Camping at Golden Hill State Park in New York
Golden Hill is a small state park with a lighthouse on Lake Ontario, about 50 minutes from Niagara Falls. With campsites on a bluff directly over the water and a quiet vibe, this is an excellent place to stay with access to the Niagara Wine Trail.
The campground at Golden Hill is relatively small and quiet, and is situated on cliffs over Lake Ontario in the town of Barker, NY. Most of the area surrounding the campground is comprised of farms or vineyards, and the environment is quiet and laid-back. Campsites are level with sparse trees and a gravel pad. Every site has a campfire ring and picnic table
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There are 55 campsites, 1 cottage, and 6 yurts available to rent. We stayed at a primitive campsite on Loop C, as we did not require electrical or water hookups for the weekend. We checked in at the main office and parked at our campsite. Since we camped here in summer 2020, COVID restrictions were in place and only campers with advanced reservations were allowed in the park. The best campsites are on Loop C and Loop B, on the side that is against the water. These sites have direct views of the lake from inside their trailers! Tent campers are largely relegated to the land-side part of the loop, so cannot view the lake directly. There were not enough trees in the area to hammock camp.
Firewood, ice, and other sundries were available from the small camp store. The rangers at this park are exceedingly helpful and actually drove our firewood directly to our campsite. We have never had anyone do this for us before (and I wouldn't expect it again), but it was a very nice thing for him to do!
While our campsite was in the interior side of Loop C, we could still see the lake and sunset through our bunk-end. Campsites on Loop B are closest to the lighthouse, but it is not a long walk from anywhere within the state park. The lighthouse was closed for tours in the 2020 season due to COVID, but tours are offered on a regular basis during normal operating season.
The biggest negative for us was the distance from our tent trailer to the bathroom building. We were about a half mile away from the building, which made for a long walk in the middle of the night. For those who have trailers equipped with toilet facilities, this would not be an issue. The bathrooms were exceptionally clean and the hot shower facilities were among the best I have seen at a state park. There was also an accessible shower for those who need it.
Since the park is located along the lake, sunsets are glorious. I highly recommend bringing bikes to explore the campground and to take evening rides. We did try to ride outside of the campground along the main road, but the narrow shoulders and traffic made us a little uncomfortable and we returned to the campground.
While our boys are too old for playgrounds now, there was a very nice and modern play structure at the campground. The main climbing tower is even themed after the lighthouse at the state park!
The Lakeshore Trail connects to the end of Loop B, just past the yurts. The path leads down to a swimmable area on Lake Ontario. There are no lifeguards, but the stony beach is shallow and we enjoyed swimming here in the evenings. The stones are slippery near the shore, so take care when entering or exiting the lake (everyone in our family are strong swimmers).
We really enjoyed watching sunsets at this park, and would request Site 5 on Loop C the next time we visit. It was set apart from the other sites and was directly over the water. Falling asleep to the gentle lap of waves on the shore and the view below would be spectacular!
Many vineyards on the Niagara Wine Trail are between Barker and Lockport, NY. We did visit the winery at Marjim Manor to purchase a gift for a neighbor. Since we were camping with the kids, we did not explore the wine trail extensively. This would be a fun adults-only trip for the future, though!
We did hike Devil's Hole and Whirlpool State Parks over the weekend we camped. Barker is less than an hour away from the Niagara Falls attractions. Four Mile Creek is the closest state park to Niagara, but Golden Hill is a good alternative if Four Mile Creek is fully booked.
How to get to Niagara Falls from Golden Hill State Park
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The drive to Niagara is easy and parking is plentiful in the morning. The hikes at both Devil's Hole and Whirlpool State Park require a lot of stair climbing, so these hikes are only recommended for those who can hike up many steps!
The turquoise water and Class V and VI rapids at Whirlpool are fascinating to see, along with the jet boats crashing through the waves. The hikes are highly recommended and a good way to burn off camping snacks!
Other area attractions include Fort Niagara, the Niagara Power Authority (a free science museum devoted to energy production), and jet boat tours. There are plenty of day trip activities from Golden Hill!
We highly recommend the campground and hope to return one day soon!