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Ballarat – Skipton Rail Trail

Victoria - West

4.2 based on 34 reviews
Location: 110 km north west of Melbourne
Length: 57 km
Surface: Fine gravel
Start / End: Ballarat to Skipton
Public Transport: Coach, Train
Suitable for:
  • Cycling – Mountain BikesCycling – Mountain Bikes
  • Cycling – Touring and Hybrid BikesCycling – Touring and Hybrid Bikes
  • Horse RidingHorse Riding
  • PramsPrams
  • Scooters and Inline SkatesScooters and Inline Skates
  • WalkingWalking

  • Rail Trail
  • On Road
  • Potential RT
  • Other Trail
  • Former Railway
View Map
  • It’s a high-standard trail with the historic towns of Smythesdale, Scarsdale, Linton and Skipton providing points of interest and facilities
  • There is free camping at Smythesdale Gardens
  • You can visit Nimons Bridge, the third-tallest surviving timber bridge in Victoria
  • There are signs with trail information at various points

Nearby Attractions

  • Victoria’s largest inland city, with many magnificent buildings from the goldrush era
  • Sovereign Hill heritage centre in Golden Point
  • Ballarat Wildlife Park
  • Ballarat Tramway Museum
  • Eureka Centre
  • Bunny Trail
  • Canadian Creek Trail
  • Yarrowee River Trail
  • Smythesdale Police Camp historic precinct
  • The childhood home of Sir Henry Bolte, Victoria’s longest-serving Premier, in Skipton
  • Mooramong historic homestead west of Skipton

Last updated: 12 June 2024

This trail has a good range of facilities for users and the surface is predominantly crushed granite. It has three easy sections:

Ballarat to Smythesdale: From the outskirts of Ballarat, west of Lake Wendouree, downhill to Smythesdale

Smythesdale to Linton: Continuing downhill, the trail crosses historic goldfields and native grasslands

Linton to Skipton: Travelling gently uphill, the trail features pleasant Australian bushland and a kaolin quarry at Pittong

ESTA Emergency Markers are located every kilometre along the trail. In an emergency, call 000 and quote the alphanumeric code on the marker post nearest to you, eg BSR04 is 4km from Ballarat

Section Guides

Ballarat to Smythesdale (20km)

  • Ballarat is a major town with a wide range of services and things to do, including great infrastructure for walkers and cyclists, with solar lighting around Lake Wendouree
  • The linking track starts on Wendouree Pde, south of Wendouree Railway Station, then runs along Gregory St West, crossing an old line to the cattle market, and north up Ring Rd, past the Mars Wrigley factory, to the official trailhead next to Ballarat Link Rd. The rail trail goes under the link road next to the Maryborough railway line and then heads south towards Newtown before crossing Ballarat to Burrumbeet Rd (Remembrance Dr, C805), the site of Cardigan Stn. Bordered by pine and cypress trees, the trail continues to the station site at Kopke, which was a large goldrush settlement
  • Haddon is surrounded by native grassland. There’s a café at the local nursery before town, a general store and toilets at the recreation reserve
  • Nintingbool siding is the last place of interest before Smythesdale. It was named after a squatters’ station
  • Smythesdale is a historic gold mining village dating from the 1850s, with the well-preserved police camp in Brooke St worth a look. The town has a range of services including food, petrol, accommodation and a pump track. Camping at Smythesdale Gardens

Smythesdale to Linton (17km)

  • After skirting the sports oval at Smythesdale, the trail crosses the Glenelg Hwy and continues to Scarsdale
  • Between the two places you can visit the Chinese graves in the cemetery to your right
  • Scarsdale is a small village with public toilets, BBQ, bike repair station and information shelter at the community park, including a description of the Rainbow Bird Trail
  • After crossing Galatea Rd, the trail continues to Nimons Bridge, a large restored trestle. There is a corral for horses, which have to use the low-level bypass
  • The trail then runs through attractive forest north of the Clarkesdale Bird Sanctuary in Happy Valley
  • Linton is a small village with elaborate facilities at the station site, including a bike repair stand, and a general store.

