Black Mountain Nature Reserve
Nestled close to the centre of Canberra, Black Mountain Nature Reserve is a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. It offers walking tracks with views overlooking the bush capital and the songs from a variety of birds.
Where is Black Mountain Nature Reserve?
Black Mountain Nature Reserve (460 hectares) is a prominent hill (812 metres above sea level) located in northern Canberra. The reserve borders Aranda Bushland Nature Reserve, the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
The nearest suburbs are Turner, O’Connor, Aranda, and Acton, where the Australian National University (ANU) is located. Lake Burley Griffin lies at the base of the mountain.
What’s so special about Black Mountain Nature Reserve?
The ACT and region is part of the traditional home of the Ngunnawal Aboriginal people. Black Mountain and Acton Peninsula were believed to have been favoured as meeting places. Black Mountain and the area is a highly significant Aboriginal cultural place. Traces of a traditional lifestyle, including stone artefacts, campsites and scarred trees are visible in the landscape.
A connected landscape
Black Mountain forms part of an extensive area of open forest and woodland which includes O’Connor Ridge, Bruce Ridge, Aranda Bushland, Mt Painter and The Pinnacle nature reserves. These areas are part of a wildlife movement corridor through to the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee river corridors. The Black Mountain supports a rich shrub and herb diversity including some rare and threatened plant species. There are several threatened or regionally declining birds in the reserve.
Black Mountain is a haven for native wildlife. It is has a rich diversity of bird and plant species, with an array of wildflowers in the spring and early summer. Much of the reserve is old growth dry open forest. The understorey is diverse with shrubs, grasses, orchids and other herbs.
There are several access points to Black Mountain Nature Reserve.
From the Canberra Centre and ANU precinct to the east of the reserve enter from Clunies Ross Street. Turn onto Black Mountain Drive to drive to the top of the mountain where Telstra Tower is located. There are several pedestrian access points along Black Mountain Drive.
From the north enter the reserve from Belconnen Way, or from two pedestrian entry points along Barry Drive.
From the west enter the reserve via three pedestrian entry points along Caswell Drive.
From the east enter the reserve via two pedestrian entry points from the Frith Road extension
Black Mountain Drive: there are two parking areas with pedestrian access to the reserve’s walking tracks. One is half way up Black Mountain Drive, and the second is on the summit of the mountain.
Belconnen Way: there is one parking area with pedestrian access to the reserve. Look for the Black Mountain Nature Reserve entry sign as you head North West towards Belconnen.
Frith Road: there is one parking area at the end of Frith Road, off Barry Drive, behind CSIRO, adjacent to the ACTEW substation. Walk along the dirt track and follow the sign to the summit.
Australian National Botanic Gardens: paid Parking at the gardens, off Clunies Ross Street. Walking access to the Reserve is through the gardens. Follow the Telstra Tower symbols through the gardens that link to the Summit walking track on Black Mountain.
Black Mountain has many walking, cycling and management tracks.
- Walking tracks
- Forest Trail walk
- Little Black Mountain Trail
- Orchid Trail and Old Weetangera Road loop walk
- Summit Walk
- Woodland and Upper Woodland Trail
- Centenary Trail
- Canberra Tracks Heritage Trail Track 3
- Black Mountain is part of the Heritage Tracks of Canberra.
- Cycling/mountain bike riding is only permitted on management trails, marked mountain bike trails and the Centenary Trail.
- There are picnic tables near the car park half way up Black Mountain Drive. Otherwise, picnic in the shade of an ancient gum tree.
- Share the experience of the bush on your door step with your family. Visit the Nature Play website for more ideas.
The Forest Trail is a moderate walking track with fantastic views of the city. It starts half way up Black Mountain Drive from the car park.
Take a virtual tour of the tracks in Black Mountain Nature Reserve with Google Trekker.
The Black Mountain summit includes a telecommunication tower (Telstra Tower), which has a scenic lookout and car parks that can be accessed by a sealed public road.
There are no barbecue facilities available in the reserve. The nearest barbecues are located at Black Mountain Peninsula.
