Red Hill Nature Reserve
Looking out, Red Hill offers amazing panoramic views over many national icons from the southern side of the city centre. The reserve’s biodiversity and range of threatened and rare species is astonishing.
Where is Red Hill Nature Reserve?
Red Hill Nature Reserve (298 hectares) is a prominent hill located between Woden Valley and south Canberra. It makes an impressive ‘Bush Capital’ back drop to Parliament House. The reserve encompasses a ridge system that includes Red Hill (720m) and Davidson Hill (750m). The reserve is surrounded by the suburbs Deakin, Forrest, Red Hill, Garran and Hughes. There is road access to the top of Red Hill through the suburb of Forrest. The lookout provides a striking view of central Canberra.
What’s so special about Red Hill Nature Reserve?
The ACT and region was, is and always will be part of the traditional home of the Ngunnawal Aboriginal people.
A connected landscape
Red Hill contains one of the largest remaining remnants of its woodland type, anywhere. As part of an ancient ecosystem that was once widespread from the northern end of NSW down into Victoria, Red Hill is an important part of an extensive area of Yellow Box-Red Gum grassy woodland in the ACT. This includes Mugga Mugga, Isaacs Ridge, Wanniassa Hills, Farrer Ridge, Mount Taylor and Oakey Hill nature reserves. Wildlife use these areas for foraging, habitat and as a movement corridor, along the wooded ridges to the south and west, and connecting with the Murrumbidgee Corridor.
Red Hill Nature Reserve is home to many threatened, rare or uncommon species of plants and animals, especially regionally declining woodland birds. The reserve contains one of Australia’s largest remaining populations of the nationally endangered Button Wrinklewort (Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides). Red Hill is also an important breeding location for the Gang Gang cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum). The reserve is home to the vulnerable Pink-tailed Worm Lizard (Aprasia parapulchella) and the Perunga Grasshopper (Perunga ochracea). Geologically, exposures of metamorphic hornfels and tonalite are regionally significant examples of their type and an important educational feature.
Walter Burley Griffin’s original plan suggested planting red flowers on Red Hill. Plantings of Crimson Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus) and Rosemary Grevillea (Grevillea rosmarinifolia) began in 1917 through to the early 1920s. Many of these plants have survived and continue to thrive today.
Red Hill Lookout
To access the top of the hill by car enter Gowrie Drive from Mugga Way/Stonehaven Crescent in the suburb of Red Hill/Deakin. Keep left and onto Red Hill Drive to the lookout.
Pedestrian access into the reserve from Red Hill is along Mugga Way opposite the following streets:
- Baudin Street
- Torres Street
- Flinders Way
- Francis Street (with an off-road car park)
- La Perouse Street
- Tamar Street has limited parking
- parking at the lookout, Red Hill Drive.
There are several pedestrian access points into the reserve and street parking in the suburb of Deakin, including on:
- Buxton Street
- Strickland Crescent
- Galway Place
- Beauchamp Street
- Kent Street with parking on Hampden Place.
Pedestrian access into the reserve is from the following streets, which offer street parking only:
- Brereton Street
- Couvreur Street (52-60 and 38-46)
- Bonwick Place
- Astley Place
- Richardson Street.
Pedestrian access is from Glasgow Street, offering street parking only
Red Hill has many walking and management tracks. The most popular activity is to enjoy a walk or run through the nature reserve.
There are several walking tracks traversing the reserve, including:
Dogs are allowed on leash in the Red Hill Nature Reserve. Please pick up your dogs droppings.
Cycling/mountain bike riding is only permitted on formed vehicle tracks and the marked Centenary Trail.
Share the experience of the bush on your door step with your family. Go to the Nature Play website for more ideas.
The reserve is rich in photo opportunities of plants and animals and amazing views of Canberra. It is worth the walk to several lookout locations such as at the top of Gowrie Drive/Red Hill Drive where there are amazing views of Parliament House, and along the ridge beyond the cafe.
The Red Track is a 3.2km loop walk. Discover Red Hill’s natural and cultural heritage attractions through the theme of the colour ‘red’. There are some steep sections with rocky and uneven surfaces. Start at the lookout and reward yourself at the end of the walk at the Lookout Cafe.
The summit of Red Hill includes a scenic lookout accessed by a sealed public road, a cafe and restaurant and public toilets. There are no barbecue facilities, public phone or water station in the reserve, so make sure you plan ahead.