Linton to Skipton (20km)

  • The trail gradually climbs from the village into Linton State Forest
  • At Pittong, it emerges from the bush and ducks off the railway alignment for the Pittong quarry, Victoria’s largest for kaolin, a pure white clay used for pottery and ceramics. There’s another picnic area here
  • The last 5km into Skipton follows the Glenelg Hwy and ends at the site of the Skipton Railway Station at the recreation reserve, which has RV camping by donation
  • Skipton has a range of services including a small supermarket (with extended trading hours) and a roadhouse. The roadhouse rents its cabins via AirBnB and Bookings.com.  A cafe has opened in the bluestone former art gallery


  • The Rainbow Bird Trail (35km) officially starts from the trail hub at Scarsdale, where there is an information board in the shelter and parking, but it goes its own way from Casey Rd, Piggoreet, after the Captain Moonlight information board (watch for the pale blue parrot symbol on a post). If you’ve already done the ride/walk to Skipton, you might want to skip the first 6km of this one and start in fresh territory at Casey Rd or Golden Lake Rd. This is a fairly gentle ride along gravel country roads suitable for horses, cyclecross and mountain bikes. It takes you south through gorgeous landscapes, mine reserves, parks and historic precincts to Dereel’s lagoon and community centre.
  • The Kuruc-a-Ruc Trail (13km) continues south from the Dereel community centre along country roads through Corindap to Rokewood

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40 reviews of “Ballarat – Skipton Rail Trail”

Really enjoyed riding this beautiful trail, we had kangaroos hopping along near us and great sunny weather. We left our car in Skipton and stayed overnight in Ballarat.

Two things to be aware of:
– there are no water fountains except at Smythesdale near the sports oval and a tap near the free camping ground
– although the trail length says 55km, at the Ballarat end the trail ends 8km from central Ballarat which can be a bit of a SHOCK 😳

Fabulous e-bike ride in sunny conditions from Smythesdale to Skipton and return on a trail in great condition. I Loved Nimons Trestle Bridge, the bush and farmland I rode through and the impressive wind turbines. The 2.2km detour to the lookout between Linton and Pittong was rewarded with amazing views and I watched a wedgetailed eagle soaring up high while on the tower. I enjoyed a light lunch in Skipton at Bluestone Bubbles & Banter and had to ride the last section quickly to treat myself to the scones at Thru The Gate Cafe in Smythesdale before they closed for the day. I did have some battery anxiety but had 10km left in the battery at the end.

In reference to other comments, camping is available at Skipton Bowls club, $15 with power. For details see wikicamps, and Bluestone cafe is great

Yesterday the four of us rode part of the Ballarat-Skipton RT. Started at Nimons Trestle Bridge rode to Skipton and back. Only about 60km but very enjoyable. Must give a shout out to the newly opened cafe at Skipton. The staff at the Bluestone Bubbles & Banter (BBB) are doing an amazing job. The coffee was great, good selection on the breakfast/lunch menu and sweets.

Rode this trail December 14 & 15, 2023. I'm on a heavy ebike and aged in high 70s. 114km return trip with some long climbs seemed a bit much for one day. So on day 1 I drove from Melbourne to Ballarat and rode to Scarsdale and return. On day two drove to Scarsdale and completed the ride to Skipton and return. It was fabulous forest country through to Pittong, with climbs for which higher battery-power was needed. The last 10km into Skipton seemed hard work. There were numerous wind turbines around, for reasons that became very clear. I included the 2.2km detour to the lookout, and managed to get back to my car at Scarsdale with 4km range left in the battery. The track was really good and had dried out from the torrential rains of a couple of days before. Food mid-week was a bit scarce on the trail. A good trail recommended for all.

For someone wanting to do an out and back overnighter is there any proper serviced camping options at Skipton that include showers and camp kitchen facilities? From everything I've read it seems like a dead end trail with a virtual ghost town at the termination.

