Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve
Not only does Mount Ainslie offer the most popular and spectacular panoramic view of Canberra and the Brindabella ranges in the background, but you can also discover an abundance of native birds and wildlife close to the centre of the city.
Where is Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve?
Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve (637 hectares) and the adjoining Mount Majura Nature Reserve form a significant ridge in north-east Canberra. It is in easy access from the Centre of the City. Walk, cycle or drive to the top of the mountain (842 metres above sea level) to enjoy the impressive scenery of the bush capital with the Brindabella Mountains in the background. The reserve borders Mount Majura Nature Reserve to the north and Mount Pleasant Nature Reserve to the south-east, the Australian War Memorial to the south, Campbell Park Offices to the east, the suburbs of Ainslie, Campbell and Hackett to the west.
What’s so special about Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve?
The ACT and region was, is and always will be part of the traditional home of the Ngunnawal Aboriginal people. Mount Ainslie is an important Aboriginal cultural place in the ACT with up to 31 known Aboriginal heritage sites of cultural and archaeological significance.
A connected landscape
As part of an ancient ecosystem that was once widespread from the northern end of NSW down into Victoria, Mount Ainslie is an important part of an extensive area of Yellow Box-Red-Gum Grassy Woodland in northern ACT. This includes Mount Majura, Goorooyarroo and Mulligans Flat nature reserves and rural land to the north and west of the ACT. Wildlife, including migratory birds, use these areas for foraging, habitat and as a movement corridor that links through the Majura Valley to the Molonglo River.
Mount Ainslie is a refuge for many threatened species of plants and animals, especially regionally declining woodland birds. It has a diversity of wildflowers in both its endangered woodland and forest areas, including rare plants such as the Canberra Spider Orchid (Arachnorchis actensis) and Hoary Sunray (Leucochrysum albicans). The threatened Glossy Black-cockatoo is often seen in the reserve eating from the Drooping She-oak. The rare and vulnerable Rosenberg’s Goanna (Varanus rosenbergi) is sometimes seen wandering through the diverse understorey.
Unlike the forests of Black Mountain or Mount Majura, Mount Ainslie forests were never substantially cleared. Mature hollow-bearing eucalypt trees are more prevalent here than in some other reserves of Canberra Nature Park. Tree hollows are important for several species of birds and mammals. Before it became a nature reserve, Mount Ainslie had sheep and cattle grazing for many years. As part of Canberra’s more recent heritage you may see old fence lines, yards, dams and tree stumps within the reserve. The eastern side of the reserve was once used as a firing range by the military at Duntroon and unexploded ordnance may still be found today. Please stay on track in this area.
Getting there and parking
There are various entry points into Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve from the suburbs of Ainslie, Campbell and Reid, from behind the Australian War Memorial, and from Northcott Drive near Campbell Park Offices.
From the Canberra Centre precinct to the west of the reserve, drive along Limestone Avenue to the back of the suburb of Ainslie, or drive further to the Australian War Memorial car park.
Australian War Memorial
Parking is behind the War Memorial, along Treloar Crescent. There is pedestrian access behind the War Memorial along Treloar Crescent.
Mt Ainslie Lookout
Car access to the top of the mountain is via Mount Ainslie Drive from Fairburn Avenue in the suburb of Campbell. There is a car park at the top of the mountain at the lookout.
Ainslie and Hackett
There are several pedestrian entry points along the western boundary of the reserve in the suburb of Ainslie and Hackett. Access to the reserve is from Canning Street, Fisher Street, Foveaux Street, Duffy Street, at the end of Phillip Avenue in Ainslie, and MacKenzie Street in Hackett.
To access the eastern boundary drive along Fairbairn Avenue. Turn onto Northcott Drive towards Campbell Park Offices.
There are three main pedestrian access points along the eastern boundary of the reserve. Parking is limited to kerbside parking and the Campbell Park Offices car park.
