This ride is through gold rush country. The first discovery made around here was in the Woady Yaloak Creek at Smythesdale in 1853. At its peak, the Smythes Creek Goldfields area had 20,000 inhabitants. Today the roads around Smythesdale are a popular destination for recreational cycling rides from Ballarat – lots of quiet winding country bush roads and a few hills to keep your heart healthy. This particular ride is just such a route, with some nice church architecture and a pretty good pub thrown in.
The ride is on a surfaced minor country road between the two townships. From Snake Valley, the ride goes mainly down, so if you like climbing, go the other way.
The traffic is usually light, but early in the morning and late afternoon, it is heavier and not as safe. Lots of cyclists from Ballarat use the roads in this area, so there is some level of bike awareness by locals.
Snake Valley is 30 kilometers from Ballarat on the Midland Highway (A300) turning onto La Trobe Street -Carngham Road (C296). As you approach Carngham turn left onto the Carngham-Linton Road as you come down the hill. The start is at the Carngham Uniting Church as you come into Snake Valley. VicRoads MapB3.
Food and Drink
Smythesdale has a general store and you finish right outside the Courthouse Hotel which is a great pub for food with old photos of the district on the walls. Likewise, there is a general store and pub in Snake Valley.
You could do a circuit by joining the rail trail to the right as you come into the Smythesdale and at Linton turning right onto the Glenelg Highway and first left onto the Carngham Linton Road to return to Snake Valley.
The Carngham Uniting Church, the starting point for the ride, is particularly beautiful. It was built to be a replica of the Wesley Church in Collins Street Melbourne as a memorial to the squatter Phillip Russell, from Carngham Station. If you get the opportunity to look inside, the interior is even more magnificent with a carved stone pulpit and the original gigantic 1893 church organ that is used as part of the annual Organs of the Goldfield Festival held in January.
Heading off you will notice the quaint peace memorial on the other side of the road. It is very similar to a European pilgrim’s shrine, standing soulfully alongside the cypress pine Honour Reserve Snake Valley is a quiet and friendly hamlet centered around a few more churches, the pub, the public hall, and the general store. It’s not too hard to envision when the town was a bustling mining and then agricultural center.
Slowly, but surly some of these towns are dying as young people move away to the cities. However, hobby farms and Ballarat commuters are reversing that trend and Snake Valley hopes to follow Smythesdale’s lead it changing its destiny. Turning off the main street heading for Smythesdale, you pass the primary school and climb steadily out of the town. For a short while, the road passes through farmland before entering bushland at Hillcrest. This is a name you would choose yourself if you should come the other way as the road just keeps going up.
Off to the right, you look across treed farmland to the ranges on the distant horizon. In the other direction is thick bushland. After you crest Hillcrest the road is just about all downhill to Smythesdale. You could head off on any of the side roads, and apart from maybe getting lost, you would have a pretty good time on some great little roads. Coming out onto the valley, you pass the local oval crossing the Skipton Rail Trail and enter Smythesdale right next to the Courthouse Hotel and the finish. Have a ride around town checking out the old buildings and do a bit of the rail trail just for good measure.
- 0.0 The ride commences at the Carngham Church in Snake Valley. Head south along the road following the line of cypress pines into Snake Valley.
- 0.8 Turn left in front of the store onto the Snake Valley – Smythesdale Rd.
- 3.7 Continue past the Hope Rd turnoff on your left.
- 5.5 Continue over the Burrumbeet Hillcrest Rd intersection.
- 11.1 Turn right onto the Glenelg Hwy, return to the car park and the end of the ride.
11.174 km / 6.943 mi
62 m / 204 ft
99 m / 325 ft
441 m / 1,447 ft