Recently, we spent a few nights camping in Elora Gorge Conservation area, in the Grand River Valley.
Known for the beautiful gorge it’s named after - and the tubing opportunities therein - it’s a fun park to visit.
The gorge itself features 22 meter high limestone cliffs, with sections of whitewater rapids careening through them.
I’d been up to Elora years ago to swim in the quarry, but this was my first camping trip to the area.
It was a somewhat last minute booking - a few weeks ago - and a matter of trying to fit just one more trip in before the end of summer.
We had a great time - despite a lot of rain - and still managed to see a lot of gorgeous views in the park and in the town itself.
The Elora conservation area is part of the Grand River Conservation Authority - same as Conestogo Lake Conservation Area - so we were a little nervous.
As it turns out, we had no real reason to be nervous! It’s a nice park, with great campsites, well kept.
Even though the weather didn’t cooperate, we managed to have a fantastic stay - here are a bunch of details about the park, and the area in general!
Campground Name: Elora Gorge Conservation Area
Address: 7400 Wellington County Road 21, Elora ON
Price: Varies. The Fees Table for more details.
Reservations: Grand River Conservation Authority Reservations
Camping season runs from May to October.
Campground Amenities & Info
Overall, the Elora Gorge conservation area is a clean, well maintained, and reasonably well appointed park. It was easy to get to, and we had a nice, quiet stay.
As always, we booked our campsite reservations ahead of time, using the Grand River Conservation Authority’s online reservation system. Quick, easy, no problems to report.
Check in was super quick and easy, done outside their front gate kiosk - we didn’t need to enter the building.
Signage in the park was mostly decent. There were a bunch of campsites that were shown on the map, but didn’t appear to have any kind of number / signage on the actual lot, which I found weird.
I suppose there may be specific info given to people who book those particular (unserviced, WAY in the woods) sites, though.
Anyway, cell reception in the park was pretty decent at all times. I lost reception once, and we didn’t try streaming anything during our stay, so it held up at least for basic needs.
In general, the maps left a bit to be desired. The vault toilets and some garbage bins were not shown on the map, there was no indication of one way roads, etc.
The maps showed two bridges to the campgrounds on the other side of the gorge. One was completely closed to vehicular traffic, with no indication of that fact on the map. The other was a one-way road coming from the other side of the gorge.
We *could not* figure out how to get to the other side, using the map. Eventually, we gave up and called the office.
That’s how we found out we’d have to leave the park entirely, and drive all the way around.
There was a second small gatehouse on the other side, which wasn’t super clear on the map.
There’s an icon, when you look for it... but it doesn’t actually show a road from the main road that passes that campground, and it’s not labeled with text declaring it an entrance/exit, as the main one is on that same map.
Entertainment and Activity
The Elora Gorge Conservation Area is a spectacular natural area, with several different flavours of activities to partake in:
Hiking & Cycling
For some great views of the views of the 22-metre high cliffs, there are 3 kilometres of walking trails alongside the edge of the gorge.
It’s all fenced off with frequent reminders that it’s a deep gorge, and to stay back, on the marked trail..
We walked along several of the shorter riverside trails, in the day use area, near the scenic overlook. Though there were some areas of root overgrowth, etc, it was still a pretty easy trail, mostly flat.
Both scenic overlooks involved staircases to get to, though - so heads up on that.
One thing I really liked about it was how close the main scenic view points were to the parking.
As for cycling, I wouldn’t say that the trails appeared to be cycling friendly, but there are a LOT of roadways through the park to bike ride on.
Also, the Elora Cataract Trailway is nearby - it’s a 47 km long hiking and cycling trail, following an old railway route.
Tubing seems to be THE main draw to Elora Gorge Conservation Area. On our first day - before the weather turned - there was a constant stream of people with tubes walking up the road behind the campsite!
If it weren’t for the long walk involved, I would have loved to partake in the tubing adventures. It looks like a lot of fun, and I bet it’s a fabulous way to see the gorge!
If you don’t have your own inner tube, the park offers equipment rental in the concession building near the “A” campground.
Anyway, some basic info for you:
There used to be a shuttle bus, but it’s no longer operating - as of last year, I think? (Boo, that would have made the difference for me!)
The tubing season runs from mid June to Labour day, 10 am - 6pm, and is subject to weather/water conditions.
Boating and Fishing
Boating takes a bit of a different form here - whitewater kayaking!
Whitewater kayakers generally start at the Low Level Bridge (the end point of the tubing run), and kayak down the gorge towards West Montrose (more on West Montrose in a bit!)