Hi Davern, there are camping facilities at Smythesdale (https://www.goldfieldsguide.com.au/explore-location/565/smythesdale-gardens/) but not at Skipton unfortunately to the best of my knowledge. Skipton Roadhouse has cabins for hire that you can find on AirBnB.

16 Nov 2023. I caught the train to Wendouree with my bike and rode to Skipton. The trail quality is a huge improvement from my last ride here. The regular signs all along the trail show distances and lots of information. The many little shelters are perfect size to get out of the sun or rain and for a lay down snooze. Unfortunately the shire boundary (with funding) must cut off near the Skipton end where the track quality and signage decline. I camped at Skipton footy ground but found the town lacking with the pub closed, one small supermarket and only take away at BP. Riding back I did the side 2.2km trip up to the fantastic lookout, this is a must do! I camped at Smythesdale and enjoyed the pub then cafe next morning breakfast.

I rode a flat bar racer (700 x 38C commuter tyres) Kopkes Rd to Skipton, return – it's a wonderful trail – congratulations to the local community and council.
The whole trail is well signposted, with markers each km, and regular shelters, tables, seats and facilities. The section from Smythesdale to 6km before Skipton was the highlight – particularly the cutting, sanctuary and bush near Linton.
Apart from the last 5.5km into Skipton (where the trail is soft), the trail is very well compacted and in excellent condition (the warnings on the description of the trail should be updated so that they only refer to the last 5.5km into Skipton).

Partner and I rode Skipton – Smythesdale return in late August, – started and finished in Linton. Good hard packed surface throughout, and km markers every km! Good signage throughout, and toilets along the trail too, – tick!
As for Skipton and refreshments…, the hotel was closed, the cafe was closed, and as we were deliberating on what to do, an elderly local walked passed, informing us the owner of both the hotel and cafe was a moron, – because he had closed the businesses! Right… Up the hill, he poited to us, at the BP, is the only place in town you'll get a cuppa. So off we trotted. In short, I hope they are better at fuel than hot drinks! And if you want a bite you better like yellow, – no food served unless it's yellow!
Another story at Smythesdale; stopped at the local cafe on the main road. One of the best long blacks I've had in a long time! Great lunch, great sticky date pudding, and warmed up in front of a warm fire on a cold winter's day!

This week I rode the trail from Skipton to Ballarat and return. Apart from an area a couple of kms just outside Skipton – where it is being repaired – I found it in excellent condition. The area being repaired (a total distance of about 0.5 km split into sections) is soft and loose so be careful of this bit. Other than that, it is a good ride. No problems finding my way to/from Wendouree station It is clearly signposted.

I rode the Ballarat to Smythesdale section last month. To get to the trail you need to cycle to the outskirts of Ballarat as the trail does not extend into the city centre. The detailed map provided here, on the RTA website, shows how to get there from in the city and I would strongly recommend using the navigation tool provided ("show my position") and use it on your phone to navigate to the start of the trail. The trail offers a very pleasant pedal on a good firm surface, through a mostly treed corridor to Smythesdale. There is a lovely cafe about an hour's pedal out from Ballarat at a nursery at Hadden. The entrance to the cafe comes directly off the trail and delivers you to the side verandah of the cafe. This seems to be a popular destination for local cyclists for an out and back ride. Well worth stopping there for refreshments. Smythesdale also has cafe options.

We rode from Haddon to Nikons Bridge and return today after looking at the map here.
It would have been good to know that the stretch from Scarsdale to the bridge has significant water damage from November flooding, and some areas are treacherous, coming down a hill, around a corner almost into a deep gutter down more than half the width of the trail.
There is also half a k of ground quartz which is a bit like riding on ball bearings.
Rest of the trail is good,a nd perhaps this has not been reported to date.

We are due to ride this trail later this week. Can you advise if this damage has been repaired? We are on loaded ebikes, heavy, and can't afford an injury in our advancing years!! Thankyou in anticipation!

Hi Danny, the damage has been repaired, and repaired well. I had a very nasty fall before it was fixed. Still considering legal action. But now it’s great.

