16 February 2005 Bullen Range - Cotter to Tidbinbilla Tracking Station and return Photos
Maps: Cotter Dam 8627-2N Second Edition 1:25000, Tidbinbilla 8627-2S Second Edition 1:25000
Getting There

Drive to the Cotter Reserve, about 15 minutes from Weston Creek.  Cross the Murrumbidgee River, go past the Brindabella Road turnoff on the right and, just as you are about to swing right to go down to cross the Cotter River, go straight ahead into the picnic area.  Drive to the end and park.  I did this walk solo.  Why - the Moon Rock Cafe at the Tidbinbilla Space Tracking Station is the closest place to Cotter to get an ice cream; no, on the walk along the Murrumbidgee River on 12 Jun 04, we'd heard motorbikes up on the ridge and I wanted to see where they were.


There is lots of redevelopment work going on at Cotter Reserve, with new short walking trails being opened up.  It will be great when it is completed.

I was walking by 7am, across the temporary pedestrian bridge over the Cotter River and along the Cotter Caves Track.  I read the new cave signage and popped up the hill to have a look down the barred cave entrance.  Paddys River was choked with weeds and other vegetation and I was wondering how I'd get across, but the track I was on looked promising so I continued on.  Yes, there was a ford across Paddys River and with dry feet I started to climb the Bullen Range spur.  I must have been first on the track today, as there were numerous spider webs to be pushed through.

It was easy walking, though steep, with views north to the Cotter Reserve and opening vistas south and west to Sugarloaf Hill, Pierce Trig, Paddys River valley and Pierces Creek.  By 7.45am I'd reached the top of the spur at spot height 666.  Views west and south to the Tidbinbilla ridge (my favourite hills) and down to Mt Tennent.  With the track running along the western side of the ridge just down from the top, there were only fleeting views to the Cotter pipeline and Mt Stromlo.

After a time the scrub opened up and the Murrumbidgee River could be seen down in its gorge, then across the open paddocks to the back of Chapman, Narrabundah Hill and Urambi Hills.  3 eagles were soaring and a little later on a hawk circled over my head.

By 8.15 I'd reached the gate at spot height 698 and the bare, stripped ex-pine forest was to the west.  It did make for great views south to the entrance to the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.  To the east, Black Mountain tower and the Parliament House flag pole could be sighted.  Looking back, Mt Coree was prominent (going there next).  I reached Bullen Hill at 8.45am, skirting round it on the outward leg and climbing it on the return.

9.30am saw me at spot height 782.  The track continued on, with its accompanying burnt out fence, so navigation was a non issue.

I reached the communication tower at GR80358165 (GDA94) and sidled down towards the tracking station - the only off-trail walking of the day.  Some thick scrub in the gullies, but an ice cream was only 10 minutes away.

10.20am saw me in the Moon Rock Cafe and an ice cream was not so appealing - cold water instead.  I was directed to the guard station where I asked if I could walk back through the tracking station to get back to the communication tower.  The guard said no, but suggested I walk down the road 100m to a gate, then along the track going north on the east side of the station.  This was, in fact, the route I had wanted and it was easy to get back to the tower.

It was quite a slog back along the Range, which is by no means level!  The monotony was broken by a phone call from my boss in Melbourne (he was apologetic as he guessed I was walking) - lucky I was on a ridge with mobile reception.

By 11.45am my legs were starting to cramp on the up bits.  Reached Bullen Hill at 12.05pm, then slipped and fell down the steep wash on the northern side.  I stopped for 5 minutes at the 'roundabout tree' - a nice sized gum fair in the middle of the trail - to eat a sandwich, then plugged on.  The trail sure does go on and on and on ....

I was back at the car by 1.35pm.  I lay on the grass, ate my other sandwich and made a cup of coffee.

Although fire trail walking and hard on the feet (and I'm sure it was more than the forecast 25degC), this walk (1 way of it!!) is well worth the effort for the views.  Not a bad choice, Johnny boy.

Distance: 24.9km  Time: 7.00am-1.35pm, with 15 minutes of stops.

1 Cotter Pumping Station from Bullen spur 2 Tidbinbilla Tracking Station 3 The trail goes on and on this way too