Walking Mount Nelson gave me a taste for the local environment, reawakened my passion for photography and my desire to get away and experience nature alone. Together with encouragement from friends and fans, I decided to set out to capture more of the area. I was studying full-time, so I decided to start with the second closest trail and head outwards from there.
Knocklofty Reserve marks the first of several hills to the west of Hobart, culminating in the landmark of Mount Wellington. As related by Friends of Knocklofty, when Hobart was settled by Europeans in 1804, they began clearing the closest hill for timber and firewood. Sandstone deposits were excavated for the construction of public buildings, banks and churches, and local businesses operated brickworks. Graziers subdivided the land, and over time, the land was overcome by urbanisation. The reserve was owned privately until 1945 when the local council opted to purchase the land in order to protect the area from further degradation. Despite the reclamation of the area by the Council, the reserve remained poorly maintained until 1983 when these enthusiastic volunteers commited to a rejuvenation of the area.
Apparently, Knocklofty Reserve has always been a popular destination with locals. Greater Hobart Trails notes it’s popularity with dog-walkers and cyclists, and I certainly saw a few families while I was there. Friends of Knocklofty relate that recreational use of the park stems back to Hobart’s colonisation, when prominent local artists such as John Glover began hiking the area for inspiration. Several plaques are scattered throughout the park relating information on the rehabilitation of plant and animal species, and one in particular features a reproduction of one of John Glover’s paintings, a copy of which hangs in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. (Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo but Google can help.)
I began the track from the Forest Road entrance, which is little more than five minutes from the central CBD. An extensive carpark rests at the foot of the hill, providing immediate views of the city and Sandy Bay, to the south.
The climb began on a steep fire trail of coarse gravel, curling around the southern side of the hill. Views of the surrounding valley were passable, but mostly eclipsed by the surrounding bushland. Fifteen minutes of climbing delivered a sunny summit and the beginning of a warren of labelled and unlabelled trails which spread across the hill.
Opting to stay on the main trail for now, I passed over the summit. The view here isn’t terribly notable. A little of Lenah Valley to the west, more trees to the east. The fire trail descended into a narrower gravel path which led through sunny woodland to the Mount Stuart Track. The “summit loop”, as the Council prescribes it, closes here, leading back down to the start of the trail. I continued on the Mount Stuart track, descending through denser bushland to the Mount Stuart Lookout.
The lookout is accessible directly by car at the terminus of Mount Stuart Road, about 15 minutes from the CBD (Google says 7, but I tend to find it’s worth doubling their suggested time.)
I returned via the Fiona Allen Memorial Walkway which grants views over Mount Stuart and West Hobart (albeit, as usual, there are trees in the way.) Whether you take the Fiona Allen or Mount Stuart trails, expect a sharp hike until reaching the central track.
Returning by the crossroads of the Mount Stuart and Knocklofty tracks, I decided to explore the western face, veering off onto an umarked trail which led to a cliff face overlooking Lenah Valley.
I followed various trails around the western face, until I was satisfied I’d seen it all, and eventually descended back down the summit loop, the way I had arrived, and diverted along a smaller trail leading back to the car park, hoping for a nice shot at the summit of a small hill.
With an hour or so until darkness fell, I decided to attempt to see those remaining tracks at the base of the hill. This is one area in which the council map is sorely lacking. Wooded tracks are scattered throughout the park at the base of the hill, leading to the end of several streets and a ‘Frog Pond.’ The first of these takes a sharp decline through dense woodland into the end of Poets Road. Sandstone is in abundance here – outcrops of rock line the southern wall of the trail, forest throughout. Where the trail meets Poets Road there is a small park with a small cliff-face, a small path circling through swampy ground.
On the return path, I was feeling adventurous and climbed through the forest to meet the tracks to the north, walking unmarked trails through bushland to pass Fielding Drive, and wandering the maze of trails through the Frog Ponds on my return. Personally, I didn’t hear or see any frogs, just a lot of long grass.
I wandered the area around the car park to seek any remaining views, settling for two shots of the city from one of the easily accessible lookouts towards the entrance:
The only map I’ve been able to find depicting the myriad tracks throughout the park was by a user named walkingtasmania on the Bushwalking Australia forums. I did attempt to reach them, but I haven’t received a reply since I began writing this post, so, here’s a link: Map of Knocklofty Reserve
As stated by the Australian Plants Society, the Reserve has several entrances: From West Hobart, you can enter via Mount Stuart Road to the north, from the east there are entrances at Knocklofty Terrace, Fielding Drive, Poets Rd Corby Avenue. The main entrance is accessible via Goulburn Street, diverting onto Forest Road to the main carpark.
Overall, while not a bad place to visit, especially for families, I would recommend another trail for those seeking dramatic photo opportunities or a thorough “bush” experience.