The Canberra Centenary Trail(Prologue)

On March 13, 1913, Canberra was named as the new capital of Australia. One hundred years on, it has grown from a few buildings in a large sheep paddock to a vibrant modern city of 340,000 people. The city prides itself in being the "bush capital", where natural landscapes blend into the urban and, as part of the celebrations of this anniversary, The Canberra Centenary Trail was developed to show-case these features. Existing tracks were linked and new ones created to form a 140km multi-use trail for the use of both walkers and mountain-bike riders. It was officially opened on October 27, 2013.

My interest in the trail goes back further to 2009, when I wrote a letter to the then Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, suggesting the creation of a "signature" long-distance walking track for Canberra. My idea was a 4-5 day circuit walk formed by connecting existing tracks, which would highlight the different landscapes of the capital. In the meanwhile, another local resident, Bruce Gall, had submitted a very detailed proposal for a 100-km walk for 100 years, thus linking the walk to the upcoming centenary. His original map set out the essential form of the current trail. Other groups had also put in proposals for walking tracks, such as a village-to-village track from Hall to Tharwa along the Murrumbidgee Corridor and a walking hub based in Tuggeranong. The outcome of all this was that I attended a meeting called by the then Parks, Conservation and Lands Department in August 2009, along with Bruce and six others, to flesh out a single idea to put to the government. This was the genesis of the Canberra Centenary Trail.

Consultants were called in and an "aspirational" workshop held in August 2010 to get input from different interest groups within the community (e.g. cyclists, horse-riders, park-carers etc). This is when the walking track evolved into a multi-use trail and the input fed into the production of a feasibility report. That was my last formal involvement, apart from being one of many contributors to comment on various drafts of the track alignment. The trail was deemed feasible, desirable, and was given a $3 million dollar budget. The wheels of bureaucracy then ground slowly on over the next three years to drive the track to its present opening (if not quite completion - signage was still missing during my preview).

Essentially though, I liked the final trail alignment, which contains many "feature" sections and some necessary "transitional" stages, but with two reservations. Firstly, walking and cycling are different experiences and provide different opportunities (e.g. walkers can access steeper terrain and are not necessarily limited by track conditions), and the compromises needed for a track used by both walkers and mountain-bikers might end up pleasing either or neither party, but not both. Secondly, I was concerned that parts of the track were being over-engineered, which would take some of the enjoyment away from the "bush" experience. This is related to the first reservation, as much of the track "improvement" has been to make the route cyclable.

The Federation Stone (laid in 1913)
- start and end of the Centenary Trail

Thus, I followed the development of the trail with interest and, when the I heard that it was to be opened in late October, decided to "preview" it, but from a walker's perspective. The first task was to reassemble the downloadable gpx file of the track from the website so I could use it on my mapping software and GPS - it had curiously been cut up into almost 100 segments of varying length from a few metres to several kilometres, some of which were reversed, and also lacked elevation data. I like to walk with a GPS and needed a usable file. For those who might find it useful, I offer a link to this cleaned-up, elevation enhanced, GPX file of the trail, as the original one seems to have vanished from the rapidly evolving trail website (though it should be used to complement a paper map not replace it).

The description and photos on these pages therefore include a number of "variants" to the official track, these being primarily to include summits and ridges that might provide panoramic views, to avoid walking beside busy roads as much as possible and to short-cut those long sections that seemed to have no other purpose than to get cyclists comfortably from A to B. Variants themselves are not a bad thing - all great trails have them - and hopefully the ones suggested here will improve the experience of the trail for walkers. In so doing, the trail is reduced to a bit over 130 km - a bit less walking for a bit more reward. Files of the trail, as walked here, can be downloaded from links on the next two pages.

The trail itself is a circuit, but can be broken down into several sections with different start and end points. The official website for the trail lists seven sections, most around 20 km long, but with one longer and one shorter day and provides maps of these in PDF format (as does the Canwalk site). However, these do not always coincide with public transport and not everyone will have a car or be able to set-up a car-shuffle if they do. A secondary objective of my walk was to see whether and how the track could be walked using Canberra's buses - after all, walking the urban fringe gives one the benefits of urban infrastructure - in particular, public transport and good coffee shops.