Mount Ainslie has many walking tracks and management trails. There are many access points including from the summit, from the suburbs of Campbell, Ainslie and Hackett and behind the Australian War Memorial. There are no picnic tables. Picnic in the shade of an ancient gum tree
There are several walking tracks traversing the reserve. Refer to map
- Mount Ainslie Summit Walk/ Kokoda Track/ Centenary Trail passes through the reserve.
- Canberra tracks heritage trail Track 2
- Mount Ainslie is part of the Heritage tracks of Canberra.
Dogs are allowed on leash in the Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve. Pick up your dog’s droppings.
Cycling/Mountain bike riding is permitted only on sealed roads, management trails, and the marked Centenary Trail.
Horse riding is permitted only on marked equestrian trails. These include Ainslie Link Trail, Socks Trail, Campbell Link trail, Telecom Trail, Hancocks Road, W132 KVA Track. Refer to Map.
Share the experience of the bush on your door step with your family. Go to the Nature Play website for more ideas.
Mount Ainslie Summit Walk/ Kokoda Track is a sealed moderate walking track to the top of Mount Ainslie with steep sections, steps and uneven ground. It offers fantastic views of the city and the local mountains including the Tidbinbilla Range and Namadgi National Park. It starts behind the Australian War Memorial on Treloar Crescent. Plaques along the way commemorate the Kokoda Track. The track is 4.5km return.
The summit of Mount Ainslie includes a scenic lookout accessed by a sealed public road, an air navigation beacon and mobile tower. There are no public toilets, public phone or barbecue facilities in the reserve. Nearest toilets are at the local shopping centres or at the Australian War Memorial. Barbecues are located in Remembrance Park behind the War Memorial.
Picnic tables. Picnic tables are located in Remembrance Park and at the Mount Ainslie lookout.
Drinking water. A water station is located at the Mount Ainslie lookout as well as at the picnic facilities behind the War Memorial.
We want you to enjoy Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve safely. You can find tips on our Safety in ACT Parks and Reserves page.
To help us protect Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve, we ask you to follow the following restrictions.
- No camping
- No timber collection
- No lighting, using or maintaining fires
- No motorised vehicles
- No rock climbing in quarries
Note: If you have difficulty accessing the information in this map please contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81.
- Remembrance Nature Park
- Reid Park
- Calvert Street Park, Ainslie
- Bill Pye Park, Rutherford Cres, Ainslie
- Haig Park
- Corroboree Park
- Lake Burley Griffin
- Commonwealth Park
- Grevillea Park
- Kings Park
- Legacy Park, Campbell
Nearest shopping centres, cafes
- Australian War Memorial
- Canberra Centre
- Campbell Shops
- Ainslie Shops
- Hackett Shops
There is no accommodation in the reserve.
Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve, close to the centre 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
Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve supports two main forest types. The dry sclerophyll forests on the upper slopes are dominated by Red Stringy Bark (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha) and Scribbly Gum (E. rossi). Nationally endangered Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland is found on the lower slopes. This endangered ecological community is part of a larger ecosystem that once extended from northern NSW down to Victoria. Large stands of Drooping She-oak (Allocasuarina verticillata) grow within the reserve. Threatened Glossy Black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami lathami) love to forage on the seed cones of Drooping She-oak. Fortunately, Mount Ainslie holds old growth eucalypts that make perfect homes not only for Glossy Black-cockatoo but also other tree hollow dependent mammals and birds.
Land of diversity
Mount Ainslie supports a high diversity of plant species considered rare in the ACT and is a key habitat for ten plant species. It is one of the few areas where endangered Canberra Spider Orchid (Arachnorchis actensis) is found. It also supports a large population of nationally endangered Hoary Sunray (Leucochrysum albicans).
The reserve has relatively large populations of Grey Parrot-pea (Dillwynia cinerascens) and Purple Donkey Orchid (Diuris punctata var. punctata), both of which are known from only one other location in the ACT.