As for fishing, there’s not much in the way of boat fishing, but people will fish for trout in the gorge itself.
This generally involves wading into the river - and navigating slippery conditions - so plan accordingly. Skip the beachy water shoes in favour of wading cleats!
Family Activities, etc
While there’s no swimming area in Elora Gorge conservation area, there IS a 195-square-metre splash pad in the day use area at the far end of the main park.
There’s also a covered picnic area in the splash pad area, with more picnic tables scattered throughout the day-use areas.
For general activity, there are several large green spaces throughout the day use areas, including a baseball diamond next to the Kay Marston Pavilion in the main part of Elora Gorge park.
Anyway, there is one small playground on the other side of the gorge, in the F campground.
There are 7 Ingress Portals (5 Pokestops and 2 gyms) in the main park. Two are at the front entrance, with most of the rest in the day use area.
It looks like there are probably another 2-3 portals / stops / gyms on the other side of the gorge.
They’re all very spread out, few and far between.
There are 3 shower buildings in the park - one on the main side (in the tubing concession building), and two on the other side of the gorge, in the I and F campgrounds.
Vault toilets are scattered throughout the park, but strangely they don’t seem to appear on the park maps?
No laundry facilities as far as we can tell, though.
Anyway, there’s a central-ish concession stand area that offers fast foods, soft drinks, I THINK ice cream, etc. That’s also the building that sells firewood, ice, tubing rentals, etc.
For those who like to partake, it’s good to know that there are full alcohol and cannabis bans in effect at this park, including in the day use area and on all registered campsites.
Smoking of any kind - tobacco, vaping, etc - are also banned from the splash pad area, from within 9 meters of any building, and from within 20 meters of any playground.
This park has basically every style of camp site you can imagine, both serviced and not.
In our area - C - they were moderately sized camp sites with no real privacy. Weirdly, it didn’t FEEL like some of the “no privacy” campsites we’ve been to.
I wonder if the tree canopy - rather than open sky - gave sort of the illusion of seclusion?
I had seen mention of “Feels like a parking lot” on a review for this park, I’m assuming that person was in the “I” campground. Very crowded AND open air.
Then, there were the sites that showed up on the map, but were so “back woods” they weren’t even labeled? Very, VERY rustic, unserviced sites.
We saw every type of tent, pop up, trailer, and RV throughout the park, and there’s even a group campsite - so I would say most people would be able to find something to suit them, here.
I bet that group camp site - combined with the tubing - would make this park popular with youth groups and such.
The sites were pretty well maintained, from what I could see, as were the grounds in general. I think every campsite is supposed to have one picnic table, though ours had two. (And some of the really “backwoods” ones didn’t seem to have any?).
I LOVED our site - 120. It was on one corner of our camp ground, and our door opened out into a big area with no campsites.
There was a road behind us - mostly for the tubers getting back and forth - but it was set back enough from the pad, that we didn’t hear anyone.
We stayed in one of the serviced camp sites, so we had water and hydro on our site.
There was no sewer hookup, but there are 2 dumping stations in the conservation area.
One dumping station is located in between the B and C campgrounds on this side of the gorge, and one near the playground in the F campground, on the other side of the gorge.
There didn’t appear to be any park wifi offered.
The recycling centers aren’t as nice as the ones in the provincial parks, but there are more of them - almost one per camp ground, plus at the dump station.
There seem to be a fair number of garbage containers in general - though they don’t necessarily show up on the map.
This is not what I would consider a very accessible park, on several levels.
As far as the trails go, they’re “easy” - short, relatively flat, etc - but roots and such would make them completely impassable for most wheelchair users, and would prove difficult for various other mobility issues.
The two big “sights” to see on the main trail - the hole in the rock, and the tubing lookout point - both require the descent of stairs to get to.
There are many outhouse style toilets throughout the campground areas, but none looked to be accessible.
Tubing requires a lot of walking, hills, some stairs, etc.
The park itself is very long and sprawling, so I’d definitely recommend a car to get around, if you’re looking to do / see anything other than your own campground.
Pets are allowed, but we didn’t really see any dog-specific areas.
There are no dog parks, and no leash-free areas - dog are expected to be leashed and under control at all times.
Also, dogs aren’t allowed on the splash pad area.
Quiet hours in Elora Gorge Conservation Area are 11 pm - 7 am daily.
In addition, there are radio free areas that prohibit the use of audio devices at all times.
