Mt Tidbinbilla (via John's Peak, and Tidbinbilla Peak)
Image 1 - Some of the spectacular views that you will experience on this walk. This taken from Tidbinbilla Peak facing to the south west.
If you want to get off the established trails, then this is for you. The views are spectacular and well worth the effort. One of the great Namadgi walks.
Walk Rating: Hard. Initial 8.5 kilometres to Camels Back is mainly uphill. Lots of uneven ground and loose stones and rocks. There are a couple of small sections where you will clamber up (and then back down) rocky outcrops. Total walk distance from Greens Picnic Area is 22.5 kilometres.
Directions: Drive to Point Hut Crossing and continue over the bridge along Point Hut Road until you come to the T-intersection. Turn right onto Tidbinbilla Road and follow the road for about eight kilometres and you will see the entrance road (on your left) to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Turn left into Tidbinbilla and follow the road past the visitors center until you come to the first intersecting road, then turn right. Follow the road past the playground and picnic areas and continue to the right. Park in the small carpark on the left-hand-side, and you will see the start of a walking track in front of the carpark.
The Tidbinbilla Visitors Centre opens at 7.30am each day, and you are required to pay a small fee if you are taking your car into the reserve. The fees raised go towards maintenance and upkeep of the reserve - a very worthy cause!
The Walk: If you've ever walked to the top of Mt Taylor, your eyes are drawn towards the Brindabella Mountain Range, and you may feel a call to the adventurous spirit that we all have somewhere inside. I think it's human nature to gaze out into the distance and wonder; "What's over on that mountain?" or, "What lies beyond that mountain?"
Mount Tidbinbilla is just like that. It really stands out, with its peak commanding the skyline of the high ridgeline, which is nestled just to the west of the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. I've always wanted to walk to its peak, and today I wanted to find out if this was a walk that could be achieved by all, or whether it was a map and compass job with a good old bush bash!
After parking at the carpark next to Greens picnic area at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, I slung on my pack and paused for a short moment to take in the beautiful early morning sounds of the prolific birdlife. The nature reserve really is a shining example of the successful conservation efforts across a number of decades.
But I knew what was in front of me, as anyone who has walked to Camels Back knows that it's a tough walk on its own. Today would be even tougher as I needed to first get to Camels Back and then find out whether there was a trail that would take me onwards to Mt Tidbinbilla. I was hoping there would be some kind of trail, as the segment I was about to walk would form part of the future development of a "four peaks" walk, which is going to feature in the first documentary (due to be filmed in the coming months).
The distance to Camels Back is around 8.5 kilometres and a significant portion of this is uphill (refer to Catalogue of Walks - Camel Back for more details).
Accompanied by numerous Eastern Grey kangaroos at the lower elevations, and then Swamp and Red Necked Wallabies at the higher elevations (Image 2), I continued to make my way slowly upwards. After about an hour and a half, I arrived near Camels Back, where I located a small rock pile on the left side of the dirt track, which turned out to be the marker for the start of the walking track to John's Peak (Image 3 and 4). For reference, the pile of rocks is about 300 metres before the Camels Back signpost.
I headed towards Johns Peak and I was pretty glad that there was actually a walking track, although it did look like it may be (or had been) a rudimentary access road of sorts. I really hoped that the track continued onwards past Johns Peak!
It's only about 1.5 kilometres to John's Peak, and I've got to say, the track is fairly good so it doesn't take you long before you arrive. It's beautiful woodland, with lot's of birdlife. Although you should note that the track becomes very rocky in the area of the peak so watch your step, and your ankles!
I stopped at Johns Peak, partly because I wanted a break after the Camels Back slog, and partly because I couldn't see any clear signs to indicate whether the track continued to the next high point, Tidbinbilla Peak.
A good spot for a coffee, so I boiled the billy and took my cuppa out to the rocky ledge on the western side of the peak (there is a sheer drop, so be warned). This was a great place to appreciate the views (Image 5), but to also ponder the next leg to Tidbinbilla Peak. I could see it off in the distance and it did look quite foreboding, with rocky outcrops and some cliffs facing towards me, almost daring me to come and have a crack (Image 6 and 7).
Image 3 (above) - the walking track that takes you to John's Peak and Image 4 (left) - the small pile of rocks signifying the start of the walking track.
As I sipped on my coffee, with Tidbinbilla Peak seeming to stare back at me, I found myself doubting that there would be a way through at all, unless I wanted to bring some climbing gear and do it that way. But, having studied the topographical map of the area, I knew that there was a good ridge line all the way to Mt Tidbinbilla and hoped that the undergrowth wasn't too thick. I also knew that others have done the walk, so there must be a way. Besides, I've been surprised in similar situations before, where it looks like the only way across is to climb, but there turns out to be a trail that can easily be walked.
I finished my coffee, got packed and looked for the best way forward. As it looked reasonably clear on the south-east side, I thought this would be a good place to start. I clambered down the rocky outcrop and dropped onto a fairly flat section where I was very surprised to find a walking track (Image 8 ).
I took a compass bearing just to make sure the track headed in the direction I wanted to go, and off I went. This section of the track turned out to be such a pleasure to walk--shaded from the hot sun, a fairly flat surface to walk on with periodic spectacular views to the mountains. I hoped the track continued all the way to my final destination.
