Cotter Dam views

Thursday 22 September 2022: AllTrails Cotter Dam and McDonald’s Lookout Loop; Grasstree Lookout – M/E. By kind invitation of great friends. We could maybe throw in the short walk to the Grasstree Lookout.


From Garmin Connect

Cotter Dam and McDonald’s Lookout Loop – Distance: 13.66km | Climb: 465m | Time: 2:55 moving + 0:40 of stops = 3:35 | Grading: M/E; E(7).

Grasstree Lookout – Distance: 0.79km | Climb: 19m | Time: 0:10 moving + 0:02 of stops = 0:12 | Grading: S/E; VE(3).


Photographs are available here.

gpx File

The gpx file is available here.

Track Notes

I was last in this area on 27 Jun 19 and 8 Jan 08.

I’ve recently seen some derogatory comments on another forum concerning the use of AllTrails. That’s not my experience and I’ll often check it for ideas for walks. When planning a walk, I’ll often run a gpx file (prepared using other tools) through it to check elevation gain. In addition, it provides graded opportunities for those new to walking to get into the experience.

Today’s walk leaders chose an excellent walk from AllTrails for a day threatening showers and executed it without fault. Let’s hope we soon see them as CBC walk leaders (hint, hint). I felt really privileged to be invited by younger friends to join them and loved the experience of walking along tib, min (read ‘without a care’).

The walk starts from the car park off Brindabella Road above Cotter Dam. The dam wall was a curtain of white, cascading water this morning.

After an initial descent to the SW, fire trails took us generally NW with constant views over the dam. An interesting site, the crane base. 

Crane base

An acquaintance, geocacher Tankengine (who knows more about interesting local sites than I ever will), included in a geocache description: “… you will find the footing of the crane structure that was used to build the OLD dam! They built them permanently in those days! Part of the pulley can be found nearby as well.”

Great views along the way, with hills to the S and W with their heads in the clouds..

Cotter Dam views | photo Joanne L

At one stage we dropped right down to the water, our fire trail continuing into it. Of course, the 2006 map segment below doesn’t show the new dam level.

Fire trail heads underwater

There was a hill or two to test my huff and puff.

A hill or two to test me out

The views to the dam continued.

Cotter Dam views

With the loop reaching its western extent, we stopped for smoko just south of the edge of Uriarra Village.

It was then generally ESE along the side of the pine forest and up to Mt McDonald.

The markings on my Topoview 2006 digital maps confuse me, so I downloaded and checked the latest available etopo Cotter Dam 1:25,000 map. It showed:

Mt McDonald area from etopo Cotter Dam 1:25000 topo map

The northern 788m point is certainly a quadruped trig, with the old fire tower next to it.

Approaching McDonald trig and the fire tower remains

Yet on the old map below, it’s marked as McDonald Ecce. And we walked down to the 789m point to find (what I believe to be) the Ecce.

McDonald ecce?

I wonder what the size of my mind is, since these small things amuse me.

We walked down to the Lower Cotter Catchment Lookout with its signage and view.

Lower Cotter Catchment signage

Cotter Dam from the Lookout

Joanne passed the wonderful comment that we had our own indigenous Floriade and took some beautiful photos.

Flowers | photos Joanne L

Flowers | photos Joanne L

The last leg down to our cars was, as recommended on AllTrails, a nicer footpad that paralleled the fire trail.

Nice footpad, as recommended on AllTrails, for the final leg

All I could add to the day was a suggestion to drive down the Brindabella Road a couple of hundred metres, park off the verge and walk into the Stoney Creek Nature Reserve and down to the Grasstree Lookout. 

Filtered views down to the Murrumbidgee River and some nice grasstrees.

View from Grasstree Lookout


Track Map

Here’s where we went.

Track Cotter Dam and McDonald’s Lookout, Grasstree Lookout

The AllTrails track map is here, where you can pan and zoom.


5 walkers – Tilly and Richard (leaders), Michael, Joanne, me.

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