Tidbinbilla is a corruption of the aboriginal word jedbinbilla which means "where the boys become men". Known sites of significance in the reserve include the Birriagi Rock Shelter, which is the oldest known Aboriginal site in the Australian Capital Territory. Bogong Rocks is a shelter contains the oldest evidence of Aboriginal occupation at a bogong moth resting site. Tidbinbilla Mountain is believed to have been used for initiation ceremonies.
There are over 100 years of European tenancy of the reserve. Nil Desperandum and Rock Valley Homestead are both pise rammed earth buildings built in the 1890s. Both building were built by George Green and George Hatcliff. Nil Desperandum is a historic four-roomed residence alongside Hurdle Creek first occupied by Henry French Gillman. The remains of a commercial camellia plantation and the best preserved eucalyptus distillery in the ACT are nearby. Rock Valley Homestead was occupied by the Green family. Nil Desperandum was later occupied by George Greens daughter Elsie Jane and her husband Eric Blewitt from the early 1930's to the early 1950's when Eric was killed drenching a horse. Both buildings were severely damaged during the Canberra bushfires of 2003.
In 1936 about 8.10 km² were set aside as a public reserve and in 1939 a koala enclosure was built by the Institute of Anatomy. The government acquired land to establish a national park and fauna reserve in 1962, extending the park to 36.29 km² and later further extending the park to its current size. In 1969 the first wildlife displays were created and in 1971 the park was officially gazetted.
Tidbinbilla has a wide variety of bushwalks - ranging from 30 minutes, to over 6 hours. It also is a native habitat for kangaroos, wallabies, platypus, koalas, lyrebirds, emus and other wildlife. Ninety-nine percent of the park was burnt out in the Bendora bushfire of 18 January 2003 resulting in the loss of countless numbers of wildlife. Only one koala, six rock wallabies, five potoroos, four freckled ducks and nine black swans survived the bushfire.