Mount Ainslie is one of only a few known locations in the ACT of:
- Mountain Bear Orchid (Calochilus montanus)
- Fan Grevillea (Grevillea ramosissima)
- Saloop (Einadia hastata)
- Plain Sun Orchid (Thelymitra nuda)
- Shade Peppercress (Lepidium pseudotasmanicum)
- Slender Bamboo Grass (Austrostipa verticillata)
Bat’s Wing Fern (Histiopteris incisa) and Rough Tree Fern (Cyathea australis) occur in the reserve.
Other rare plant species present on Mount Ainslie include:
- Pale Flax Lily (Dianella longifolia var. longifolia)
- Silky Swainson-pea (Swainsona sericea)
- Swollen Sun Orchid (Thelymitra megcalyptra)
A common shrub in the reserve is a daisy known variously as Cauliflower Bush, Cough Bush or Dogwood, one of four species of Cassinia growing on the mountain. It flowers in summer, when most other shrubs have finished. Be cautious handling it – the leaves and flowers can irritate the skin, eyes or lungs of some people. It is named for Count Alexandre de Cassini, a French botanist of the early nineteenth century who specialised in daisies.
Mat-rush (Lomandra longifolia) is a tough-leafed understorey plant, looking a little like a robust grass clump or a lily. Mat-rush leaves have wide tips with usually three little teeth. In late spring the flattened flowering spikes are clustered with little white flowers. Aboriginal people valued the plant; eating the soft leaf bases and flowers and weaving the strong fibrous leaves into baskets and mats.
Home to many
Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve is home to an abundance of diverse bird species, reptiles, insects and mammals. The most common marsupials in the reserve are Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolour) and Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrines).
The forests are noisy with birds, especially in spring and early summer, when migrant birds arrive to breed. Red Wattlebirds (Anthochaera carunculata) cackle raucously. The harsh gobbling call of Noisy Friarbird (Philemon conriculatus) can also be heard along with the continual piping of White-throated Treecreeper (Cormobates leucophaea). The flashing red of Crimson Rosellas (Platycercus elegans) is often seen in the tree tops.
Several threatened and declining bird species have been sighted on Mount Ainslie, including:
- Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus)
- Hooded Robin (Melanodryas cucullata)
- Little Eagle (Hieraaetus morphnoides)
- Painted Honeyeater (Grantiella picta)
- White-winged Triller (Lalage sueurii)
- Varied Sittella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera)
- Regent Honeyeater (Anthochaera phrygia)
- Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolour)
The area of highest bird diversity is on the south-eastern lower slopes, above the Campbell Park Offices. 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 go to Canberra birds
Surveys in the 1970s and 1980s found Yellow-footed Antechinus (Antechinus flavipes) and Brown Antechinus (Antechinus stuartii) on Mount Ainslie and Mount Majura, however surveys in the 1990s failed to find either species.
Reptiles living in the reserve include three snake species, Lace Monitor (Varanus varius) and the rare and vulnerable Rosenberg’s monitor (Varanus rosenbergi) is sometimes seen wandering through the diverse understorey.
Every rock tells a story
More than 425 million years ago a shallow sea teeming with life covered much of south eastern Australia. Behind the shoreline the land was completely barren of any life, though in places the first primitive plants were making a momentous move onto the beaches. Along the shore, not far to the west of the reserve, and on scattered islands in the sea, active volcanoes deposited ash and mud into the waters. This volcanic debris is the origin of the rocks of Mounts Ainslie and Majura, which are very different from the older sandstones of Black Mountain, formed from silt and sand washed by rivers into the sea. The eruption came from a volcano into shallow sea water as part of a chain of island volcanoes.
The Mount Ainslie Volcanics can be seen in cuttings on the Summit Road and at the summit lookout. Rocky outcrops of Mount Ainslie Volcanics are found on the low ridge immediately north of the War Memorial.
A continuing connection to country through past present and future
Mount Ainslie has 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. Traditional Custodians have actively managed the landscape for thousands of years, through activities such as ‘fire stick farming’ and selectively cultivating certain plants, which created the landscapes first seen by European explorers and settlers. Grasslands were frequently burnt to maintain fresh, succulent, green growth to attract animals for hunting and to provide open pathways for travel.