Okay, before I go any further, I need to point a couple of things out. Firstly, as I got further along, the track became very rudimentary in places. It was very rough and sometimes hard to follow. As the track is not marked on any maps, or promoted by ACT Parks and Conservation as a walking track, I would say that this track has been worn away over time by those keen enough to take the journey across to Mt Tidbinbilla rather than officially 'blazed'.
Secondly, it became clear that various people who had previously walked the track had left markers to guide the way. These were in the form of small rock piles located periodically along the route and bright orange tape tied to trees or shrubs (although some of the tape had faded and wasn't so bright anymore) - Images 9, 10 and 11.
Finally, there had been some work carried out, as branches from nearby trees and shrubs had been cut away to ensure the track was kept relatively clear Image 12). I assume that this had been done by ACT Parks and Wildlife. So essentially, there are three different 'navigational markers' to guide you along; the rock piles, the orange tape, and the sawn branches.
Although Tidbinbilla Peak seemed like a long way from Johns Peak (it is actually only about one kilometre), and I soon reached the bottom of the rocky outcrop (Image 12).
Image 9 (above left) and Image 11 (above right) showing the small rock piles to help guide you on the trail
This was my first close-up look and, as I suspected, there was indeed a track, and it skirted around the eastern side of the peak. Although calling it a track is probably a bit of a stretch, as this was more like clambering over rocks, with the odd spot where you needed to grab onto one of the boulders to help lift yourself onto the next 'step'. Image 13 gives you a good indication.
Despite this, it didn't take long to reach the peak and, once again, magnificent views, particularly to the west over the mountains (Image 14 - a rare selfie but I took the opportunity to text this to my office bound buddy, I know, I know...!).
Image 6 (above) Tidbinbilla Peak in the distance and Image 7 (below) up closer
After stopping for a couple of photos, I again searched for any signs that the walking track continued. I found another small rock pile and headed for that, where I found that the track did actually continue. I headed to 'The Pimple' (if you see it on the panorama image on Mt Taylor, you'll understand why it is called this) and the track was reasonable, but unclear in parts and very rocky in other parts. Please note that there are numerous places where the track seems to branch off in different directions (mainly animal tracks) and, as the track I was walking on was not particularly clear, it can be confusing.
There were a couple of times where I had to stop and retrace my steps in order to locate the next rock pile, piece of orange tape or sawn branches. But, when it comes down to it, you basically keep heading south and there are fairly steep drops to the west and east, so I'm pretty sure you'll know if you've come of the ridge line! This was a theme that would continue right up to Mt Tidbinbilla.
After reaching The Pimple, I stopped to take in the views, which are truly awesome. I also took a photo back towards Camels Back (and Camels Hump) to put it all into perspective. I'd always looked out to Mt Tidbinbilla from Camels Back, and now I was looking back towards Camels Back (Image 15).
Image 2 - A Red Necked Wallaby - perhaps an unfortunate name for such a cute species of Wallaby
Image 5 - The views to the west from John's Peak
Image 8 - The walking track just past Johns Peak
Image 11 (above left) - orange tape tied to branches helps guide you on the track and Image 12 (above right) - there appears to have been some work carried out to help clear the track. Keep an eye out for the branches that have been sawn off to help guide you.
Image 15 - The view back to Camels back (and hump)
I continued onwards towards Mt Tidbinbilla, a distance of around one kilometre. Like the last section, the track is unclear in parts, so keep searching for the markers. There is a fairly long flat section here, and you will know when you are getting towards Mt Tidbinbilla as you begin to climb again.
The markers will guide you to a small clearing and on the south - south-eastern side (Image 16), you will locate the orange tape on a small tree. From here, the markers disappear, but you should be able to find your way to the top as it is relatively close. I found the best route was to get up as high as the 'track' would take me, and then skirt around towards the west (whilst always moving up) and then back towards the east. Just keep heading to the high point. You will come out of the tree line and see low-lying tea trees. No track here, so walk through as best you can.
You will know you've arrived when you get to a small concreted circular base and some rusted support brackets also concreted into the ground (Image 17 and 18). This used to be some sort of tower and you can see various remnants nearby (in a pile).
Now it's time to get your breath back and enjoy the magnificent views! To the west, the Brindabella Mountain Range, to the south, Namadgi National Park, to the east, Australia's Capital City, Canberra, and at the base of the mountain, the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Really spectacular (Image 19).
I stayed for about an hour and it's a lot like walking to the peak of Mt Gingera, in that it really is hard to drag yourself away. Eventually I did, and arrived back at my car feeling a real sense of achievement, having walked a total distance of 22.5 kilometres (it is a big day so be prepared).
I would really recommend this walk if you're up to getting off the 'mainstream' tracks. I would also recommend wearing proper hiking boots with ankle support, as much of the groundcover is uneven, with lots of loose stones and rocks. Hopefully one day there will be a properly blazed trail so that all can enjoy this.
Image 13 (above) - The rocks that you clamber over on the way to the Tidbinbilla Peak and Image 14 (below) - a selfie with the views to the west of Tidbinbilla Peak
Image 16 - After coming to this open section, look for the orange tape on the other side. It's not too far from the top once you reach here
Image 17 (above middle) and Image 18 (above right) show the concrete and remnants of an old tower on the peak of Mt Tidbinbilla. Image above left - part of the track (a good part) leading across from The Pimple to Mt Tidbinbilla
Image 19 - facing mainly to the west, a panoramic photo of the view from Mt Tidbinbilla