WORDS BY BRENDAN SEYMOUR, PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVE WOLSCHENKO
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”Forget pollies and fireworks – our nation’s capital has a much better attraction for us 4WDers and it’s all entirely free”[/blockquote]
When someone mentions Canberra, a couple of things come to mind. Those porkchop pollies being the first, the wild Summernats car festival being the second, and fireworks being the third. The ACT isn’t exactly known as a 4WD hotspot, but just out the back of Canberra no more than 20 minutes from civilisation is a pearler of a weekend escape that will test your 4WD to the limits and offer epic views and camping at the same time.
The Brindabella Range is an absolutely stunning stretch of land that runs in a north-south line just west of the nation’s capital. We’re talking sharp, steep stretches of terrain that rival Victoria’s High Country, tough and rocky tracks that’ll let you find the limits of your driving skills and cracking campsites that are absolutely perfect for rolling up a swag.
If it’s warm enough, that is. See, as a northerner coming to Canberra, you get two impressions of the state’s weather. The first is blistering heat and blue skies, which seems to happen anywhere between December and March. The other is overcast, grey old days and winds that cut right through to the bone. It’s one or the other, nothing in between. Head bush down this way, and you’ve gotta be prepared for all sorts of weather. Still, it’s nothing that a solid campfire and a couple of coldies can’t fix, so let’s lob into it, eh?
We’re doing a quick overnighter here, a two day escape where we’ll head bush for a drive, take in one of the region’s absolute best viewpoints and then settle on down to a cracker of a campsite not long after. Canberra itself as you’d expect has everything you need in the way of supplies, so stock up before you leave town and top up the tanks. This trip doesn’t cover massive kilometres but it’s good practice to fuel up at any chance you get.
Heading west from Canberra, this trip actually crosses over the ACT/NSW border a couple of times as you head through the little township of Coree. Turning left onto Brindabella Road, the winding country tarmac soon ends and the road turns to well-graded dirt. It’s a relaxing drive as you quickly climb up through the range, but keep in mind the fact that there’s active logging in the area so you will come across logging trucks. Don’t cut any of the corners, especially the blind ones – it’d be the absolute worst way to end a trip early.
Brindabella Road quickly comes to a four-way intersection right on the NSW/ACT border. We’re after the right hand turn which is Two Sticks Road. It’s a good spot to air down, as the track gets steeper and rockier the further you travel. The first stretch is easy going, requiring nothing more than high-range 4WD but quickly you’ll come to an intersection. Left is signposted a powerlines track, but we’re heading to the right up to the Mt Coree Summit.
About a kay further along the summit track is the Mt Coree campground. There’s a couple of different camping areas, each with enough for about four or six 4WDs. There’s also a good long drop dunny for when nature calls, and fireplaces. Signs ask to keep fires to designated fireplaces, and fair enough too – no need to start a bushfire. Lots of big trees fallen too, which is a result of the wind that absolutely howls up through the valleys here. Did we mention it gets cold?
The track up to the top of Mt Coree gets loose, rocky and steep from here on in – perfect! There’s about half a dozen tight switchbacks, and the climbs in between will need aired-down tyre pressures around the 20psi mark and full use of low-range. The very last climb to the summit is an absolute doozy – it’s dry, rocky and there’s big wombat holes to work your way around. At some stage one of the departments has put down concrete for the very last section of the climb, so look to your right and stick to the concrete for a guaranteed easier climb.
There’s just something about standing in a spot and realising that at some stage every boofhead pollie in the country has stood in the valley below. Imagine all the dopey ill-informed decisions that have been made down there. The best part about being at the top of Mt Coree, however, is the fact that you can just turn 180° and take in an even better view across the valleys out west.
When you’re done taking in the view, make your way back down to the campsite and get the fire going. Just don’t leave it too late, because once the sun drops the temperature does too. Mt Coree is a definite favourite quick escape of ours here at 4WD Action, and it proves one thing – you don’t need to go far to find paradise!
Head west from Canberra through to the little township of Uriarra and then take Brindabella Road south-west. This road turns to well-graded dirt soon after and you’ll come to a four-way intersection just before the ACT/NSW border. Right is Two Sticks Road which will take you to the signposted turn-off to Mt Coree Summit Track.
Shortly after the turn-off to the Summit Track you’ll come across Mt Coree campground. It’s a beaut mostly flat spot in amongst massive trees with three separate sites each big enough for about four or six 4WDs. Do yourself a favour and park your 4WDs as a windbreak to the south-east as the wind can howl up through the valley. Camping is free. Facilities are campfire BBQ hotplates (fires only in designated spots) and a long-drop dunny.
WHAT TO TAKE:
This is a completely self-sufficient trip so take everything, especially warm clothes. The weather down here can change so quickly, especially considering the summit of Mt Coree is 1,421m above sea level and the campground’s not a whole lot lower. The only thing you won’t need to take is firewood – there is plenty in abundance, but definitely take a chainsaw to make use of fallen trees.
SUPPLIES AND FACILITIES:
Fill up and resupply in town in Canberra, it’s only 50km away.
The track into the campground is an easy D-grade, but the climb to the summit afterwards is a solid B. The campground makes a good place to leave some 4WDs if some drivers aren’t feeling completely confident.
CONTACTS AND INFORMATION:
National Parks Queanbeyan and Tumut
Ph: (02) 6229 7166
8.30am-4.30pm Monday to Friday
PH: (02) 6947 7025
9am-5pm daily (closed Christmas Day)
RESTRICTIONS AND PERMITS:
That’s the beaut part – no camping fees in place. BUT – there aren’t any rubbish bins out here given the remote nature of the park, so take out every bit of rubbish you take in.
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