A few days ago we cycled Ballarat to Skipton on hybrid bikes. Apart from a slightly confusing start, the track was well maintained and signposted. Smythesdale to Linton was our favourite part, with lots of interest.

The Smythesdale to Linton is one of the best rail trails we’ve done! Good fine gravel surface, beautiful countryside & pleasantly undulating.
We started the Smythesdale to Ballarat section the following day but weather sent us back after 7kms but not nearly as interesting as the previous day to Linton.

Rode from the impressive Nimon’s bridge near Newtown back to Lucas on the outskirts of Ballarat in the time we had available on 7 January 2020. Gayle from Kaewa Cycle Adventures was very helpful and patient with transport from either end and hire of an e-bike and a normal 3-speed bike. Interesting to see the numerous small historical gold diggings along the trail. Lots of shelters and historical information are provided too. The landscape along this trail is flatter and drier than many of the trails in the east of the state.

18 Dec 2019 rode from new Wendoree station but also got lost at the Ring Road roadworks before risking my life crossing the busy road following everyones tyre marks. Once on the path proper it was a dream! One of the BEST bike paths I have done, excellent maps & signage, shelters, toilets,water, campgrounds and bonus native wild flowers. I should have gone on a cooler day as I turned back at the wonderful trestle bridge. Anyway loved it and I will be back next year.

07 October , 2018 by Mal

I rode the trail on 1st October. It was in great condition, and could easily be ridden on a hybrid or road bike, with a little care in places. The magpies were in good form! I was swooped ten times along the trail, with three or four quite determined attacks!! They should be less of a problem in a couple of weeks. The countryside looked lovely, and I had a really pleasant ride. There’s places along the route to get a snack or coffee, in Smythesdale, Linton or Skipton

3/27 6th Jan 2019. 3rd Rail Trail completed in my quest to ride every RT in Victoria this year. I left my car in Skipton and was able to get a lift to Ballarat from friends I started at the Ring Road which is a nondescript starting point. I thought the Ballarat to Skipton direction would be easier as it was more downhill, but there was a bit of a headwind all the way, so the advantage was cancelled out. The path was very good hard-packed gravel in most places, and it has signage the entire way counting down the kms – a credit to the people involved who installed them. I stopped at Linton Station for lunch, a very nice stopping point. You can follow my exploits completing this challenge on FB Warwick Duncan – The 2nd Chance Man or Insta @warwick_rides

I rode the trail on 1st October. It was in great condition, and could easily be ridden on a hybrid or road bike, with a little care in places. The magpies were in good form! I was swooped ten times along the trail, with three or four quite determined attacks!! They should be less of a problem in a couple of weeks. The countryside looked lovely, and I had a really pleasant ride. There’s places along the route to get a snack or coffee, in Smythesdale, Linton or Skipton.

