Cycling in the National Arboretum


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.

Lake Burley Griffin from Dairy Famers Hill, National Arboretum, Canberra.
Lake Burley Griffin from Dairy Famers Hill, National Arboretum, Canberra
Black Mountain from Dairy Famer Hill, National Arboretum, Canberra.
Black Mountain from Dairy Famer Hill, National Arboretum, Canberra

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.

National Arboretum, looking toward the Molonglo Valley
Margaret Whitlam Pavilion and Cafe from Himalayan Cedar Forest hill, National Arboretum
Lake Burley Griffin from Boundary Road, “Block GG” left, National Arboretum

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.

The red areas are steepest. National Arboretum. Source tender documents
The red areas are steepest. National Arboretum. Source: tender documents
Mountain bike path and the Brindabella Ranges, Dairy Farmer Hill, National Arboretum.
Mountain bike path and the Brindabella Ranges, Dairy Farmer Hill, National Arboretum
Mountain bike path on the west slope of Dairy Farmer Hill, National Arboretum.
Mountain bike path on the west slope of Dairy Farmer Hill, National Arboretum
Moutain bike path up the hill to Dairy Farmer Hill through a pine forest. National Arboretum, Canberra.
Moutain bike path up the hill to Dairy Farmer Hill through a pine forest. National Arboretum, Canberra

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.

National Arboretum pine forest
National Arboretum pine forest
Water is important for cyclists. National Arboretum, Canberra.
Water is important for cyclists. National Arboretum, Canberra
Single track on the north side of the National Arboretum
Single track on the north side of the National Arboretum

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.

Art "Wide Brown Land", Himalayan Cedar Hill, National Arboretum, Canberra.
Art “Wide Brown Land”, Himalayan Cedar Hill, National Arboretum, Canberra

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