniently it leads directly on to the Bicentennial National Trail.

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In the pine forest that separates the quiet suburbs from the Arboretum there are many tracks to follow. They criss-cross one another, meet up and often merge into one track, as long as you continue heading in a north-east direction you’ll end up at the border of the Arboretum grounds. It’s a fairly easy walk through the pines with no real hills to speak of (don’t worry, that part comes later!)

Once you emerge from the forest, and after following a dirt track for a few kilometres, you’ll come to the Arboretum border. This is marked by fencing and a signpost directing you either up Boundary Rd or along Totara Rd. Take the low road and it follow along into the heart of the Arboretum.

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When you come to a fork in this road, keep left – here comes the hill part I warned about earlier. Forest Drive leads all the way up and around to the peak of Dairy Farmers Hill. I’m not going to sugar coat it – it’s long and steep but I can assure you it’s well worth the effort. You can also drive the same road, so make sure you keep an eye out for cars. While you may have to endure strange looks from the people inside their comfortable, air-conditioned cars, I think a view always looks 100 times better if you’ve had to sweat a little and earn it.

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At the top, there are a number of platforms which give you incredible views far and wide across Canberra and beyond. Right at the peak of the hill is a striking metal sculpture created by Richard Moffatt in 2007. Made from mostly abandoned farm machinery, Nest III shows an Australian wedge-tailed eagle perched atop his nest, looking out across the stunning horizon. I am a little jealous of his home, he has one of the best views in Canberra.

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Quick facts:

Walking distance: 6.5km

Walking time: approx. 1.5 hrs

Walking grade: Easy but with a big finish – save some strength!

How to get there:

Once on Cotter Road in Coombs take a turn down Harold White Ave and follow it all the way to the end. You can park in the gravel area and make your way down towards the river crossing from there.

What’s Your opinion?


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27 Responses to
Take a hike: to the National Arboretum!
GardeningGirl 9:39 pm 04 Mar 16

switch said :

GardeningGirl said :

I must admit to gazing enviously at the houses in Coombs, it would be so cool to have the Arboretum as a neighbour.

Does it make up for the lack of a decent backyard?

No, and especially not for the prices being asked nowdays. I like the modern style of housing rather than the Federation style which was all you could get when we bought and I like the various benefits of the location but it’s not enough to make me want to give up having a backyard. I though having a retaining wall as the view out the back window was bad enough but in Molonglo I’ve seen houses where the back of the house is the retaining wall because the fence is so close.

WeeP 7:09 pm 04 Mar 16

Visited the National Arboretum last year. Very scenic and extremely child friendly. Makes for a good family outings. Just a drive away from the City Centre and you get a 360 degree view of beautiful Canberra. You must take the guided tour once to understand the various flora around. They also have a quintessential indoor Japanese garden.

MERC600 5:51 pm 04 Mar 16

wildturkeycanoe said :

Amazing that something so nice can be made from the remnants of a disastrous event.

MERC600 said :

Well I regret I would be one of those “people inside their comfortable, air-conditioned cars”.
I wish I could walk it but. ( I wonder if I can get onto this Medical Marijuana trial thing ?? )
Anyway the wedge tail sculpture is certainly a beauty, and I would hope he has managed to receive many orders from this display.
The view from the top is a million dollars worth, and the bacon ‘n egg wrap at the cafe was very very nice.

Well, you are incorrect, it is a $70 million view, which will continue to keep costing more and more as tax payers fork out hundreds of thousands for maintenance, new watering infrastructure and the wages for the dozen full time employees looking after it. The gift that keeps on taking.

Well it was a million dollar view for me. There was a few of us there so it could add up to 70m for the lot of us.
Fiona wrote a lovely article on her walk through it, so I didn’t go down the track of the cost
( get it , track ) of the whole thing. Your quite right about it though, but I thought I’d just comment on Fionas article, which was pleasant to read.
Lots of resources being used there.

Southmouth 2:27 pm 04 Mar 16

wildturkeycanoe said :

Amazing that something so nice can be made from the remnants of a disastrous event.

MERC600 said :

Well I regret I would be one of those “people inside their comfortable, air-conditioned cars”.
I wish I could walk it but. ( I wonder if I can get onto this Medical Marijuana trial thing ?? )
Anyway the wedge tail sculpture is certainly a beauty, and I would hope he has managed to receive many orders from this display.
The view from the top is a million dollars worth, and the bacon ‘n egg wrap at the cafe was very very nice.

Well, you are incorrect, it is a $70 million view, which will continue to keep costing more and more as tax payers fork out hundreds of thousands for maintenance, new watering infrastructure and the wages for the dozen full time employees looking after it. The gift that keeps on taking.

You mean i could get a dozen of those instead of subsidising Gungalin public transport?

Maya123 1:38 pm 04 Mar 16

wildturkeycanoe said :

Amazing that something so nice can be made from the remnants of a disastrous event.

MERC600 said :

Well I regret I would be one of those “people inside their comfortable, air-conditioned cars”.
I wish I could walk it but. ( I wonder if I can get onto this Medical Marijuana trial thing ?? )
Anyway the wedge tail sculpture is certainly a beauty, and I would hope he has managed to receive many orders from this display.
The view from the top is a million dollars worth, and the bacon ‘n egg wrap at the cafe was very very nice.