The ultra bright 1000 lumen lamp attached to my Ironhorse MTB illuminated the bleak opaque darkness as I cycled off into a cold misty morning to Sunshine train station for the 6.20am scheduled Ballarat service.
Ballarat is 100 kilometres from Melbourne, with a population of roughly 100,000 people. The city, made famous by the gold rush of the 1850’s, was also the scene of the 1854 Eureka Stockade, an unsuccessful armed rebellion against our colonial overlords and their English masters.
My train journey takes just over an hour. Chugging through a rich indigo morning the gradient rises gently revealing bucolic scenes. A couple of steely faced eastern grey kangaroos watch motionless as we pass. I expect them to wave, however, they turn suddenly bounding effortlessly along the fence line!
From a chilly Ballarat station it’s a quick cycle out west of town along the Avenue of Honour, with a brief stop for breakfast at the Golden Nugget drive through bakery. Then I ride under the Arch of Victory, turning left onto the signposted compacted gravel path.
It’s rained a tidy sky full this last week so the surface is a tad soft as I ride alongside fertile farming and sheep country. Its exciting to see a wide variety of bird species; plentiful, colourful and vocal. They accompany me all day.
The trail itself is easy to navigate, but perhaps best suited to a mountain or hybrid bike. There is seating and covered shelters placed just off the trail at regular intervals. I pass alongside an old Chinese gold miner’s camp of mullock heaps, abandoned diggings, strewn with ancient rusticated mining equipment.
I roll along at a gentle pace skirting former railway sidings in Smythesdale , Scarsdale then Newton before being rewarded with a spectacular view of Nimmons Trestle Bridge, where I pick up a sparkly handful of river sand that’s studded with gold flecks, fools gold ?
The trail takes me into Linton State Park, through the Clarkesdale Bird Sanctuary where I enjoy the sight of scarlet robins, eastern and crimson rosellas, while up above the treetops I see a wedge tail eagle circling its prey.
Following the trail out past Pittong, I realise that I’m pushed for time if I want to make it back to Ballarat and my train home within daylight hours.
I turn back 10 kilometres short of Skipton retracing my tracks, stopping too often to watch black cockatoos or brown falcons.
A fantastic day spent cycling 90 of a possible 110 kilometres, out and back along a varied trail that is fun to ride in autumn, when nasty venomous black snakes are less active and vicious nesting magpies aren’t yet attacking innocent cyclists.

I rode the entire trail yesterday. The surface was in excellent condition, and the countryside has never looked better! The magpies seem to have stopped swooping, as I didn’t encounter any problems. Signage to both ends of the trail could be better, but online maps make it clear.

Great rail trail. As others have mentioned, the entrance at Wendouree is blocked off due to roadworks (due to finish June 2018 according to the sign). There are no signs or other measures to help path users get to the trail. You can ride along Blind Creek Road but it’s an 80km/h speed limit with no shoulder. Other than the beginning, the trail past Scarsdale is very scenic. Be aware of the compacted gravel in the rain and lots of swooping magpies between Newtown and Ballarat.

The section of the trail between Ring Rd and Blind Creek Rd is currently closed due to major roadworks.

You can either start at Lake Wendouree and use the roads to get access to the trail from Blind Creek Rd OR simply start at the entry at Blind Creek Rd.

And I recommend stopping in at the cafe at Linton (88 Sussex St) for a coffee and a bite to eat 🙂

Rode the entire trail out to Skipton on Thursday 16th and back to Ballarat on Friday 17th February. Stayed overnight at the Skipton Roadhouse which has three cabins available for accomodation. The trail surface is very good – apart from a few little rain washouts on one side of the trail between Scarsdale and Newtown and a few rabbit burrows between Pittong and Skipton. Both the Scarsdale & Linton rest stops are nicely done with toilets, water and a bit of shade. Be prepared for a bit of a climb outbound from Linton… Great scenery and an awesome rail trail!

Rode this trail last Friday with a group of approx. 25 other riders. We commenced the ride after breakfast at Racers beside the lake. The trail was in really good condition with distance markers all along the way. The Nimron trestle bridge was one of the highlights. This is an easy ride for everyone.

This is a fantastic ride – due to popular demand Ballarat Coachlines are now running a shuttle service from Ballarat to Skipton twice a month on a Sunday morning from October to April.
Groups can also charter a bus at any other time.
Call 03 5335 5300.

I rode this trail yesterday (1st January 2015) – and it is awesome, one of the best rail trails I have done. The track quality is fantastic for the entire length – with good views of the surrounding farmland and bush. The length of the trail is perfect, with the various towns at ideal distances from each other to make great rest stops but far enough apart to get the feel of being in the country. The vista of rolling downhill into Skipton through the farmlands with the rain clouds on the horizon was a perfect moment. Recommend the trail to everyone.

Ran every section of the rail trail during the Winter/early Spring. Track was in perfect condition for running and for my companion on bike. Highlight of the trail is the 3 legged dog at Nimmons Bridge who will run with you for a couple of km’s.

