State Highway No. 4

Snowy Mountains Highway heading west from Kiandra. Feb 2006.

Length: 282km

Eastern Terminus: Princes Hwy, 5km north of Bega

Western Terminus: Hume Hwy, 26km south west of Gundagai

Route taken: From the Princes Hwy, 5km north of Bega, via Bemboka and Brown Mtn to the Monaro Hwy, 8km south of Nimmitabel. Thence from the Monaro Hwy at Cooma via Adaminaby, Kiandra, Tumut and Adelong to the Hume Hwy, 26km southwest of Gundagai.

Route Markers: National Route 18 (NR18 is continuous across the Monaro Hwy gap)

Declared a State Highway: 7 August 1928

Named: 9 September 1955

The Snowy Mountains Highway , State Highway No. 4, is an important east-west route in southern NSW, connecting the coast with the Monaro plains, the snowfields and Kosciuszko National Park, as well as the Riverina. The highway is rarely used from end to end, however sections of the highway carry very high traffic volumes, particularly around Tumut/Adelong. In the winter months traffic is extremely heavy on the western side of Cooma, as thousands of tourists make their way from Canberra and Sydney to the snowfields. It is also advisable that, during the winter months, tyre chains are carried at all times as the highway is often subject to heavy snow and frost.


State Highway No. 4 was proclaimed on 7 August 1928and was named Monaro Highway – as it linked the Monaro region with the coast and the inland plains. The route of State Highway No. 4 commenced at Tathra Wharf , thence following Tathra Street and the Tathra-Bega road to Bega, where it stopped at the Princes Highway. Recommencing at the Princes Highway a few kilometres north of Bega, State Highway No. 4 continued uninterrupted via Bemboka, Nimmitabel, Cooma, Adaminaby, Kiandra, Yarrangobilly Caves, Tumut and Adelong to the Hume Highway near Tumblong. State Highway No. 4 also extended from the Hume Highway, a few kilometres south of the aforementioned junction, west to Wagga Wagga. The section of State Highway No. 4 west of Hume Highway was later decommissioned, becoming part of the Sturt Highway (State Highway No. 14) when it was proclaimed in August 1933.

Following a review of the initial declaration, the route of State Highway No. 4 in the vicinity of Yarrangobilly Caves was altered. A new alignment was selected, 6km long, via Rules Point. The old alignment of the highway was redeclared as Main Road No. 324 and relegated to the role of an access road to Yarrangobilly Caves. Due to the steep grades and narrow alignment of the old route, it has been restricted to one-way traffic. Traffic wishing to access the caves must join Main Road No. 324 from its north-western end, 3km west of Rules Point, and traffic exiting the caves rejoins the Snowy Mountains Highway 3km south of Rules Point. The alignment change was gaztted on 7 November 1930.

For many years State Highway No. 4 (then named Monaro Highway) remained relatively inconspicuous – it was little more than a gravel track along most if its length, and by 1960 a bitumen surface had only been provided near Tumut/Adelong, between Kiandra and Cooma, east of Bega and on a few other isolated sections.

In 1949, when the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme was launched, State Highway No. 4 (then named Monaro Highway) suddenly became very important as the principal avenue of communication between a group of the large works undertaken by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority. Thus, the Department of Main Roads began in earnest a massive reconstruction programme on the Highway. It was also deemed appropriate to change the name of State Highway No. 4 from Monaro Highway to Snowy Mountains Highway. This change also included the reclassification of State Highway No. 4 between Cooma and Nimmitabel as part of State Highway No. 19 and was gazetted on 9 September 1955 . The Monaro Highway name was later given to State Highway No. 19, which runs north-south through the Monaro region.

Between 1950 and 1955 the Department of Main Roads undertook a complete reconstruction of the Snowy Mountains Highway from Cooma to Kiandra, largely at the cost of Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority. East of Nimmitabel, sealing was completed with the construction of a deviation from 0-5km west of the Princes Highway in 1964. A couple of minor classification changes were then made: on 7 July 1972 the route of the Snowy Mountains Highway was altered to junction with the Monaro Highway approximately 9km south of Nimmitabel, rather than at Nimmitabel and, on 12 November 1976, that section of the highway from Tathra Wharf to the north eastern boundary of Tathra St, Tathra, was decommissioned.