Toilets are located at Telstra Tower or in the Australian Botanical Gardens.
Public phones are located in Telstra Tower.
Drinking water station can be found outside Telstra Tower.
We want you to enjoy Black Mountain Nature Reserve safely. Parks and reserves are natural environments that can be unpredictable. For your safety tips read our Safety in ACT Parks and Reserves page.
The reserve is a refuge and home for native wildlife including every rock and log. Your pet, vehicle, camping, collecting wood and fires are a threat to their livelihood. To help us protect the delicate Black Mountain Nature Reserve, we ask you to follow the following restrictions:
- No camping
- No timber collection
- No lighting, using or maintaining fires
- No motorised vehicles
Dogs and other pets are not allowed in Black Mountain Nature Reserve.
Find out where you can take your dog for a walk.
- Aranda Bushland Nature Reserve
- Bruce Ridge Nature Reserve
- O'Connor Ridge Nature Reserve
- Australian National Botanic Gardens
Nearest shopping centres and attractions
- Canberra Centre
- Australian National Botanic Gardens
- Aranda shops
- O’Connor shops
- Jamison Plaza
- Telstra Tower
There is no accommodation in the reserve.
Black Mountain Nature Reserve, in the heart of Canberra, is a special place, significant for its cultural and natural history, its geology and biodiversity. Learn more about the bush on your doorstep.
Ecosystems in this reserve
- Open Forest
Black Mountain supports a diverse and representative open dry sclerophyll forest, and includes areas of old growth, as well as small areas of the critically endangered Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland. Grassland areas in the reserve were once covered in woodland.
The reserve predominantly protects open forest of Red Stringybark (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha), Scribbly Gum (E. Rossii), Brittle Gum (E. mannifera) and Red Box (E. polyanthemos).
Red Stringybark is more common on the cooler southern slopes.
Scribbly Gum, Brittle Gum and Red Box are most common on the drier northern and western slopes.
The open forest often has a dense shrub understorey including Bitterpea (Daviesia mimosoides), Early Wattle (Acacia genistifolia), Box-leaved Wattle (A. buxifolia), Bushy Needlewood (Hakea decurrens) and Mountain Grevillea (Grevillea alpina).
Groves of the fire-sensitive Black Cypress Pine (Callitris endlicheri) are scattered through the open forest vegetation.
Areas of grassy woodland dominated by Yellow Box (E. Melliadora), Blakely’s Red Gum and Apple Box (E. bridgesiana) occur in the south-western and central-northern portion of the reserve. The south-west also has secondary grassland which has formed when woodland was cleared and used for grazing prior to the reserve being declared. It is dominated by Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) and has a high component of native herbs.
For hundreds of millions of years, Black Mountain has been a large sandstone block in a Canberra landscape that was otherwise dominated by volcanic and alluvial soils. It is therefore, not surprising that Black Mountain supports many plant species isolated from similar species in other locations within the ACT. Around 33 rare plants and 61 particularly diverse and unusual orchid species have been recorded – more than at any other location in the Territory.
Land of diversity
Visually, 14 native tree and 100 native shrub species dominate the vegetation. The most common trees are Brittle Gum, Scribbly Gum, Red Stringybark and Red Box.
The majority of plants in the reserve include 240 species of herbaceous plants and 200 species of grass and grass-like plants. While perennials like the Red-anthered Wallaby Grass (Rytidosperma pallidum) are present year round, many of the other species are just seen during spring or early summer after good rainfall.
The four largest families of plants in the reserve are orchids (61 species), grasses (45 native species), daisies (50 native species) and pea-flowers (22 native species). Among the smallest families are the mistletoes (3 species), and trigger plants, native violets and sundews (2 species each).
Up to 33 rare plant species are found in the Black Mountain Nature Reserve, including orchids only found in this area of the ACT.
Canberra Nature Map offers photos and descriptions of many species listed.
The Button Everlasting Daisy (Coronidium oxylepis) is restricted to Black Mountain and adjoining sandstone areas (Black Mountain is the stronghold for the plant). Black Mountain is the only ACT known location of the Sandplain Bitterpea (Daviesia acicularis).