The camp sites are generally pretty large - at least from what I’ve seen - so you shouldn’t have much trouble parking a second vehicle in your site.
Beyond that, parking spaces are fairly small and sporadic throughout the conservation area - A couple spots at most of the garbage / recycling areas, small parking lots at the pavilions and splash pads, etc.
I would imagine that parking can be pretty difficult to find on hot summer days, when day use tubers are out in force.
While we mostly stayed in our camper this trip - on account of the heavy rain - we did drive through the area a few times, and noticed/visited some spots of interest:
Elora & Fergus
The towns of Elora and Fergus are both SUPER cute, and worth wandering.
We checked out several parks during our time at Elora Gorge Conservation Area:
A cute little park in Elora with a little boardwalk along the side of the gorge (view mostly obscured).
It has a few great lookout spots, including a great view of some waterfalls, and a pedestrian bridge over the gorge.
A pretty little garden area in the heart of Fergus, with a gorgeous set of stone stairs leading down to the gorge.
We didn’t go in, but the exterior was very welcoming, and my friend Shirley who lives nearby says they make a fabulous goat curry on occasion.
Victoria Park is a small park that’s home to a few great views of the gorge.
Lover’s Leap is a historical lookout point - a short set of stone steps, edged with more stonework. Beautiful!
Then there’s the Elora Gorge Stairs, a long stairway down to the base of the gorge.
Apparently you can walk about a km in either direction once you get down to the base!
The Fieldstone Barn
When driving from the main gatehouse around to the second set of campsites, you’ll pass The Fieldstone Barn as you turn onto Middlebrook Rd from Wellington County Rd 7.
It looks like it has some really fun offerings, including sunflower fields (that you can even book photography sessions at), corn mazes, super fancy picnic set ups, and even glamping tents for rent!
The Race Track
Looks like they’ve got racing, gambling, dining, and even family events.
A Glass Studio
Between the two campgrounds - on Wellington County Rd 7 - there was a glass studio that looked interesting, so I googled it.
It’s Blown Away Glass Studio, and it’s got some really cool offerings, including glassblowing classes and the ability to do private studio bookings for “One Hot Date” events for 2!
Not really the thing to do spontaneously, so I’d recommend booking ahead if you’re planning to visit this campground / area.
West Montrose Covered Bridge
Even though it was raining, we were able to do a little sightseeing, including a short drive to West Montrose, home of the famous covered bridge.
The West Montrose Covered Bridge is just a 15 minute drive from the campground, and is one of the oldest remaining covered bridges in Canada.
Also known as “The Kissing Bridge”, it was built in the late 19th century, is just over 200 feet long, and is open to foot, buggy, and LIGHT vehicular traffic.
It’s not the bridge that was featured in Beetlejuice, but that was the first thing that came to mind when I saw a photo of it, so obviously we had to go check it out - rain or not!
Apparently it was used in one of the “It” movies, though.
Elora Quarry Conservation Area
Elora Quarry Conservation Area is run by the same conservation authority as the campground, but it’s a separate location, and requires separate booking / admission fees, etc.
It rained during the bulk of our stay in Elora, so we weren’t able to go swimming, though we did stop by for a quick look.
I HAVE visited there before, a long time ago, with a friend who lives in the area - it was a fantastic experience!
It’s a large abandoned quarry that’s been repurposed as a swimming hole. I’ve been looking forward to taking my husband there some day - it’s a must see, IMHO - it just didn’t work out for us this time.
If you do want to visit, you’ll need to book both admission and parking through the website - they no longer offer walk up tickets.
Also, Grand River Conservation Area Membership passes are not accepted at that property.
You have your choice of two 4 hour blocks each day - a morning ticket or an afternoon ticket.
It’s a beautiful swimming hole, and hasn’t changed much since I last saw it ... oof, I guess it’s been almost 2 decades now ... since I’ve been there.
We really enjoyed our stay at this *ahem* gorge-ous park, and we’ll definitely be back!
I loved how quiet our campground was, even with the number of people walking past our site for tubing that first day.
We could have as adventurous or as relaxing a stay as we wanted, love that!
The tubing in particular looked like a lot of fun, so we’re definitely planning on giving that a go, maybe next year!
More Campground Reviews
Want to read some more of what we have to say about the campgrounds we've stayed at? Here are some more reviews!
Conestogo Lake Conservation Area
Fifty Point Conservation Area
Long Point Provincial Park
Meaford Memorial Park
Port Burwell Provincial Park
Valens Lake Conservation Area
Selkirk Provincial Park
Turkey Point Provincial Park
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