Toilets are located near the Red Hill cafe and in La Trobe Park, on Melbourne Avenue
There are two picnic tables near the cafe at the Red Hill lookout. Otherwise, picnic in the shade of an ancient gum tree.
We want you to enjoy Red Hill 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.
To help us protect the rich biodiversity of Red Hill Nature Reserve, we ask you to follow the following restrictions.
No timber collection – it’s home to our wildlife!
No lighting, using or maintaining fires.
No motorised vehicles.
Note: If you have difficulty accessing the information in this map please contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81.
- Callum Brae Nature Reserve
- Issacs Ridge Nature Reserve
- West Jerrabomberra Nature Reserve
- Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve
Nearest shopping centres, cafes
- Red Hill shops
- Griffith Shops
- Manuka Shops
- Deakin Shops
- Garran Shops
- Hughes Shops
- Woden Westfield shopping centre
There is no accommodation in the reserve.
Not only does Red Hill Nature Reserve offer panoramic views, but also offers an insight to the local natural and cultural history, geology and biodiversity. Learn more about the bush on your doorstep.
Ecosystems in this reserve
Red Hill is one of many nature reserves that form a large forested-woodland area in south Canberra. Other reserves include Mugga Mugga, Isaacs Ridge, Wanniassa Hills, Farrer Ridge, Mount Taylor and Oakey Hill nature reserves. Wildlife use these areas for habitat and as a movement corridor, along the wooded ridges to the south and west, and connecting with the Murrumbidgee River Corridor.
The nationally endangered Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland is the main ecosystem in the reserve. This woodland is part of a much larger area that once ranged from northern NSW down to Victoria. It is also home to ten threatened and 19 uncommon plant and animal species.
Land of diversity
Red Hill has one of the highest native plant diversities recorded in a Yellow Box-Red Gum grassy woodland remnant anywhere in Australia. Over 175 plant native species have been found in the reserve including threatened species. Most of the diversity lies in the understorey and becomes more obvious as plants are flowering.
There are five main eucalypt species on Red Hill. Yellow Box and Blakely’s Red Gum, along with Apple Box, form an endangered ecological community on the lower slopes. Apple Box-Broad Leaved Peppermint Woodland occurs in the south-west of the reserve above Garran. Other eucalypts growing on Red Hill include Red Box, Scribbly Gum, and Broad-leaved Peppermint.
Drooping She-oak (Allocasuarina verticillata) occurs on one third of Red Hill. Seedlings of this species have been planted in several areas with an aim to increase the food source for the threatened Glossy Black-Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami), which is a rare visitor to the reserve.
With over 5,500 plants at 11 separate locations, the reserve contains one of Australia’s largest remaining populations of the nationally endangered Button Wrinklewort (Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides), Bright yellow flowers appear from December to April.
Red Hill contains relatively large populations of:
- Austral Trefoil (Lotus australis)
- Large Tick Trefoil (Desmodium brachypodum)
- Sickle Fern (Pellaea falcata), Silky Swainson-pea (Swainsona sericea)
- Shaggy Rock Fern (Cheilanthes distans)
- Tick Bush (Indigofera adesmiifolia)
The Shrubby or Smooth Rice Flower (Pimelea glauca) ranges from a much-branched shrub to one metre tall. Its flower clusters attract insects and butterflies. Aboriginal people made fine nets from the reddish-brown stems of some of the larger Pimelia species.
Other reserve values include:
- high diversity and abundance of woodland pea, daisy and fern species considered rare in the ACT
- largest ACT populations of Yellow Burr Daisy (Calotis lappulacea) and Smooth Flax Lily (Dianella longifolia)
- one of just three known ACT locations of Bunch Wire grass (Aristida behriana)
- other rare plants include Hill Fireweed (Senecio hispidulus) and Pink Five Corners (Styphelia triflora).
- The 2003 woodland survey recorded Narrow Plantain (Plantago gaudichaudii) and Mountain Swainson-pea (Swainsona monticola), but neither could be located during a comprehensive 2012 spring/summer rare plant survey.
- The Red Hill Regenerators ParkCare group has prepared a list of threatened, regionally rare and regionally uncommon species on Red Hill which can be found at www.redhillregenerators.org.au/.