Mount Ainslie holds a special association with Aboriginal people as a Women’s Place and is a key landmark in the northern ACT. The western side bordering Majura Valley is known to be a major pathway through the landscape leading towards the alpine areas. Archaeological evidence of scarred trees, artefacts and ceremonial sites has been recorded in Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve and nearby areas.
The reserve protects these cultural values as well as numerous known Aboriginal heritage sites, being the physical (archaeological) traces of the rich Aboriginal history of the area. These include surface stone artefact scatters and isolated finds, reflecting past Aboriginal occupation and land use, from distant to more recent times. These sites are of cultural significance to Traditional Custodians, linking generations of Aboriginal people over time, and they are also of archaeological significance as an important source of information on the history of the reserve and the ACT region.
All Aboriginal places and objects in the ACT are protected under the Heritage Act 2004 and must not be disturbed. Anyone finding an (unregistered) Aboriginal object or place has an obligation to report it to the Heritage Council.
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.
Foundations of the Bush Capital.
Traditional Custodians have actively managed the landscape for thousands of years, and created the landscapes first seen by European explorers and settlers through activities such as ‘fire stick farming’.
European settlers arrived in the Canberra region from the 1820s. Robert Campbell was granted land to farm sheep. His overseer, James Ainslie, reached the Limestone Plains in 1826 with 700 sheep. Robert Campbell built the Duntroon homestead on the lower slopes of Mount Pleasant. Campbell’s Duntroon station extended from present day Duntroon all the way to present day Glebe Park.
Stock grazing and other settlement activities reduced vegetation cover in many areas. Campbell appears to have been a conservative pastoralist whose practices did not cause as much impact as pastoralists who held blocks immediately to his north. Grazing sheep was the major stock activity and during drought years, Drooping She-oak (Allocasuarina verticillata) was used as fodder. James Ainslie increased the size of the sheep flock from 700 to 20,000 in the first twelve years. While some trees on Mount Ainslie were removed for fencing and firewood, photos from 1908 show the mountain as a treed landscape.
Influence of war
Heritage sites that add value to the reserve include the eastern side of Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve, which was used for manoeuvres and live-firing activities from World War II up until the late 1950s/early 1960s. A number of unexploded ordnances (UXOs) have been identified and removed, but further UXOs may still be located in this area, with implications for park management and recreational use.
Preserving the past
Records indicate that Charles Weston planted the lower city-side slopes of Mount Ainslie and Black Mountain, where forty years later his mixed Eucalypt coppices served as a convenient study plot for forestry students.
Sheep and cattle grazed on Mount Ainslie for many years before it became a nature reserve. Old fence lines, yards, dams and tree stumps as well as introduced grasses and other plants can be seen today in the reserve as remnants of Canberra’s pastoral era.
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:
- restore biodiversity
- protect heritage sites
- research and monitor natural values
- manage threats (weeds, pest animals, inappropriate grazing, impacts of urbanisation and climate change)
- manage fire
- engage with community
Managing Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve
Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve is managed by ACT Parks and Conservation Service, which oversees programs to protect rare plants and animals through various management actions. The control of invasive plants and animals such as the Cootamundra Wattle (Acacia baileyana) and rabbits, is one important part of conserving and enhancing biodiversity. Park Rangers work collaboratively with researchers and volunteers and conduct regular patrols of the Reserve.
Mount Ainslie, 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. For further information see Bushfire Management in the ACT.
A Survey of the Vertebrate Fauna of Mt. Ainslie, Mt Majura and Black Mountain; 1975-76, K.Kukolic, (1990)
Vegetation of the Ainslie – Majura Reserve F. Ingwerson, O. Evans and B. Griffiths, (1974)
About Canberra Nature Park
Canberra Nature Park is made up of 37 nature 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 ACT Parks and Conservation Service is responsible for managing Canberra Nature Park. For more information visit the Canberra Nature Park webpage.
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.
For more information visit ParkCare
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.