Monday 14 March 2022: Johns Peak ! – L/E-M. Try the new-ish made track from the Camel Back Fire Trail to Johns Peak.
Distance: 14.6km | Climb: 755m | Time: 4hrs 7mins moving plus 20mins of breaks | Grading: L/E-M; M(11-).
Download the gpx file recorded via AllTrails here (in AllTrails, activate …, Download Route, Select the file format GPX Track, OK).
Another version of the gpx file, recorded on my Garmin Oregon 650 GPSr, is available here. It has a few waypoints in it which the AllTrails version doesn’t.
I was last in this area on 31 Jul 19.
The new-ish track from the Camel Back Fire Trail to Johns Peak would have to be one of the best tracks I’ve done in my nearly 20 years of walking in the ACT and nearby NSW. It is superb! Now some walkers don’t like tracks opening up, believing that they ruin the navigational challenge of walks and bring too many folk into an area. My opinion is the opposite. This track is a more accessible route to Johns Peak and allows for fantastic views to be enjoyed as one walks along. The minor scramble to the top is not tamed; it provides a little challenge to go with the magnificent scenery. My only caveat would be to start early up the Camel Back Fire Trail to avoid the hot sun (although there is shade from the tall mountain trees recovered from the 2003 fires), or to walk it in Autumn-Winter.
The Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve gates open at 7.30am in Daylight Savings Time/Summer and I was up at the Mountain Creek car park and walking by 7.45am. The link track is a nicer route for a few hundred metres to join the Camel Back Fire Trail.
I wasn’t sure how my ageing body would take the steep climb up the fire trail, the signage telling me I’d have to go up for nearly 5.6km.
It was a tortoise walk (slow and steady), but pleased I only needed to stop to take a quick photo and remove my jumper. The lovely tall mountain gums are looking good and there was plenty of shade on the fire trail due to time of day and season.
Signage at the top of the Spur 1 and Spur 2 fire trails broke the unending climb, as did the occasional call of lyrebirds. A few late flowers and a little colour beside the fire trail.
Finally reached the new (to me) turn off signage.
AllTrails showed the damage.
A couple of young ladies powered past me, no doubt heading for Camels Hump.
The old vehicle track is nice and clear, perhaps used by vehicles during the track clearing.
It leads to the burnt out communications tower.
This is where the track/footpad proper begins and there is the first of six track marking arrows.
The track is truly delightful, skirting to the east of SH1322 before realigning to the original route.
It follows the crest of the Tidbinbilla Range which is also the border between TNR and Namadgi National Park. Eventually Johns Peak comes into view …
Track markers are bright, but minimal.
… and gets a little closer …
… and closer.
Eventually the flat-ish ridge starts to climb.
There are huge views back to Camels Hump and the ridge just traversed.
Johns Peak is a little anti-climactic, flat after the rocky climb. But great views to the west. I didn’t notice the ‘Johns Peak’ sign at the time, but caught it in a photo.
The track heads on towards Tidbinbilla Peak and, I understand, deteriorates a bit.
Some folk mistakenly call this hill ‘St Johns Peak’. It’s not named after the author of the biblical book of Revelation. Signage on the Church Rock Trail has the good oil:
“Johns Peak 1453m. Johns Peak was named after John McDonald, husband of Eliza Webb.”
With the hill south above the Tidbinbilla Visitors Centre named Mt Eliza, husband and wife gaze at each other across the valley they once farmed.
The return journey from the top has magnificent views to Camels Hump.
Heading back down the Camel Back Fire Trail, there is one last view to Johns Peak.
The return down the fire trail was a little quicker than the ascent, the 5.7km covered in 1hr 8mins (1hr 40mins up).
Down near the link track there’s an old siren on a post just up in the bush.
And on the drive out, just where the Mountain Creek car park exit meets the entrance, is the site of Rayners Sawmill.
A fabulous track!
The AllTrails recorded track map is here, where you can pan and zoom. And here’s the track laid out on my old TopoView 2006 map segment.
Here’s the slight variation around SH1322.