Rode this last Saturday 09 Aug 2014 from Wendouree Station to Skipton and return to Ballarat station the following day. Would be good if it was sign posted at the station. The helpful VLine employee gave me instructions to the start but I learnt afterwards that it was the long way. I found the surface in good condition and the total ride time to Skipton was rday which made the track slower in sections. I did a 2.2 km lookout detour between Pittong and Linton. Was worth it but a steep climb. Would love to do this again once the weather warms.

Rode this last Saturday 09 Aug 2014 from Wendouree Station to Skipton and return to Ballarat station the following day. Would be good if it was sign posted at the station. The helpful VLine employee gave me instructions to the start but I learnt afterwards that it was the long way. I found the surface in good condition and the total ride time to Skipton was rday which made the track slower in sections. I did a 2.2 km lookout detour between Pittong and Linton. Was worth it but a steep climb. Would love to do this again once the weather warms.

We did the trail yesterday – lovely. And love the half way point gathering space integrated with Lipton’s park. However at both Skipton and Ballarat there is no clear entry to the trail. Ballarat in particular – it would be helpful if there were markers and a shared path from Ballarat station to connect it to the start of the trail.
Is there a bus company who is prepared to shuttle riders (and their bikes) back from Skipton? That would be a great opportunity to develop for Skipton.

Rode it yesterday April 6 -surface is in the best condtion for years. Check out Skipton “art gallery” – just over the bridge – for lunch

Background Information

Traditional owners

We acknowledge the Wadawurrung people, the traditional custodians of the land and waterways on which the rail trail is built.

Development and future of the rail trail

Golden Plains Shire undertook $750,000 in upgrades of the Ballarat-Skipton, Rainbow Parrot and Kuruc-a-ruc trails in 1920-21 to provide signage, shelters, seating, picnic tables and chairs, surface, decking and drainage upgrades, with $500,00 provided by the state government and $180,000 from the Berrybank Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund. It was called the Three Trails Project.

Railway history

The Ballarat-Skipton Line was opened to Scarsdale in 1883, Linton in 1890 and Skipton in 1916. Passengers and general freight were carried until 1976, then seasonal freight (grain and kaolin mined from weathered granite) until the line was closed in 1986. Scarsdale, the first terminus of the line, had a peak of 20,000 passenger journeys in 1890. A line from Newtown to Colac was completed five years before Skipton saw trains but it closed sooner, in 1953.

Funding for Ballarat to Skipton Rail Trail Improvements

Posted: 17/05/20

Golden Plains Shire Council has secured a $500,000 grant from the Victorian Government’s Regional Infrastructure ...


Reminder: Ballarat to Skipton Shuttle back for Summer (VIC)

Posted: 13/01/10

The shuttle bus service from Ballarat to Skipton will run again over the summer months ...


Update Ballarat to Skipton Rail Trail October 2008

Posted: 20/11/08

On the 29th October the newly resurfaced rail trail was opened. The complete distance of 54...


Ballarat to Skipton Rail Trail (Vic) – Fundraising Walk Run or Ride Event Coming Up

Posted: 31/01/07

On Saturday March 17 a fund raising Walk, Run or Bike ride event will be held ...


Ballarat to Skipton Rail Trail Opening (Vic)

Posted: 18/05/04

The Hon John Brumby MP, Minister for State and Regional Development opened the Ballarat - ...


Ballarat to Skipton Rail Trail (Vic)

Posted: 04/09/03

Three Community Jobs Programs have taken place on the rail trail since November 2001. Works on ...


Ballarat to Skipton Update (Vic)

Posted: 22/07/03

This 54km rail trail is only 110km west of Melbourne and connects Ballarat and Skipton. ...


Victorian Trail Happenings

Posted: 05/10/02

Murray to the Mountains Opening The official opening of the Murray to the Mountains Rail ...


Victorian Trail Developments

Posted: 13/08/01

There have been developments on a number of Victorian trails in recent months. A quick ...


Victorian Railtrail News Update

Posted: 01/07/00

East Gippsland Sealing Sealing of the East Gippsland Rail Trail between Bairnsdale and Nicholson is ...

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