Mt Ainslie Walk & Lookout | Complete Guide

As you look down Anzac Parade towards the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, it is hard to miss Mt Ainslie in the background. The Mt Ainslie walk from behind the War Memorial, along the Kokoda Trail to the summit is a solid hike but worth the effort for the great views of Canberra and flora and fauna of the Mt Ainslie Nature Reserve.

Your dog can join you on the walk but must be kept on leash. You cannot ride a bike up the sealed Mt Ainslie Kokoda Track, but you can ride on the side tracks and fire trails in the reserve and you cannot fly drones along the walk either.

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Mt Ainslie picnic shelter

Where does the Mt Ainslie walk start?

The main trail to the top of Mt Ainslie starts in the Remembrance Nature Park behind the Australian War Memorial. There are other trails winding their way to the summit that run off the less well signed Mount Ainslie Circuit walk but finding them if you are a visitor is tricky.

It is also worth taking the main path to the top of Mt Ainslie, as it has been developed into the Mount Ainslie Kokoda Memorial Trail and there is a lot of very good signage commemorating the World War 2 Kokoda campaign along the way.

Mt Ainslie Walk

Where do you Park for the Mt Ainslie Walk?

Normally you would drive onto Treloar Cresent, find a park at the rear of the Australian War Memorial, cross the road to Remembrance Park and start your walk. But as of the start of 2023 there is a major re-development taking place at the Australian War Memorial and those parks are not available.

The best options for parking in the meantime, and works are expected to go through to 2028, are in Rosenthal Street just near the park, or if you are walking on the weekend as we did, you could park in the Campbell High School Car Park a little further along Treloar Cresent.

How long & hard is the Mount Ainslie walk?

The Mt Ainslie summit walk is a medium difficulty 4.5km return hike along a sealed track. The return walk will take you between 1.5 and 2.5 hours. The track ascends 250m and there are few times when you are not looking at an incline ahead of you. The slope is steady for the most part but there are shorter sections where the gradient gets steeper. There is a set of 60 steps near the top to negotiate as well.

There are plenty of places to rest along the way and there is also a dozen or so signs about the Kokoda Trail that you can stop and read if you want a reason to catch your breath. The walk back down is a breeze and doesn’t get so steep that you feel like you could slip over. There is plenty of shade on the walk too.

Mt Ainslie Walk

The start of the Mt Ainslie Walk

From your car park walk along Remembrance Park on the opposite side of the road to the Australian War Memorial towards the picnic shelter and the Richard Kelliher VC Memorial Park. Private Kelliher won a VC for his heroic acts in New Guinea in 1943, you can read about his amazing feats on a sign there.

Just beyond the shelter is a 3D plaque commemorating the Kokoda Trail and a small set of steps which mark both the start of the walk and, if you’re a history buff, an introduction to the Kokoda Trail and the plaques you’ll see along the walk.

Aboriginal People memorial

Remembrance Nature Park

The first part of the trail takes you through the Remembrance Nature Park. There are a few trails coming off the main path through here, the first one you come to is the Honor Thwaites Track that forms part of the loop circuit around Mt Ainslie.

Not far from here you also get the first of the Kokoda Plaques that commemorates Owers’ Corner.  Owers’ Corner marks the point where the only way forward was on foot and is where the Australian soldiers began their daunting trek across the Owen Stanley Range. The plaque includes a small map and indicates where Mt Ainslie walkers find themselves in the story of the Kokoda Trail.

A short detour you can take early in the walk is to the Aboriginal People Plaque. It is less than 100m off the trail and it takes you to a small clearing with some seats and a plaque on a rocky outcrop that commemorates ‘Aboriginal People’ who have served in the armed forces. It is a quiet spot and an unassuming memorial. We spotted kangaroos through here on our way to the memorial.

Mt Ainslie rest stop

What do you see on the Mt Ainslie walk?

From the Aboriginal People Memorial, back on the main track you cross a small wood bridge and enter the Mt Ainslie Nature Reserve for the rest of the walk to the summit. The track points up for the rest of the walk and includes a few sets of steps to negotiate as well.

Along the way there are seats and vantage points where you can stop and take in the views over central Canberra. Unfortunately, the dense and ever growing bushland obscures the views for the most part, but there is plenty to look at along the trail.

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Mt Ainslie Rosella
Mt Ainslie Kangaroo

Mt Ainslie Plants & Wildlife

There is plenty for nature lovers to see as you walk up Mt Ainslie. We spotted eastern grey kangaroos at a couple of points on the walk – mostly in the lower half of the track. It was a warm day, and they were sitting quietly under the trees. There is also plenty of birdlife. The brightly coloured crimson rosellas were easy to spot eating grass seeds on the side of the path. We also heard squawking cockatoos overhead.

Some of the signage describing the local plant species is looking pretty tired but there was some readable information about the Scribbly Gums, Narrow-leafed bitter peas and Golden Everlastings that you see on the way. Further up the trail, you also walk through stands of drooping she-oaks.

Mt Ainslie summit

What do you see at the top of Mt Ainslie?

The last part of the walk between the Kokoda plaques for the villages of Alola and Isurava is one of the steepest sections and includes a climb up a set of about 60 steps, but you are rewarded with one of the better mid-walk lookouts and by this stage you might want to stop and catch your breath!

From here it is just a short walk to the Kokoda Village Plaque at the top of Mt Ainslie where you get wonderful panoramic views across the whole of Canberra and beyond to the Brindabella Range.

As well as the big views and a big carpark, yes you can drive to the top of Mt Ainslie…, there is lots of signage describing Canberra’s beginnings and some prominent people including Sir John Overall and Sir John Butters who were key to the development and design of Canberra. There is also a drink station at the top where you can refill your water bottle.

Walking back down Mt Ainslie

You have three options for the trek back down Mt Ainslie. You could arrange for someone to pick you up and drive you back down. You can also walk down the way you came up – we noticed the views of Canberra much more on the walk back down. If you have a map or are familiar with the area, the third option is to veer right as you start back down and take the unsealed track that takes you further around the mountain and eventually joins up with the Ainslie Link Trail. This is a longer return journey but less travelled.

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