Best trails around Canberra


So it’s mid morning on a Sunday and you are thinking to yourself that the weekend is just about over – Monday looms. You are lamenting your Saturday night. Is there really enough of the day left to achieve anything? Well my friend, if you’ve got wheels, and you’ve got legs, then you’ve got yourself an option.

A 45 minute jaunt in your car takes you to Smokers Gap on Corin Road, the start of Square Rock hike in Namadgi National Park. If you have done like all good hikers do and Googled the start of this hike, then prepare to be confused. There have been some recent renovations to the area and the old start to the trail looks like some kind of log parade. The new start departs directly from the right side of the optimistically large car park.

Take a moderately sized breath for a moderate but consistent incline. In total it’s an 8.7km return trip through beautiful native shrubs and trees, guarded by shy swamp wallabies. After gaining 270m in elevation, you find yourself at the hikes namesake – an enormous and somewhat angular outcrop of granite boulders. The boulders themselves are staggeringly big, but what really makes this hike is the view. Climbing up to the top of the outcrop brings you staring down the Orroral valley. And it is an astoundingly good view for a relatively quick hike. This section of the valley is still forested giving you those really primal excited wilderness feels. In really crappy weather, it’s even better. You’ll want to yell something about nature’s’ fury into the gusts of wind that threaten to dislodge you.

Personally, it is this feeling, that makes me want to get outdoors, and quite often stay there. When your diaphragm is all tight because you’re are full up with excitement, for no reason other than how good the world is, and how small we are, and how there is so much left to see. Plus, there is a certain sense of personal achievement at having unglued yourself from the couch – even more so if you manage to convince some tag-alongs.

So perhaps Square Rock is your gateway hike and now you are hooked but looking for something that will push the pistons a little more? Something the gym goers can’t turn their nose up at, after 200 squats or leg presses or whatever people do on an elliptical. Well folks, you are in for a treat, because Bungonia Gorge is an absolute jungle gym of fun times.

A bit more of a drive away, through the town of Goulburn (turns out there is more to that place than a giant merino and a Subway), it will not disappoint. The gorge hike is marked on the map as “Red Track 3.8 km, 5 hr return, hard, Danger falling rocks”. Foreboding, yes, but don’t be put off, you’ve driven 140kms to get there after all. Things start with a series of switch-backs through some interesting grass trees, and after descending steeply like this you arrive at the start of the fun. The gorge itself is a strip of granite boulders tossed together along the course of a stream. Either side of you are towering rock walls. You would never predict they would be that tall, and behind the walls are a series of caves you would never predict to be so deep. But today you are here for the canyon. Focus buddy. This part of the hike, is less walking, and more scrambling, swinging, climbing, hopping, stemming, jumping, and generally throwing yourself around between the boulders to get from one end of the canyon to the other. It is outrageous fun. This rocky playground is why I think the gorge hike is a gem. Getting your whole body involved. The legs though, perhaps they are feeling neglected? Used to being the main players on a hike? . Well fear not, you still need to ascend, steeply, and consistently, back up out of the gorge. They won’t be complaining after that. Well they will – be, but not from neglect.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, but I’m a serious walk enthusiast now. I’m after distance.” I hear some of you say. Well if this is the case lace up those boots, offer to refuel your pals car, and head to the Budawangs. There a plenty of longer options there, taking you across especially impressive transitions in vegetation and geology. But I think I’ll leave you to figure that one out. Planning is part of the fun. I will add one hot tip though, don’t just plug that one into Google maps. No really. Don’t do it!

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