A word of caution - be aware
The root-rot pathogen, Phytophthora cinnamomi, has been identified in the Black Mountain Nature Reserve. Many Australian native plants are susceptible to the root-rot pathogen. The disease is a threat to the reserve’s ecosystem. Visitors must practise caution by staying on formed tracks.
Home to many
Black Mountain Nature Reserve is home to many animals including insects and reptile species. The most common marsupials on Black Mountain are Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolour) and Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrines).
Reptiles living in the reserve include three snake species, nine skink species, and seven lizard species, including dragons. The most common reptiles are the Delicate Skink (Lampropholis delicata) and Copper-tailed Skink (Ctenotus taentolatus).
A small number of endangered Pink-tailed Worm-lizards (Aprasia parapulchella) have been found in the reserve. It is unusual for the lizard to live in a forested location as it is more commonly on hill slopes and grassy woodland. Nine frog species and more than 200 insect species have been recorded in the reserve including moths and butterflies, two rare cricket and scorpion species along with a number of ant species and termites.
The range of habitats and plant diversity within the reserve’s undisturbed bushland provide havens for a range of species including threatened woodland birds. Mature trees provide nesting hollows; younger trees, shrubs and grasses provide blossoms, seeds and protection for smaller birds.
For more information on Canberra’s birds visit the Canberra Birds website.
Canberra Nature Map offers photos and descriptions of many species listed.
Every rock tells a story
Black Mountain is geologically a special place. More than 430 million years ago sediments deposited in a shallow marine environment created Black Mountain Sandstone, the underlying geology of Black Mountain. They are among the oldest rock formations in the ACT and support a particularly rich range of plant species.
For millions of years the eroded debris from mountains to the west accumulated on the sea bed and over time, compressed into the sandstones and siltstones that we see in the reserve today. Some of the slopes of Black Mountain are covered in conglomerate deposited by an ocean turbidity fan which was heading east.
Black Mountain is the only occurrence of Silurian (430 Mya) Black Mountain Sandstone which has lead to a significantly richer shrub and herb flora than elsewhere in the ACT. The sandstone was used in the construction of St John's Church and other early colonial buildings in Canberra. Some of the creek beds in the reserve have exposed quartz-rich sandstone, siltstone and shale known as the Pittman Formation, which dates back to the Ordovician (480 Mya).
The Black Mountain Sandstone, a fine-grained quartz sandstone, can be seen at a viewing area car park about half way up the summit road.
A continuing connection to country through past, present and future
Black Mountain has a long and varied place in our history as a cultural landscape. Aboriginal people lived in and managed the landscape in this region for thousands of years and have maintained a connection to the land to the present day. Generations of Aboriginal people have cared for Country, and have been sustained, physically and spiritually through their relationship with the land, waterways and cosmology.
A place for gatherings
Up until the arrival of pastoral settlers, the foothills of Black Mountain were known to be an important camping place where Aboriginal groups gathered before travelling south into the mountains. It was a place where gatherings, knowledge transference and ceremonies took place.
Continuation of knowledge
Traditionally, the local Ngunnawal people shared knowledge and responsibility for caring for Country. Today, this cultural knowledge continues to be passed down to younger generations and has a role to play in the management of ACT reserves. Aboriginal community organisations and the Murumbung Rangers in the ACT Parks and Conservation Service run cultural activities to educate the wider community about the cultural landscape, heritage values and land conservation practices.
Visit Murumbung Yurung Murra cultural activities to find out about participating in cultural activities or attend a cultural tour with a local Traditional Custodian.
Black Mountain and the area is a highly significant Aboriginal cultural place. There are numerous Aboriginal cultural heritage values and sites in the reserve including stone artefacts (occurring individually and in small scatters on the surface) considered likely to reflect past Aboriginal camping places from recent to more distant times. These sites are of cultural significance to Traditional Custodians, linking generations of Aboriginal people over time. They are also of archaeological significance as an important source of information on the history of the reserve and the ACT region.