Meanwhile, reconstruction was continuing on the highway west of Kiandra to Inspiration Point, a 29 mile section which would complete the bituminous sealing of the Snowy Mountains Highway, in earnest. The entire 29-mile section is located within the Kosciusko National Park , and at an altitude which is subject to snow falls for approximately four months of the year. Therefore, the design was undertaken with the purpose of minimising interference with the natural features of the area and the effect of heavy snow falls. Since these two objectives often conflicted, the final design was necessarily one of compromise. Another major problem in the reconstruction of this section of the highway was the short working season. Between May and late October of each year, the weather usually made work impossible. Thus, work was continued over the Christmas period and was programmed to ensure that the maximum amount of work was completed in the limited time available.1

Between Kiandra and the westernmost junction with Yarrangobilly Caves Rd , cuttings up to 40 feet deep and fills up to 86 feet high were required to bring the highway to an acceptable standard. However, grades of up to 8 per cent were still encountered and climbing lanes were provided on the steeper sections. Complex pavement solutions were required to negate the effects of ice, snow and tyre chains. West of Yarrangobilly Caves it was necessary to remove trees up to 100 feet in height to achieve the required alignment but “this was done selectively to avoid any unnecessary disturbance to the local ecology.”2 Reconstruction between Kiandra and the westernmost junction of Yarrangobilly Caves Rd was completed and opened to traffic in May 1973. The final section, from Yarrangobilly Caves Rd to Inspiration Point was completed in June 1973 – except for the final seal which was completed in late spring 1973 – thus completing the bituminous sealing of the Snowy Mountains Highway .

Since then, there has been few changes made to the Snowy Mountains Highway . Safety improvements were effected at Brown Mountain (Nimmitabel-Bemboka) during the mid 1990s and on 24 May 1996 the Tathra-Bega section of the Snowy Mountains Highway was decommissioned and reclassified as Main Road No. 272.

