The section of Canberra Centenary Trail along the border with NSW overlooks Gungahlin and winds its way amongst rural hills.
The Canberra Centenary Trail is an adventure – walking, riding or any other way. It is not particularly well looked after, and the ACT Environment’s website is hopelessly out of date – do not let that put you off. Try a section, even walk or ride there and back. It is worth the effort.
This ride was along the northern section of the Canberra Centenary Trail between Hall and Forde. The section is 18 km one way. If that was not difficult enough, you may have to ride back to where you started. As there is no bike path between Forde and Hall, you will be riding on the road at least part of the way, which – on a mountain bike – feels out of place.
There is another way to ride this section, namely through Taylor. Blocks in Stage 3 of the new suburb of Taylor are on sale. This has opened a route along the Canberra Centenary Trail and NSW border that is considerably shorter and easier (12.6 km, climb of 270 m and descend of 370 m). The highest and steepest section between Hall and One Tree Hill (848 m) can now be left out for another day.
The north section of the Canberra Centenary Trail between Hall and Forde is hard-packed singletrack. Horses are not permitted on this section of the trail, which is unusual, but still plenty of walks can be found, so proceed with care. Over the last years, the trail has become washed out and rutted. The rock is often stratified vertically and erodes to form blades sticking out of the path. These are not nice round rocks to roll over, but rather, rocks that are more likely to give you punctures, particularly at speed. Finding the gaps between them will require your continuous attention. On the other hand, the trail is not all that difficult with wide sweeping turns, continual climbs and descents, but nothing too steep, except for the hill descending into the camping area.
The Northern Camping Area cannot be reached by road and for the cyclist a curiosity, at the best. It is a nice idea and well done, with good facilities including toilets, covered eating areas and water for washing but not for drinking (worth checking).
Riding between Taylor and Hall you will pass through all sorts of forest: pine forest, open forest and even snow gums. Many creeks have their origin in this area forming pretty valleys that follow into Gungahlin.
Another curiosity about this section of the Canberra Centenary Trail is that it is mostly a narrow 40 m wide corridor between the fenced NSW border and fenced leased farm(s) in the ACT. The NSW side has been cleared and houses are built along it at close intervals. Satellite photos show the concrete slabs of more to come. It also feels like Canberrans are unwelcome on the NSW side. The guy sitting on the porch with a beer is unlikely to return your greeting. Having said that, there are no trespassing signs all along this section of the route.
The trail skirts the planned suburb of Jacka, which currently is still a farm. The gates at the back of the farm along the Canberra Centenary Trail are not locked. However, this should not be taken as an invitation to ride down the side roads into a pretty valley.
The bush behind Taylor is a nature reserve. Taylor is so recent that only some fences have been removed. This will form part of Canberra Nature Park and is accessible through a new, latched but not locked gate, behind Taylor Stage 3, close to the two water tanks, at the foot of One Tree Hill.
The new management trail off Harry Seidler Crescent looks rather impressive and ends within a stone throw from the gate. The track narrows to a walking trail. The Canberra Centenary Trail is now only 1 km distant and a 30 m rise. The gate at the top of the nature reserve is locked, in a memory of the time as the area was a farm. The fence stops, however, about a hundred metres west, providing access to the Canberra Centenary Trail.
Fences are often collapsed and in disrepair in the ACT where the farmers are long gone and ACT Government has not yet got around to doing anything with the land. Animals have made holes under the fence or through the fence and the kangaroos jump over the fence. I am pretty sure this will become an important recreational area for those living in Taylor.
The ride in komoot starts in Belconnen and follows a cycle path to Forde with only a single minor road crossing. This will take about an hour to do, with only a 240 m climb holding you back. The bike paths in Gungahlin are very sensible and the ride is quite relaxing. This changes around sunset when every man, women, child and their dog take an evening walk, particularly in Ngunnawal. The bike paths in Taylor are exceptional and demonstrates how the Molonglo Valley could be. The gradient on this route is mostly easy with a section entering Taylor moderately steep.
The route back to Belconnen is through Forde, past Yerrabi Pond. Yerrabi Pond is popular, so watch for pedestrians. From here, it is all downhill to Belconnen which makes it a ripping good ride.