Exploring Canberra

The ACT is filled with many hidden gems to explore. Places that seem untouched and tranquil are only a stone’s throw away from campus. So with the end of winter near and spring around the corner, head to some of these places for a mystical time away from campus. Grab some sturdy shoes and your phone and get exploring!

Recommended by an avid outdoors-explorer, Jozef Meyer.

See the end of the article for some useful pages full of free and detailed maps!

Let’s start with the basics:

  • Black Mountain – the classic

A standard location for many – it’s close, it’s quiet, it’s easy to walk to but can also be challenging depending on where you go. You can also choose to drive to the top. The views of the city are beautiful, and if you go there at night, the city sparkles. It’s free and right behind campus.  

  • Mount Ainslie – perfect views of the Nation’s Capital

Mount Ainslie Lookout is another popular destination. It’s located in the city centre and a 13-minute drive from Campus. Mount Ainslie will give you stunning views of Anzac Parade and the Parliamentary Triangle. If you want to hike it, you will need approx. 1.5 hours (return) and again, it’s free.  

  • Mount Majura Circuit – the quieter one of the bunch

Although its views of the city are not as noteworthy as its neighbour Mount Ainslie’s, Mount Majura offers you a more remote location where you can have time to be alone and away from the hustle and bustle of campus. Think open grassy areas and more rugged trails – but still a relatively easy walk. There is a carpark at Hackette Gate, right at the base of Mount Majura, which is an 11-minute drive from the campus. Free entry.  

  • Mount Stromlo – Schmidty’s favourite

Many people will be familiar with Mount Stromlo – it houses the Mount Stromlo Observatory, which is the headquarters of the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. The mountain itself isn’t particularly special to hike, but it offers one of the greatest mountain biking facilities in Australia and the stargazing is beautiful. The drive to the top will take you approximately 22 minutes, which is worth it considering the beautiful night sky.  

Now onto some funky places:

  • Yankee Hat Mountain Walk – the top pick from the list

This place will take you about an hour’s drive to get there, but it is a standout. The location is full of history and is home to many ancient Indigenous rock paintings. If visiting these beautiful artworks, keep in mind that the artwork is vulnerable – do not touch the art or the rock surface, and be respectful of the heritage and culture that these artworks represent. The total distance of the walk is 6km and is suitable for all levels of fitness. Note that there is no phone signal in this area. Free entry.

  • Mount Painter – the dramatic ending

This is one of those places that is all about the destination, and not the journey. The views at the end are unmatchable, and it is relatively close to campus (right behind Black Mountain). It will take you an 11-minute drive to get there, and approximately an hour return to walk the trail, unless of course you get caught up in the beauty of it all. Free entry.

  • Gibraltar Falls – for those who really want to explore

Located in Namadgi National Park, Gibraltar Falls is a 45-minute drive from campus and offers stunning waterfall views. The falls have a 50 meter drop, and offer unmatchable views of the valley. Think Yosemite vibes, but on a smaller scale. The trails aren’t well marked, so definitely bring a map (see links below). Free entry.  

Always remember to take an updated map whenever you’re exploring. We recommend heading to the following sites for some great maps!

SIX Maps: https://maps.six.nsw.gov.au

SIX Maps Etopo: https://maps.six.nsw.gov.au/etopo.html (for more intense walks)