Photos of the Snowy Mountains Highway
First mention of Snowy Mountains Highway/National Route 18, southbound on Hume Highway. Feb 2006.
Third northbound AD sign on Hume Highway, approaching the beginning of Snowy Mtns Hwy/National Route 18. Jan 2005.
Unusual AD sign westbound on Snowy Mountains Hwy approaching the Hume Highway. Because of the low volume of traffic wishing to head towards Gundagai from the Snowy Mtns Hwy, it was decided not to build a direct overpass and traffic must enter the southbound highway before doing a u-turn several hundred metres to the south of the interchange. Jan 2005.
Extremely rare (in NSW at least) END NR18 sign, with a more common END TD6 sign, on the ramp from Snowy Mtns Hwy to Hume Hwy southbound. Jan 2005.
First distance sign on Snowy Mtns Highway, heading east from Hume Highway. Feb 2006.
A supplemental distance sign, letting travellers know they should follow "Cooma" signs for access to the Snowfields. Feb 2006.
Eastbound view of the typically undulating Snowy Mtns Hwy west of Adelong. Feb 2006.
Reconstruction and widening underway at Nacka Nacka Creek (7km west of Adelong). Feb 2006.
Unusual diagrammatic AD sign, eastbound as you enter Adelong. Feb 2006.
Looking south along the main street of Adelong (Snowy Mtns Hwy), approaching Wondalga Rd. Feb 2006.
Black distance sign heading east from Adelong. Feb 2006.
Looking east, 15km from Tumut. Feb 2006.
Northbound AD sign on Batlow Rd approaching Snowy Mtns Hwy near Gilmore. Feb 2006.
Black distance sign, heading west from Tumut. Feb 2006.
New AD sign in Tumut, approaching the junction with Gocup Rd. Very well designed, except for one thing - there is no NR18 shield! Feb 2006.
Black AD sign on Gocup Rd southbound approaching Snowy Mtns Hwy. Note the lack of a NR18 shield on the bottom panel of the sign. Feb 2006.
Very old black ID sign at the Gocup Rd junction in Tumut. It looks as though this was once a double-chevron ID sign but has been cut in half to suit a new location. This sign has since been replaced. Mar 2004.
Black AD sign westbound approaching Gocup Rd. Feb 2006.
Looking east along Snowy Mtns Hwy in Tumut. If you stick to the highway you don't see much of the town centre as it lies along Wynyard St, which may once have been part of the highway. Feb 2006.
Distance sign heading east from Tumut. Feb 2006.
Information sign warning travellers they should carry snow chains at all times during the winter months, as the Snowy Mtns Highway is prone to snowfall between Tumut and Adaminaby. Feb 2006.
The highway is generally kept open all year with regular snow-plowing but extremely heavy snowfall can cause short-term closures. Because its still summer, this sign tells us that the road is open. Feb 2006.
Lovely tree-lined section of the highway approaching the crossing of the Tumut River, 8km southeast of Tumut. Feb 2006.
After crossing the Tumut River, the Snowy Mountains Highway gets very steep and winding as it ascends the Great Dividing Range. Also note the poor condition of the pavement. Feb 2006.
Black kilometre plate heading east, showing 165km to Cooma. These are quite common still on the Snowy Mtns Hwy west of Kiandra. Feb 2006.
The Great Dividing Range forms an imposing backdrop for this overpass across the highway near Blowering Dam. I'm not sure what the overpass is for, but it may serve traffic from the Blowering Dam. Feb 2006.
Winding road and a large cutting, looking east between Tumut and Talbingo. Feb 2006.
Looking south alongside Blowering Reservoir, a glimpse of which can be seen to the right of the highway. Feb 2006.
A sign warning of the long distance between services as you approach the turnoff to Talbingo. Feb 2006.
Distance sign heading east from Murray Jackson Dr (the access road from Snowy Mtns Hwy to Talbingo). Feb 2006.
One of the straighter sections of the Snowy Mtns Hwy as you ascend the Cumberland Range east of Talbingo. Feb 2006.
Midway between Talbingo and Yarrangobilly Caves the highway straightens out and yellow line-marking is introduced. This means we have reached the height where it regularly snows. Feb 2006.
A few kilometres after the yellow line-marking begins, these orange poles begin lining the edge of the highway. They are used so that, in times of snowfall, you can see the edge of the road formation - the regular white posts can become very hard to see when surrounded by snow! Feb 2006.
Sign denoting the crossing of the Cumberland Range between Talbingo and Yarrangobilly Caves. Feb 2006.
Looking south-east across the Yarrangobilly River. Feb 2006.
Unusual sign warning motorists of wild horses that may be crossing the highway for the next 3km, between Yarrangobilly River and Yarrangobilly Caves. Feb 2006.
Black kilometre plate, heading southeast 115km from Cooma. Feb 2006.
An old painted AD sign at the western junction with Main Road No. 324 (Yarrangobilly Caves access road). MR No. 324 is the original alignment of Snowy Mtns Hwy, replaced by a new route via Rules Point in November 1930. This sign has since been replaced. Mar 2004.
Black distance sign heading east from the above junction. Feb 2006.
Looking east across the plateau at Rules Point. This would be quite a scene in the winter months. Feb 2006.
Distance sign heading west towards Rules Point from the eastern junction with Yarrangobilly Caves Rd. Feb 2006.
A rather belated welcome to the Snowy Mountains (after nearly 80km of mountain climbing!), 100km from Cooma. Feb 2006.
Looking east at Kiandra, showing the junction with the Kiandra-Cabramurra-Khancoban road (Tourist Drives 1 & 5). Feb 2006.
