When people think of the Grand River, they probably think of the Elora Gorge. A very popular destination for hiking. The Grand River is a Canadian Heritage River, and runs from Highway 89 south through Guelph, Waterloo, and ends in Lake Erie.
A great way to visit the Grand River is to camp at one of the eight conservation areas, at the Rock Point Provincial Park, or at one of the many private campgrounds located along the river. It’s also possible to paddle portions of the Grand, but that’s beyond what you’d want to do when camping with your family.
The Grand River Conservation Authority has eight Conservation Areas that offer overnight camping. Most offer excellent recreation opportunities during the summer.
Brant Conservation Area
Located on the Grand River just outside Brantford, Brant Park is a great home base for campers who want to explore this historic part of Ontario, but it is also popular for anglers, hikers, bikers and canoeists. Brant Conservation Area has a supervised and treated 1.25-acre pool which is ideal for children. A life-jacket loaner program is available. Fun kids programs are offered throughout the summer.
Byng Island Conservation Area
Located on the lower part of the Grand River, near Lake Erie, Byng Island has approximately 360 campsites, including 246 unserviced sites. Sailing and windsurfing are popular activities at the park. There is also hiking, canoeing and a two-acre pool. There is a $1 charge to use the swimming pool.
Conestogo Lake is a Y shaped lake that is part of a River that flows into the Grand River. A unique feature of this area is the huge concrete flood control dam and reservoir surrounded by large tracts of forest, giving the appearance that the park is in northern Ontario. This is a multi-recreational use park that is used for many activities including camping, power boating, sailing, water skiing, canoeing and fishing. 95 serviced and 86 unserviced camp sites on the lake as well as on the Conestogo River. The sites along the river are Radio Free.
Elora Gorge has spectacular hiking, white water tubing, canoeing, a splash pad, and overnight camping.
Guelph Lake Park
This 1,608 hectares ( 3,971 acres) conservation area was created with the construction of the Guelph Lake dam in 1974. A newly developed concert area with a unique living roof is on an island in the middle of the lake. There are two beaches and non-motorized boating is allowed on the lake. It is home to a sailing club, a rowing club and there’s excellent fishing. 104 services sites with electricity and water and about 190 unserviced sites in a variety of locations, including riverfront and forest.
Laurel Creek Conservation Area
Laurel Creek offers 126 campsites, ranging from heavily wooded to more open sites. This includes 50 unserviced and 76 serviced sites. Several lakefront sites have a beautiful view. One campground with 26 sites is set aside as a radio-free area. Swimming, windsurfing, hiking and bird-watching are popular activities.
Pinehurst Conservation Area
Pinehurst Lake is a 23-acre kettle lake formed by a single piece of ice. The lake has a sandy beach and is surround by mature Carolinian forest.
During the summer months Pinehurst Lake is transformed into a summer playground offering camping, swimming, fishing, boating, picnicking and hiking opportunities. In the winter, Pinehurst is transformed into one of the premier snowshoe and ice-fishing facilities in the region.
Rockwood Conservation Area
Towering limestone cliffs, caves and glacial potholes, including one of the world’s largest, are a few of the natural wonders at the Rockwood Conservation Area. You can view them from hiking trails on both sides of the Eramosa River or in a rented canoe. Caving and fishing are popular activities. Rockwood has a system of 12 caves, and the lake is stocked with fish each spring. The conservation area is busy during the summer, and has over 65,000 visitors a year.
Ontario Parks near the Grand River
Rock Point Provincial Park
Rock Point has a viewing platform above sand dunes, 2 km of hiking trails and a 1 km sandy beach at the foot of the Grand River on Lake Erie. You can hunt for fossils dating back to over 350 million years embedded in the limestone shelf along the beach. During the summer fun and active educational programs are offered by park staff.
Private Campgrounds near the Grand River
Knights Beach Resort
Privately owned campground with a beach on Lake Erie. Over 450 campsites for tents and trailers. 20 tent campsites for overnight camping are $45 per night plus $10 reservation fee. Plenty of activities throughout the summer.
Grand Oaks Park
Grand Oaks Park is a Carefree Resort. With over 1000 feet of Grand River camping along the waterfront, Grand Oaks offers stunning views with well-forested surroundings for a secluded and relaxing getaway. The grounds also feature a swimming pool (under construction) and a number of activities and amenities for you to enjoy, whether it’s fishing and hiking or just lounging with family and friends. Their park map is available here.
Bingeman’s Camping Resort
Located on the Grand River near Waterloo, this is a campground, a conference centre and an amusement park. As well as campsites, there are Yurts and Cabins and seasonal spots. There is a bowling alley and a golf course, Boston Pizza as well as canoe rentals. If you want to be close to nature, this is probably not the place, but if you want excitement and fun, this is the place for your family. Their park map is available here.
Highland Pines Campground
Located on the Grand River near the Belwood Lake Conservation Area, this campground offers seasonal, and overnight camping, as well as cabins and cottages. There are two heated pools and a beach on Belwood Lake. Camping is $60 dollars a night.
Here is a map of all the campgrounds in south eastern Ontario