16.5 miles from Georgetown. Easy-steep options. MAP
Mt. Ballarat gets its name from the largest gold field in the world discovered in 1851 in Australia. No doubt some wishful thinking on the part of the Georgetown miners. The mountain is the site of the Slate Mt. Mine owned by the Little Family of Georgetown who donated the stamp mill from the mine to the park in town. You can catch its noisy operation on Founders Day. The 10 stamp mill once crushed ore taken from extensive tunnels deep in the mountain. The mine was operated until WWII intervened. A seven mile ditch was engineered to bring water to the mine from Whaler Creek. At the mine end of the ditch the water dropped into a pipe that ran a hydro-electric generator used for power.
Directions: Take Wentworth Springs Rd. 10+ miles to the Bald Mt. lookout turnoff just west of Quintette. Go R for .6 miles and bear L (sign reads Rock Creek Rd. 5). Follow this paved road to Rock Creek Rd. in 4.6 miles. Go straight thru this 5 way intersection on F.S. 12N82. Follow this main road ignoring the many side trails to a 4 way in almost 1 mile. You can park here or continue driving the marked 12N82 D Rd. for another .6 miles.
The trail begins at a wide turn in the road where you can park. Hop up the bank onto the old ditch turned OHV trail and enjoy an easy stroll high above and overlooking the Rock Creek canyon on the right. The abandoned ditch winds in and out of creek drainages where old sections of hand riveted flume pipe helped get water around the numerous rock outcrops that were hard to ditch.
Follow the ditch until it Tees into a rocky jeep road that climbs to the top of Mt. Ballarat. Go L here and climb to the top of the mountain for a grand view or if you don’t want the steep climb you can of course turn around and go back on the flume.
Another option is to go L a short ways and turn R (east) on the motorcycle trail that gets back on the old ditch for more miles towards the Slate Mine. If you don’t mind some bushwhacking you can follow the ditch all the way to the mine.
Those opting to go over the top of the mountain can marvel at the ability of jeeps to make the grade over very rough rocks. At the top of the mountain the road forks. Right goes down an insanely steep motorcycle trail to Whaler Creek. Left will take you back down to the road you drove in on. Go Left to find your car.
The Ballarat jeep trail used to be a shortcut between Darling Ridge and the State Mt. Mine. It crossed Rock Creek on a rock and mortar bridge that washed out during the heavy winter flooding of 1964. That place is currently a wet crossing for OHV.
Today, a creek flows from the mine and past a huge old Cottonwood tree. The Little family claims that the tree got its start as a walking stick that some miner stuck in the mud long ago. It’s probably the only Cottonwood tree for miles around.