So read on, fellow walkers, and see what Australia's latest long distance track has to offer. If you want to go straight to the trail description and photos and not worry about map and bus details click here.

The gang-gang variants

As mentioned above, while trying out the Canberra Centenary Trail, I made a number of variants to the official route. It was my hope to make the trail a better experience for walkers by:

- cutting out some sections of walking beside busy roads
- climbing to high points to appreciate the expansive views that they offer, and
- shortening the track in some areas that do not offer anything new.

Some of these variants are unsuitable for cyclists, so only consider them if you are walking.

Variant Location Reason for variation
1 Federal Highway Avoid walking along busy road and shorter route
2 Mulligan's Flat Walk inside sanctuary rather than outside
3 One Tree Hill See views from summit of One Tree Hill
4 Gossan Hill Avoid walking along busy road and views from summit
5 Black Mountain Shorter route with better views
6 National Arboretum See views from summit of Dairy Farmers Hill
7 Cooleman Ridge Walk on far side of ridge and views from Arawang
8 Murrumbidgee Corridor Access river and short cut to cross creek
9 Lake Tuggeranong Walk along lakeshore instead of roads
10 Wanniassa Hills See views from ridge and summit of Mt Wanniassa
11 Isaacs Ridge See views from ridge
12 Hindmarsh Drive Shorter route from Isaacs Ridge to Red Hill

Track in pink - variants (numbered) in blue

Accessing the trail by bus

It is possible to walk the Centenary Trail using public transport, though there are a couple of obligatory shorter and longer sections due to the location of bus routes. I have listed a 7-day and 8-day itinerary for the trail below, but the timetables are a guide only. You can check out the ACTion bus website for a map of weekday routes and weekend routes and for a google interactive timetable to select buses from your destination, as you may need to change buses at one of the interchanges. These timetables and routes may be subject to change so always check. Better still, use google maps to find the exact route and times for buses from where you are to the stage access points (don't forget to get directions using the public transport button).

Bus Stops for 7-day circuit

Stage Distance Bus (weekdays) Bus
Location of stop Distance from bus to track
start - Federation Stone   2 or 3 934 Parliament Drive West (southbound bus) or East (from northbound bus) 500 m
1 - Hackett 14 km 2 936 or 937 Madigan St, Hackett (near shops) 650 m
2 - Mulligan's Flat 16 km 55 955 Amy Ackman St, Bonner 30 m
3 - Gold Creek Village 22 km 51 or 52 951 or 952 Federation Square, O'Hanlon Place, Nicholls 0 m
4 - O'Connor 14 km 8 936 or 937 Miller St, O'Connor (at Black Mountain School) 350 m
5 - Duffy 19 km 26 925 Eucumbene Drive, Duffy
Wyangala St, Duffy
0 m
500 m w/ends
6 - Tuggeranong 23 km 300 series 900 Tuggeranong Bus Terminus, Pitman St , Greenway 200 m
7 - Federation Stone 23 km 2 or 3 934 Parliament Drive West (southbound bus) or East (from northbound bus) 500 m

Bus Stops for 8-day circuit

Stage Distance Bus (weekdays) Bus
Location of stop Distance from bus to track
Days 1 to 4 as for the 7-day circuit above (there is no flexibility)
5 - Holder 16 km 28 925 Dixon Drive, Holder (weekdays)
Burrinjuck Cr, Duffy (weekends)
50 m or
500 m w/ends
6 - Kambah West 11 km 60 960 Corner of Barritt St and Kambah Pool Rd, Kambah 0 m
7 - Gowrie 19 km 65 966 Bugden Av, Gowrie 300 m
8 - Federation Stone 19 km 2 or 3 934 Parliament Drive West (southbound bus) or East (from northbound bus) 500 m