Lake Burley Griffin to Black Mountain is a gentle forest climb of 165 m, followed by thrilling descents on windy gravel roads. The lower section is flat and sandy, and the upper steep and rocky. The forest is full of animals and the unexpected. The Canberra Centenary Trail meanders its way around the twin humps of Black Mountain.
Black Mountain forest, close to Civic, is rarely explored. The north and west slopes of the mountain offer excellent cycling on formed vehicle trails. Beautiful walking trails crisscross the mountain.
I have returned to explore Black Mountain many times, first walking, running and finally, riding it. A mountain bike is essential as the formed vehicle trails are rough and rock punctures are not uncommon. The loop is clockwise with modest gradients to a maximum 10% uphill and 15% downhill. This loop starts on Belconnen Way for the best parking. The Black Mountain Nature Reserve can be entered at the lower section from CBR Cycle Route C5 at the Glenloch Interchange.
The west side of the mountain can be traversed to the southern tip along three routes. The highest of these is very steep and the lowest flat. Another road undulates around a ridge through the middle. It is less demanding but very worthwhile. The low and middle route form a loop of 10 km length. The west face of Black Mountain is steep. The maximum gradient on the high route is 17%, the middle 15% and the low 9%.
Black Mountain can be ridden on three sides. On the south side, the mountain drops off suddenly into Lake Burley Griffin. The Bushland Nature Walk above the lake provides great views and is best approached from the Australian National Botanic Gardens. This walk allows you to circumnavigate the mountain about 70 m above the lake. There is also a most rewarding contour walk 190 m above the lake from the car park on Black Mountain Drive. Black Mountain Drive is a popular hill climb for road riders with a 242 m ascent to the peak.
The Australian National Botanic Gardens is a snake paradise. Bikes are strictly prohibited. It is a bit hard to ride around the Australian National Botanic Gardens as there is a quarry on this side of the mountain, too. Clunies Ross Street is the best option, and you can reenter the reserved on the Canberra Centenary Trail on the north side.
The north and west sides of the mountain are most interesting as they provide many options depending on your fitness. The forest is very pretty, but I recommend that you avoid the austere Powerline Trail. There is an intermittent creek on the north side that is filled after rains. Little Black Mountain lies in the shadow of its famous big brother separated by a flat saddle. A very rideable formed vehicle trail loops Little Black Mountain to this saddle. From the other end of the saddle there is a path straight to the top of Black Mountain, which is most strictly walking only.
The west side of the mountain is steep. The mountain drops 140 m from the car park at the peak with a maximum gradient of 56%. It can be walked. Lakeview Track is a 1.1 km short formed vehicle trail with a maximum gradient of 34%. Lakeview Track is rocky with sudden, regular drops, and scattered boulders. I have only walked this, but it can be ridden if you are game.
Black Mountain has hidden creek valleys to explore in the south-west and ridge walk to the top starting at Glenloch Interchange.