Home to many
Red Hill Nature Reserve is home to an abundance of diverse mammal, bird, reptile, and invertebrate species. Bird species have been monitored in the Red Hill Nature Reserve since 1998. A number of threatened bird species have been identified in the reserve and there is a resident population of Speckled Warbler (Pyrrholaemus saggitatus), and Diamond Firetail (Stagonopleura guttata). Red Hill is also an important breeding location for Gang Gang Cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum).
Red Hill’s bird population peaks in late autumn when flocks of small birds including silvereyes, weebills and thornbills move through the area. Old hollow-bearing trees provide nesting sites for many birds and other tree dwelling animals, including possums and bats. For more information on Canberra’s birds go to Canberra birds
Every rock tells a story
Many rocks of the Canberra region were formed about 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. To the west and north of the reserve, volcanic islands erupted huge clouds of white-hot volcanic ash and red-hot material. The sedimentary rocks that we see in the reserve today were once sediments that eroded from the nearby land and deposited on the sea floor (Yarralumla Formation mudstone, siltstone and limestone).
The eastern side and southern end of the reserve, including Davidson Hill, is a hard grey-coloured volcanic rock called dacitic ignimbrite. It is around 425 million years old and part of the first series or eruptions in the Canberra region.
Around 417 million years ago a granitic igneous intrusion, known as Tonalite, came in contact with the local sedimentary rock. The hot molten intrusion baked and hardened the sedimentary rock forming hornfels. The hard hornfels is resistant to weathering. Over millions of years, the surrounding softer rocks have eroded down into broad valleys and plains. Hornfels can be seen on top of Red Hill and along the Red Track.
Granite rocks such as tonalite, usually becomes solid at a depth of five kilometres. Its presence today at the top of Red Hill is indicative of a deeply eroded landscape, probably up to five kilometres over the past 400 million years. One large tonalite boulder can be seen 20 metres upslope of the road into the Federal Golf Course.
A continuing connection to country through past present and future
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 high levels of fresh, succulent, green growth to attract animals for hunting and to provide open pathways for travel.
Red Hill and other hills in the region served as distinct visual markers and also provided excellent vantage points for keeping an eye on intruders or to signal to other family groups.
The reserve protects cultural values as well as possible physical (archaeological) traces of the rich Aboriginal history of the area. 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.
Follow Murumbung Yurung Murra cultural activities to find out more about participating in cultural activities or attend a cultural tour with a local Traditional Custodian.
Foundations of the Bush Capital
The reserve was part of the ‘Duntroon’ property owned by Robert Campbell. It was one of the largest grazing properties in the area. Early photographs and maps show that large areas of Red Hill were cleared of trees for grazing. Cattle grazing continued on Red Hill until 1995.
Walter Burley Griffin’s vision for Canberra included the colour-themed revegetation of its bare hills, which had been denuded by grazing prior to 1917. There was yellow flowers and foliage for Mount Ainslie, white and pink flowers for Black Mountain and white flowers for Mount Mugga Mugga and red for Red Hill. Under the direction of Charles Weston, over 5,000 of the red flowering Crimson Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus) and Rosemary Grevillea (Grevillea rosmarinifolia) (both not local to the ACT) were planted from 1917 to the early 1920s. Griffin later changed his mind and urged that Canberra’s hills should be restored to their natural state. To aid this, he called for the grazing leases over the hills to be withdrawn. However, cattle and horse grazing continued for another 80 years. The bottlebrush and grevillea species that are seen today on Red Hill are retained for their heritage value, but any seedlings found outside the planted area are removed.
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 Red Hill Nature Reserve
Red Hill 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 is one important part of conserving and enhancing biodiversity. Park Rangers work collaboratively with researchers and volunteers and conduct regular patrols of the Reserve. Red Hill Regeneration Group volunteers contribute their time to improve and protect the reserve’s natural and cultural values. Join the ParkCare group for their once a month working bee. New members are welcome.
For more information refer to the Canberra Nature Park Plan of Management.
Red Hill, 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 ACT Parks and Conservation Service employs specialist fire managers and professionals who are responsible for the planning and delivery of the fire programs following ecological guidelines. Staff work closely with ecologists to ensure that the patchwork of burnt and unburnt areas promotes the growth of healthy plant and animal communities.
For further information see the Bushfire Management in the ACT
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.