Black AD sign with no NR18 shield (!) approaching Snowy Mtns Hwy from the Kiandra-Cabramurra-Khancoban road. Feb 2006.
Distance sign heading west from the above junction. The "town" of Kiandra is just ahead, although I couldn't see anything more than a snow plowing depot. Feb 2006.
Gently curving section of the highway with wire-rope fencing on the outskirts of Kiandra. Feb 2006.
Looking west at Kiandra with an old alignment (pre-1970s) of the highway on the left of the current route. The current route was constructed by the Department of Main Roads as part of a complete reconstruction of the highway between 1949 and 1973. Feb 2006.
Another view of the old alignment, this time from the Kiandra-Cabramurra-Khancoban road. Note the old single-lane concrete bridge over Bullock Head Creek in the foreground. Feb 2006.
A long view, on a foggy day, of Snowy Mountains Highway crossing the Eucumbene River, east of Kiandra.
Source: Rick Wardle, October 2008.
Distance sign (missing a NR18 shield!) heading west from Kosciuszko Rd, 6km west of Cooma. Apr 2005.
AD sign on Snowy Mtns Hwy eastbound, approaching Kosciuszko Rd. Traffic must turn here to continue on the SMH. Apr 2005.
Distance sign heading east from Kosciuszko Rd towards Cooma. Apr 2005.
Diagrammatic tourist AD sign heading west approaching the Kosciuszko Rd junction. Note that traffic must turn right to continue on the SMH, as the dominant traffic flow is typically between Cooma and Jindabyne. Apr 2005.
Distance sign heading west from Cooma. Apr 2005.
Looking west along Sharp Street (Snowy Mountains Hwy) in Cooma. Feb 2006.
Monaro Hwy (Sharp St) southbound approaching Snowy Mtns Hwy in Cooma. Note the lack of a NR18 shield for left-turning traffic. Feb 2006.
Monaro Hwy (Bombala St) heading west approaching the junction with Snowy Mtns Hwy in Cooma. Feb 2006.
Monaro Hwy eastbound approaching the beginning of the eastern section of Snowy Mtns Hwy, 8km south of Nimmitabel. Note the coverplates over alpha-numeric route markers - I wonder what number has been assigned to the southernmost section of the Monaro Hwy! Feb 2006.
ID signage at the Monaro Hwy/Snowy Mtns Hwy junction. Only the right sign is correct, the left sign is missing a NR18 shield and the top sign is missing a NR23 shield. Feb 2006.
Distance sign heading east from the Monaro Highway towards Brown Mountain. Feb 2006.
Looking west between Monaro Hwy and Brown Mountain. The wire mesh fancing with wooden posts give this section of the Snowy Mountains Highway a very 1950s feel. Feb 2006.
The calm before the storm - steam rising off the Snowy Mountains Highway at the top of Brown Mountain, just before we encountered some torrential rain. Feb 2006.
The beginning of the steep and winding 11km section of the Snowy Mountains Highway where it descends from the Monaro Plains to the coastal plains. Feb 2006.
Looking east at Brown Mountain. Feb 2006.
Distance sign heading west from Bemboka in the rain. Feb 2006.
Looking west from Bemboka with Brown Mountain in the distance. Feb 2006.
Looking east, east of Bemboka with more wire-mesh fencing. Apr 2005.
Looking east, 30km west of Bega. Apr 2005.
Looking east to the narrow bridge across the Bega River at Morans Crossing. Apr 2005.
Looking east about 8km west of the Princes Highway, showing how the Snowy Mtns Hwy winds its way through the hilly farmland of the coastal plain. Apr 2005.
1950s wooden & wire mesh fencing on a section of the highway cut into the hillside, near the Princes Hwy junction. Apr 2005.
Distance sign, the first one on National Route 18/Snowy Mtns Hwy, heading west from the Princes Hwy, 7km north of Bega. Feb 2006.
AD sign approaching the junction with Princes Highway, 6km north of Bega. This is the eastern terminus of National Route 18.
Photo taken: February 2006.
AD sign southbound on Princes Highway approaching the junction with Snowy Mountains Highway, 6km north of Bega.
Photo taken: April 2005.
Photos of the former alignment of Snowy Mountains Highway: Bega to Tathra Wharf (now Main Road No. 272)
Princes Hwy (Carp St) heading east in Bega, approaching the junction with Main Road No. 272 (old Snowy Mtns Hwy). Note the "Snowy Mtns Hwy" nameplate, which is a good indication that Main Road No. 272 was once part of the highway. Apr 2005.
Distance sign heading east on Carp Street from the Princes Hwy junction. No such like finding a NR18 shield or Snowy Mtns Hwy name-plate this time. Apr 2005.
Relic from the days when Main Road No. 272 (Bega-Tathra road) was part of the Snowy Mountains Hwy - this black kilometre plate tells us that Tathra is 15km away. Apr 2005.
Old timber beam bridge (built in 1937) and old 1970s sign at Meakers Gully. Apr 2005.
Another timber beam bridge, this time over Gowing Creek (also built in 1937) and a 1970s creek sign. Apr 2005.
Looking east just after a winding section of road, about 7km west of Tathra. Apr 2005.
Double-chevron ID sign at Sapphire Coast Way with a NR18 shield underneath a green patch. You can just make out the outline of the shield from this photo. Apr 2005.
Looking east at Evans Hill, 4km west of Tathra. Apr 2005.
Looking east through Tathra - the town centre is at the top of the hill in the distance. Feb 2006.
A view of Tathra Street (part of Snowy Mtns Hwy until 1976) as it descends towards the wharf. Feb 2006.


1. Department of Main Roads; Main Roads Vol. 38 No. 4; June 1973; p.98
2. Department of Main Roads: Main Roads Vol. 38 No. 4; June 1973; p.100

Last updated 26 January 2009
© Ozroads 2004-2009.