Foundations of the Bush Capital
Traditional Custodians have actively managed the landscape for thousands of years, and created the landscapes first seen by early explorers and settlers through activities such as 'fire stick farming'.
Pastoral settlers arrived in the Canberra region from the 1820s. Stock grazing and other settlement activities reduced vegetation cover in many areas. Photographs from the late 1800s show only scattered vegetation on Black Mountain.
Heritage sites within the reserve include the small quarry used in the nineteenth century to provide stone for local buildings, such as St John's Church in Reid. It is also understood that in the 1920s a construction camp could be found at Black Mountain, although its exact location is not known.
Grazing leases were withdrawn from the inner Canberra hills in the early 1900s and forest has re-established in the reserve. Protected since 1970 as a nature reserve, Black Mountain is now one of the key sites in Canberra Nature Park, serving important ecological, educational, scientific and social functions including nature based tourism and low key recreation.
Managing our reserves
Nature reserves are created to protect and conserve native flora and fauna with high conservation value. Reserves are also an important place for scientific research, education, and nature based recreation. A management plan is in place to ensure the protection of a healthy ecosystem for the plants and animals that live there and for visitors to enjoy. Park rangers follow the reserve management plan in order to:
- protect biodiversity and heritage sites;
- research and monitor natural values;
- manage threats (weeds, pest animals, inappropriate grazing, impacts of urbanisation and climate change);
- manage fire; and
- engage with the community.
Read more about managing our reserves.
Black Mountain, because of its proximity to suburbs and major public facilities, is subject to regular fuel reduction burns. The frequency and extent of these burns is part of the Bushfire Operations Plan, which sets out to manage the risks of bushfire in the ACT.
The plants growing on Black Mountain have evolved different strategies to survive fire. The majority of species produce vegetative shoots after being burnt. The eucalypts resprout from their base and along their stems and branches. Most of the other woody plants and perennial herbs and grasses also develop shoots from the base of their burnt stems, buried roots or other underground organs.
Some species rely on vegetative regrowth to recover after a fire. Many others produce seedlings from seed buried in the soil or released from burnt fruit. A small number of species are unable to resprout after being burnt; seed germination is their only means of recovery. These species include Black Cypress Pine (Callitris endlicheri), Early Wattle (Acacia genistifolia), Small-leaved Parrot-pea (Dillwynia phylicoides), Slender Rice Flower (Pimelea linifolia subsp. linifolia) and Broad-leaved Hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa subsp. spatulata). For these species, it is important that the interval between fires is long enough for them to mature and replenish their soil seed store.
For further information see the Bushfire Management in the ACT.
Note: If you have difficulty accessing the information in this map please contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81.
About Canberra Nature Park
The ACT Parks and Conservation Service is responsible for managing Canberra Nature Park. Canberra Nature Park is made up of over 35 reserves ranging from bushland hills to some of the best examples of lowland native grassland and endangered ecological community of Yellow Box-Red Gum Grassy Woodland left in Australia.
The management of Canberra Nature Park is greatly assisted by a group of volunteers called ParkCare. ParkCare volunteers undertake a variety of activities including seed collection, plant propagation, tree planting, weed removal, erosion control, vegetation mapping and recording, water quality monitoring, raising community awareness and the maintenance and restoration of heritage places.
Caring for Ngunnawal Country
The ACT Government acknowledges the Ngunnawal people as Traditional Custodians of the Canberra region, and their continuing sense of responsibility to preserve the spirit and stories of their ancestors throughout the landscape. Cultural values are also living and current, as much as an appreciation of the past. For more information visit Caring for Ngunnawal Country.
Canberra Nature Map
Report rare and endangered plant sightings via the Canberra Nature Map.
For more information on heritage tracks, visit Canberra Tracks which is a network of heritage signage that incorporates six self-drive routes leading to many of Canberra’s historic sites.
The ACT Parks and Conservation Service conducts prescribed burns throughout Canberra Nature Park.
More information and feedback
For more information or to provide feedback, contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81 or complete an online feedback form.