The National Arboretum features a quirky central path and the trees are laid out on a grid in blocks. Two prominent hills dominate the landscape like camel humps. The larger of the two is Dairy Farmers Hill, and the smaller to the north is unnamed. The peak of Dairy Farmers Hill is about 100 m above the park entrance. If you like hills, the National Arboretum is for you.
The National Arboretum can be busy during the middle of the day. The café and children’s playground are very popular. Most tourists drive around Forest Drive and may park but do not venture far from their vehicles. The National Arboretum gates close at night. The road is unlit. Early morning and sunset rides are quiet and well worthwhile. Some commuters detour through the National Arboretum just for fun.
Forest Drive meanders in a circuit and is popular with road cyclists but has a narrow shoulder with ditches on either side of the road. The lack of safe bike lanes is a real shame as the Arboretum is ideal for families to try out their new bikes. The ascend of Forest Drive is steeper in the clockwise direction. The maximum gradients on Forest Drive are quite steep by Canberra standards, exceeding 10% – but this is part of the attraction.
For those with a mountain bike, the 12 kilometres of multi-use trails can be most enjoyable. The tracks are not technical so that they are well suited to beginners and those who wish to get away from it all. The tracks form a maze around the hills, following the contours. There is little directional signage, and it is hard to know where you will come out, so take a map, and watch out for oncoming cyclists.
The formed vehicle trails (management trails) in the National Arboretum can also be ridden. These trails do not follow the contours but form straight lines, particularly along fence lines. It is not uncommon to have a track that goes across the slope and then another that goes straight down it. This makes the park map quite deceptive, as on the map they look pretty much the same. There is a good ride from Coombs and Glenloch Interchange through the National Arboretum along the River Road and Cork Oak Road. The Bicentennial National Trail and the Canberra Centenary Trail are also to be found here.