The Ballarat-Skipton Rail Trail is a 53 km trail along the old Ballarat-Skipton Railway line. Extensively upgraded in 2008 with a high quality gravel surface, new signage, seating and rest huts, the trail is now an important reserve, which has been preserved for future generations.
Passing through farmland, historic towns, bushland as well as areas of conservation and historic significance, it is suitable for cyclists, walkers, and horse riders of all levels of experience.
There is a gentle gradient (maximum gradient of 2%) along the length of the trail.
With a host of accommodation, food, and visitor attractions along the route, the trail provides a unique opportunity for visitors to discover the region.
Highlights along the Trail include some of the regions significant historical small towns, including Cardigan, Haddon, Smythesdale, Scarsdale, New Town, Linton, Pittong, ending at Skipton.
Along the Ballarat to Skipton Rail Trail, you can see the Golden Plains from atop the historic rail trestle bridge, Nimons Bridge, with panaramic views that span the surrounding farm lands, forests and remnant gold tailings.
Trail Highlights include:
Arch of Victory and Avenue of Honour - As you leave central Ballarat you'll pass through the 1920 Arch of Victory and along the Avenue of Honour. On part of the 22 kilometre stretch of road planted with a tree for each Ballarat resident who enlisted in the First World War between 1917 and 1919. Employees of the local E.Lucas & Co, textile factory planted the trees and raised the funds for building the Arch.
Smythesdale - A former gold mining town. The township is to your left, on the Glenelg Highway, with many historic buildings including the police station, stables and courthouse. Snacks are available at shops in town.
Scarsdale - A nice picnic area by the trail with a water tank and a small town just off the trail. The trail gets hillier from here.
Nimmons Bridge - The most photographed sight on the trail is a fabulous long trestle aged-bridge (which has been recently restored), best viewed from the track across the creek below the bridge. There is a picnic table at each end of the bridge - perfect spots to enjoy the valley views.
Clarkesdale Reserve - You can glimpse a dam and much birdlife through the trees along this forested section of the trail.
Linton - A brief exit from the forest brings you to the edge of Linton. The township is to your left, and has many historic reminders from the gold rush era including a Chinese cemetery and public buildings from the 1860s, plus galleries and cafes. There's also a shop right beside the trail as it crosses the highway. On both sides of the town the trail passes through cuttings and crosses trestle bridges. As you leave Linton and head towards Skipton catch a glimpse of Mortchup Reservoir on your left.
Pittong - The trail leaves the forest with a descent to a kaolin mine; the white clay is used for porcelain. You are back to sheep country and rolling farmland.
Skipton - At the end of the trail lies Skipton, a picturesque town with a reserve by the Mount Emu Creek and many Victorian buildings. The hotel dates from 1857 and the bluestone church in the main street is of a similar vintage. The town was an important wool centre in the late nineteenth century with the best Merino wool in Australia. A newer local industry is eel farming, with eels bred for export.
The trail starts at Ballarat Railway Station, Lydiard St Nth, Ballarat. There is then 8 km to the head of the Trail at Ring Road, Ballarat West. The trail ends at Skipton.