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.
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.
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.
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.
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.