• Distance 1.4km
  • Altitude max 519m
  • Altitude min 480m
  • Duration .75 hours
  • Trail type Loop
Three Stars

Three Stars

Worth Doing

The Australian Hiker Experience Rating is a measure of the overall quality of a walk. It is intended to help you decide whether to walk a trail, not to measure anything objective. Consider this our personal take on the walk.

Grade Two

Grade Two

No bushwalking experience required. The track is a hardened or compacted surface and may have a gentle hill section or sections and occasional steps. Walks no greater than 10km.

The Australian Grading system is based on the australian standard for measuring trail hikes.

Rubbish Bins
Camping Grounds

Cotter Dam Discovery Trail ACT (1.4km)

Cotter Reserve

Nearest Town

The closest suburbs to the northern trail head are Wright/Coombs, ACT

Starting Location

Cotter Dam Discovery Trail car park at the Cotter Reserve. If coming from Canberra turn left immediately once you cross the bridge into the Cotter Reserve

Finish Location

Cotter Dam Discovery Trail car park at the Cotter Reserve

Best Time of the Year to Walk

Year round

Cotter Dam Discovery Trail Review

The Cotter Reserve, located adjacent to the Cotter Dam, is one of Canberra’s best known riverside recreation areas containing picnic and playground areas with a campsite located nearby. There are a number of mainly short walks located at the Reserve itself or close by.

One of these walks is the Cotter Dam Discovery Trail. This walk is a bit of unique walk for two reasons. Firstly it’s a heritage trail that showcases the Reserve area itself as well as the heritage aspects of the broader Cotter area. It includes excellent interpretation signage and takes you on a short tour of the Reserve. Secondly this is one of Canberra’s newer trails and has been designed for wheelchair access which sadly isn’t as common as it should be. Two reasons are that many of Canberra’s trails are based in natural bushland or pre-date this type of planning.

As you approach the Cotter Reserve from the Canberra you will cross the Cotter River by bridge and as soon as you do the trail head car park is immediately on the left. You can choose to start closer to the main trail if you wish but that’s purely personal preference. Head to the trailhead signage and follow the trail on either the wheelchair option or by walking down to the river and taking the stairs. The walk follows along the river bank crossing under the bridge you drove over and then crosses over to the other side.

It’s at this point that the interpretation signage starts, and there are plenty. There are signs located along the edge of the path providing lots of information and every so often markers are bedded into the path that are chronologically based and highlight key events for Canberra’s water supply.

The pathway up to the main viewing platform can be reached by either following the ramp designed for wheelchairs or by using the various shortcuts. The high point of the walk, literally, is the view and interpretation platform that faces the new Cotter Dam wall and provides in depth information on both the old and new Cotter Dam.

From here you can return back down the way you came or head down a small set of stairs that takes you past the old trout hatchery. This latter route provides the option to cross the river again and walk down the opposite side you came up on or return back on the current side of the river.

All up this walk is around 1.4 km at its shortest and a few hundred metres longer if you follow the ramp system.

While I have good knowledge of the Cotter Dam and its history, seeing all this information set out as it is on this walk is well worth the minimal effort if you are out that way.

Walk car park

The emus wander about freely

Trailhead entry

Trailhead with wheelchair access to the right

Down the stairs

Under the bridge

Follow the signage

Crossing over to the other side of the Cotter River

Start of the main trail signage

Seating on the trail

Wheelchair accessible ramp

Example of stairs on the trail

Approaching the lookout platform

Old and new dam walls

Old dam infrastructure

The Cotter Discovery Trail is an excellent heritage walk that is a relatively short drive from the centre of Canberra

View to Cotter Dam with interpretation material in the foreground

Cotter Dam wall and the bridge to cross over the river

Old trout hatchery

Information signage spread throughout the trail

Onto Cotter Avenue, the Honyong Walking Track is straight ahead at this point

Toilet facilities

Walking back along the river


You can head back under the bridge if you want

Heading back to the car

And back to the start

Getting There

Google map to Cotter Reserve which includes the Discovery Trail

Walk car park

Things to Know

  • Phone: There is good phone signal on this trail (All networks)
  • Water: You need to bring your own water
  • Toilets: There are toilets at the car park trail head
  • Trail: This walk is on a combination of dirt management road/trail and bitumen surface
  • Dogs: NO Dogs allowed
  • Camping: No camping is allowed on this trail
  • Other: 
    • Bring adequate shade (hat, long sleeves etc) in the hotter months
    • This trail is walkable year round
    • The Cotter Reserve can be very busy during the warmer months of the year, in particular on the weekend


This walk was undertaken by the team from Australian Hiker

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