Valens Lake with fall leaves in background
Campground Review

Campground Review: Valens Lake Conservation Area

Valens campground, located within Valens Lake Conservation Area, located between Hamilton and Cambridge, Ontario, is one of our favourite local campgrounds. Read our review to learn why or jump to our summary.

Valens campground location

Hiking is one of our favourite activities at Valens. Valens Lake is a short drive off Highway 6, sort of between Hamilton and Cambridge Ontario. It’s an easy drive to get there, even when towing a big rig, with paved roads and good signage.

Valens campground is a good distance from main highways, so road noise is not an issue. However, if you don’t like waking to the sound of cows mooing in the distance you may want to “moove” on.

As with many of our frequently-visited campgrounds, Valens is west of Toronto, which means we don’t have to fight north-bound cottage country traffic to get there.

Alcohol ban

Before you book into Valens campground, it’s important to know they have a total alcohol ban, year-round. That’s all we’ll say about that. Consider yourself warned!

Valens campground sites

We love the well-treed and private sites at Valens campground.Valens campground has 225 campsites--125 with electrical and water hookups. There are no full-service sites, but the park has expanded their dump station facilities recently with one inside the campground and a large one just outside the camping area that can accommodate four trailers at once.

Most of the sites are well-treed with good privacy. Many sites are located in a radio-free zone; however, we’ve never had a problem with noise anywhere in the park and we’ve been coming here for over a decade.

Site 166 at Valens is nicely treed
Site 166 at Valens

We typically book into the Pines and Dogwood camp areas. Pines has a few pull-through sites, which are nicely treed and not too hard to level--we usually need to add a board on one side or the other, but it’s no biggie. The sites in Dogwood offer better privacy, but the electrical is located at the entrance of many sites, so we often end up with an extension cord running through our camp.

The sites in Ironwood are really nice, too, but some are tricky to get in and out of--especially for larger trailers. One of our first camps with the TCC was in this section and we had a hard time getting out and actually lost the cover on one of our lights--it must have come off when we were squeezing past the trees!

Valens group camping

The group sites at Valens are great for large camping groups.If group camping is your thing, Valens also has great group sites. We used to organize an annual camp with 20 to 30 friends and this was our location of choice. If you’re booking a group site and need power, it’s best to check with the park to find the site that best meets your needs. Not all sites have electrical hookups and those that do may not have enough to power multiple trailers.

Winter camping

Valens campground is one of the only sites in the area that offers winter camping. You can either book in for nightly camping, or you can book a site for their winter season, which runs from January through April.

There’s no running water to the sites or the dump stations during the winter season, for obvious reasons. But there is at least one comfort station open--and heated!--where you can use the facilities and get the water you need for cooking. This just means you need to be prepared with a little extra gear so you can do your washing up.

We haven’t investigated the winter season option, but we’ve heard from others that it’s reasonably priced. You get a place to park your trailer for the winter, and you’re allowed to camp for a specified number of nights from late October through April. I imagine they control the number of nights as they’re not equipped to have people taking up permanent residence for a few months.

Valens park facilities

The boardwalk trail at Valens is nice at any time of year. We really enjoy hiking at Valens. There are 10 kilometres of trails which are well-marked and easy to hike, even for little legs. In fact, we did a good stretch of the trails a few years ago when our daughter was still in a stroller.

The trails go through beautiful forested areas that are nice and cool in the summertime, and a boardwalk which takes you through a marshy area. There’s also an observation tower that gives you a good view of the lake.

A baby snapping turtle stands fits on just two of Colin's fingers

We’ve had many cool wildlife sightings at Valens over the years. Some of the most memorable include a teeny, tiny snake that we’d never seen before, and a baby snapping turtle.

The lake is perfect to explore by canoe or kayak. It’s also a fish sanctuary and campers will often fish from their boats, the shoreline, the docks or the bridge that crosses the lake. Fish in the lake include northern pike, largemouth bass and sunfish.

Valens’ beach is in the day-use area. It’s a bit of a hike from the campground, so families with little ones often drive over, especially if they’re bringing chairs, floaties, a cooler, etc. The beach is nice and sandy and there’s a buoy line to mark the swimming area, but no lifeguards on duty.

In the summer, the beach store offers snacks, beach toys and canoe and kayak rentals. There’s a second store inside the campground, which is more of your traditional campground store, with firewood, a few camp essentials and treats.

Picnicking is also really popular here. The day-use area has lots of picnic tables available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are also several group picnic areas available by reservation, including one that has both indoor and outdoor seating areas to accommodate all kinds of weather.

One interesting note: there is no playground at Valens. There was one by the camp store years ago, but it was ageing and when it was removed it was never replaced.

Local attractions

There’s a lot to do within a short drive of Valens campground.

We highly recommend a visit to Westfield Heritage Village, featuring over 35 historical buildings, staffed with costumed interpreters--many of whom are volunteers. There is limited food available for purchase onsite, but you’re welcome to bring a picnic with you. The best part? Because Westfield is part of the Hamilton Conservation Authority, your entry is free with your Valens camping permit! Check the website before you go. Westfield is typically open Sundays in the summer, but may be open at other times for special events.

African Lion SafariAfrican Lion Safari is a very short drive from Valens. is another great day trip, just a short distance from Valens. This place gets busy, especially on summer weekends, so we suggest getting there when it opens. We usually head for the safari first. You can drive your own vehicle in, but we’ve seen the monkeys do significant damage to vehicle trim, so we always take the bus. After the tour, there are lots of great animal shows to take in, and the splash pad is awesome for kids. You can spend a whole day here!

If you love food and beer as much as we do, we also recommend a day trip to Cambridge. They have a great Saturday farmer’s market, lots of cool restaurants downtown, and several breweries to check out, including one we visited this summer: Grand River Brewing.

The general store just outside the Valens gates has amazing butter tarts. Finally, no matter where you go--or even if you just stay in the park--if you like butter tarts, you must make the short trip to Dee’s General Store, which is just west of the park gates. These butter tarts are HUGE and come in lots of different varieties.
Personally, I’m a fan of a traditional butter tart (not even going to enter the raisin/no raisin debate here--I’ll save that for another day), but the coconut ones are pretty awesome, too. So are the pecan. And the Skor. Okay…you see why you need to go, right?!

Valens campground summary

Valens Lake Conservation Area is one of our tried-and-true favourites! 

It's got a lot to offer within a very short drive of the Greater Toronto Area, with no need to fight cottage country traffic.

We highly recommend this spot!

Valens boardwalk

Pros

  • Close to GTA
  • Nice, well-treed sites
  • Quiet
  • Great trails, non-motorized boating and fishing
  • Cute beach (a big hit with kids) 
  • Great group sites
  • Lots to do in the area

Cons

  • Shower and washroom facilities are a little dingy
  • No playground

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