Well, you are incorrect, it is a $70 million view, which will continue to keep costing more and more as tax payers fork out hundreds of thousands for maintenance, new watering infrastructure and the wages for the dozen full time employees looking after it. The gift that keeps on taking.

Yes, why do we need arboretums, parks, botanical gardens; lets get rid of them all. They cost money. So do the nature parks, kids playgrounds, sculptures, etc. Some people, even many people, might appreciate and enjoy them, but why should the tax payer have to pay for this? Hang on, that’s us…we might actually enjoy them.
No, bar humbug, get rid of them all and save the taxpayer some money.

blandone 11:58 am 04 Mar 16

wildturkeycanoe said :

Amazing that something so nice can be made from the remnants of a disastrous event.

MERC600 said :

Well I regret I would be one of those “people inside their comfortable, air-conditioned cars”.
I wish I could walk it but. ( I wonder if I can get onto this Medical Marijuana trial thing ?? )
Anyway the wedge tail sculpture is certainly a beauty, and I would hope he has managed to receive many orders from this display.
The view from the top is a million dollars worth, and the bacon ‘n egg wrap at the cafe was very very nice.

Well, you are incorrect, it is a $70 million view, which will continue to keep costing more and more as tax payers fork out hundreds of thousands for maintenance, new watering infrastructure and the wages for the dozen full time employees looking after it. The gift that keeps on taking.

And worth every cent. Hopefully I’m still around in 30odd years to see it in it’s full glory.

dungfungus 11:04 am 04 Mar 16

Holden Caulfield said :

dungfungus said :

Actually, it was the bushfire in December 2001 that devastated the land where the arboretum now is.

That’s correct and an unwitting blessing that became.

The inner north would have been decimated in January 2003 had that fuel still existed, allowing the fire to jump from Stromlo. Potentially Belconnen could have gone up too.

Fires have gone through there before and will again.
Someday people will realise that if you build a house where bushfires are prevalent you can expect one sometime in the future. The same applies to people who build on known flood plains.
I hope there are plans to build a fire-break around the arboretum.

dungfungus 10:59 am 04 Mar 16

wildturkeycanoe said :

Amazing that something so nice can be made from the remnants of a disastrous event.

MERC600 said :

Well I regret I would be one of those “people inside their comfortable, air-conditioned cars”.
I wish I could walk it but. ( I wonder if I can get onto this Medical Marijuana trial thing ?? )
Anyway the wedge tail sculpture is certainly a beauty, and I would hope he has managed to receive many orders from this display.
The view from the top is a million dollars worth, and the bacon ‘n egg wrap at the cafe was very very nice.

Well, you are incorrect, it is a $70 million view, which will continue to keep costing more and more as tax payers fork out hundreds of thousands for maintenance, new watering infrastructure and the wages for the dozen full time employees looking after it. The gift that keeps on taking.

Was their a mandate at the last election for this bottomless pit theme park?
The “view from the top” was the same and it was free before the arboretum thought bubble got legs care of ACT ratepayers.

switch 10:32 am 04 Mar 16

GardeningGirl said :

I must admit to gazing enviously at the houses in Coombs, it would be so cool to have the Arboretum as a neighbour.

Does it make up for the lack of a decent backyard?

wildturkeycanoe 6:29 am 04 Mar 16

Amazing that something so nice can be made from the remnants of a disastrous event.

MERC600 said :

Well I regret I would be one of those “people inside their comfortable, air-conditioned cars”.
I wish I could walk it but. ( I wonder if I can get onto this Medical Marijuana trial thing ?? )
Anyway the wedge tail sculpture is certainly a beauty, and I would hope he has managed to receive many orders from this display.
The view from the top is a million dollars worth, and the bacon ‘n egg wrap at the cafe was very very nice.

Well, you are incorrect, it is a $70 million view, which will continue to keep costing more and more as tax payers fork out hundreds of thousands for maintenance, new watering infrastructure and the wages for the dozen full time employees looking after it. The gift that keeps on taking.

Holden Caulfield 11:33 pm 03 Mar 16

dungfungus said :

Actually, it was the bushfire in December 2001 that devastated the land where the arboretum now is.

That’s correct and an unwitting blessing that became.

The inner north would have been decimated in January 2003 had that fuel still existed, allowing the fire to jump from Stromlo. Potentially Belconnen could have gone up too.

dungfungus 9:01 pm 03 Mar 16

Actually, it was the bushfire in December 2001 that devastated the land where the arboretum now is.

GardeningGirl 7:25 pm 03 Mar 16

“One of my favourite things about living in this beautiful area is the many picturesque walks right on my doorstop.”
I must admit to gazing enviously at the houses in Coombs, it would be so cool to have the Arboretum as a neighbour.

MERC600 4:58 pm 03 Mar 16

Well I regret I would be one of those “people inside their comfortable, air-conditioned cars”.
I wish I could walk it but. ( I wonder if I can get onto this Medical Marijuana trial thing ?? )
Anyway the wedge tail sculpture is certainly a beauty, and I would hope he has managed to receive many orders from this display.
The view from the top is a million dollars worth, and the bacon ‘n egg wrap at the cafe was very very nice.

Maya123 12:02 pm 03 Mar 16

Dry weather tracks only. I went for a walk in the rain once and the feet sunk in and got coated in mud. There isn’t much gravel to stop the mud. However, this makes it a better ride in the dry for bicycles.

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