• Distance 9.4km
  • Altitude max 836m
  • Altitude min 678m
  • Duration 2.3 hours
  • Trail type Return
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 Three

Grade Three

Suitable for most ages and fitness levels. Some bushwalking experience recommended. Tracks may have short steep hill sections a rough surface and many steps. Walks up to 20km.

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

Rubbish Bins
Camping Grounds

Nil Desperandum ACT (9.4 km)

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Nearest Town


Starting Location

Greens car park, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Greens car park is part of the larger adventure playground area. There is parking at Greens for about seven cars but there is ample parking a short walk away if the group is large


Finish Location

Greens car park, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Best Time to Travel

This trail is walkable year round but would be a bit exposed in mid summer

Nil Desperandum Trail Review

To start the walk to Nil Desperandum head to Greens car park which is one of the smaller car parks located in the main adventure playground at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. To get to Greens take the first turn to the right just after you have entered the main reserve which is the turn off to the Nature Discovery Playground. The sign doesn’t say ‘Greens’ at this stage but once you enter the Nature Discovery Playground the car park is well signposted.

The Nature Discovery Playground is a great place to take a family for a visit particularly if you want to see wildlife such as kangaroos and emus. For some reason I have never associated Canberra with emus, I don’t know why. To start this walk park at the small Greens car park and walk 100 metres down the hill to the secluded picnic area. The sign to start this walk is over towards the right side of this area and near the river.  The walk starts by crossing a small bridge before coming to the trail register.

This first 500 metres of this walk is through lush green vegetation and I had expectations that this would be the norm but this wasn’t the case. The majority of this walk is on open exposed fire trail so doing this trail in mid summer in the middle of the day is probably not the best choice.

The scenery on this trail can best be described as a nice walk in a remote area but while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t spectacular. However having said that this walk was a bit of a surprise. I was aware before starting the walk that Nil Desperandum (Don’t Despair) was a homestead but I had impressions of it being the run down dilapidated variety and that was partly due to its name. I was very surprised as I approached this lovely old homestead to find it in excellent condition and surrounded by swathes of green grass. This building was constructed in the late 1890’s however much of it was destroyed in the 2003 Canberra bushfires. It has been rebuilt and the only indication that there was ever a fire is that the vegetation is all about the same height.

The biggest surprise to me was that you could actually stay here overnight. The fees aren’t cheap at $149 per night but that’s for up to six people. Bookings can be made through the link below. Aren’t allowed to collect firewood from the surrounding area and need to bring it with you if you feel the need. I think I can do without a fire if it means carrying in 10 kg of timber. The facilities at the hut are excellent with an outside toilet as well as camp beds if you didn’t want to tent it. There is a small water tank attached to the toilet block and while the water is probably fine, I would recommend that you treat it.

We stayed here for about 30 minutes for a break and to look around before heading back and noticed that not long after we left the homestead, we had the option of going up a very steep hill that connected back with the main trail. This alternate route is steep to say the least and we opted to return the way we came which is the way the trail signs direct you. Speaking of trail signs, the trail itself is well marked and easy to follow.

This is a great walk for those history buffs or for those who want a day/overnight hike to be just a bit different. I can see my self spending a night here over the coming year with family.

The turn off to Greens car park is the first right hand turn as you enter the main part of the reserve

The adventure playground and picnic facilities at this trail head are excellent and a great place to have lunch if you start this trip early

Adventure playground

Emu at the adventure playground

Internal sign directing you to Greens car park

Toilet facilities in the main area. There is another smaller block between the Greens and Webbs car parks

Greens car park

Follow the sign to the Greens picnic area and the trail head which is about 100metres away from the car park

Down to Greens picnic area

Head across the open grassed area to the right and follow the signs

Over the bridge

Mmmmm. Me thinks they need a new rail register!

The local mushrooms get pretty big

The first part of the trail is lush, green and shaded but it doesn’t last very long

Thi is a typical example of much of this trail. The scenery is great but open and exposed to the sun

The trail is well marked

I always love it when the moon is up during the day

Panorama view of the local scenery

Heading to the homestead

Long drop toilet at Nil Desperandum

Old farm machinery

Nil Desperandum homestead

Nil Desperadum home paddock

Back of Nil Desperandum. There is a BBQ as well as tables at the rear of this homestead

Kitchen in Nil Desperandum

Bedroom in Nil Desperandum.You can camp overnight here but there is a fee (See below)

Red Belly Black snake on the return trip

Alternate route back. You can go straight up the hill rather than turning right here but its a steep hill

Turning of the fire trail. The arrows mark the direction

Getting There

Image from Google Maps

The trip from the centre of Canberra is approximately 45 minutes and 43 km. Once you enter the nature reserve itself travel to the Adventure playground carpark which is the first turn on the left. This playground is large and contains a series of smaller carparks and picnic areas with plenty of facilities. This is a good place to see emus. Follow the signs to Greens carparks to start the walk.

There are  a couple of toilet facilities here. One large one near the adventure playground as well as one smaller one between the Greens and Webbs carparks. (stop here for a toilet break if you need to) then continue on the loop road taking the right branch each time you have the option. 

The Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve contains a series of walks that are closer to Canberra than those at nearby Namadgi National Park. Many of the Namadgi walks, particularly those that go into the Bimberi Wilderness Zone, are more remote requiring a higher level of skill but with it a higher degree of seclusion whereas the Tibinbilla walks are easier  to access but you are unlikely to be alone on the trail.

Vehicle access into the reserve requires a permit which ranges from a single visit at $14.00 per vehicle with up to eight people or $38.00 per year. If you are a keen walker it’s worth buying the annual pass as it only takes three visits over the year to make it economical.

If you have an annual pass you can enter the park via the boom gate and scan you pass from as early 7:30 am in the morning and you will need to be out by 6:00 pm at the latest (8:00 pm in summer). If you are buying a single entry into the park you will need to wait until the visitor centre opens at 10:00 am (9:00 am in the summer).

Entrance to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Tidbinbilla Visitor Centre and boom gate. If you have an annual pass you can just swipe your card for access without having to enter the visitor centre

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve requires a pass to enter with your car (with up to 8 passengers)

  • The annual pass is $38 and if you plan on doing at least three visits over the year is the cheapest option
  • A day pass is $14.00
  • The reserve is accessible before the visitor centre opens so long as you walk in or have an annual pass
  • The visitor centre sells snacks if you need
  • The closet toilet is at the Dalsetta car park which you pass on the way to the Fishing Gap car park
  • There is occasional phone signal on the higher peaks but don’t rely on this
  • Camping is available at Nil Desperandum
    • $187 per night for up to 6 people/for up to 7 nights
    • A $100 refundable key/security deposit is payable
    • Booking through here

Things to Know

  • Phone: There is variable phone signal on this trail (Telstra)
  • Water: You need to bring your own water
  • Toilets: There are no toilets on this trail but there its a toilet at Nil Desperandum
  • Trail: This walk is on a combination of dirt management road/trail
  • Dogs: Dogs NOT allowed on leash
  • Other: 
    • Bring adequate shade (hat, long sleeves etc) in the hotter months


This walk was undertaken by the team from Australian Hiker

Australian Hiker Newsletter

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