Round Valley is certainly a must see for any type of outdoors person, or someone who appreciates relaxation in a gorgeous landscape. It is a semi-mountainous, forested setting with a very large "lake", which is really a man-made reservoir in the middle of a valley. The crystal-clear water is home to huge lake trout and the forests are bursting with wildlife. The sunsets across the lake are to die for. You will have to look very hard to find a more beautiful camping scene in New Jersey. Also, it's dog friendly!
There is no car access to these campsites, you must keep your vehicle overnight in their south parking lot. If you have a camping registration you do not have to pay the fee to enter the park after you check in to the office. The only way to get to the campsites which are located on the other side of the reservoir deep in the woods, are by boating in, backpacking in, or biking in. If you are boating, kayaking, or canoeing to your site, be very careful and watch the wind warnings. If the wind-warning strobe lights go off you should get off of the water asap because the waters can get very rough and this place is nicknamed the Bermuda Triangle of NJ. We were originally going to boat in for a quick overnight, but at the last minute we decided we wanted a challenge. We backpacked 5.5 miles in on an August morning to site #52. The trail was mountainous, rocky, hilly, but for the most part in the shade. This is definitely not a walk through the park easy trail, pack light and don't bring coolers or wagons if you are hiking it. The first three miles are very rocky, with some larger rocks protruding from the ground, but from there on the trail turns into smooth asphalt to allow for ranger and emergency vehicles and it gets a lot easier. We were a bit sore the next day with a couple of mild blisters but we were still able to easily do the 5.5 mile hike back in the afternoon. Someone who does a lot of hiking and backpacking will find the trail easy, but with little to no experience you may struggle. My dog is a 7 year old retriever with minor joint issues and the trail was a piece of cake to her (she even carried all of her own gear).
These are truly primitive sites with only a few drinking water pumps scattered about and some primitive outhouses, however, you never feel completely alone here because the campsites are not spaced too far apart. My honest opinion: filter or purify your water right from the reservoir if you have the option, because you may be far from a pump, or it may be temporarily closed, and the reservoir water tastes good and is cold. I also opt to skip the outhouses too because they are never clean and always stink unbearably no matter where they are. Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring. Alcohol and smoking are not permitted. If you must bring alchohol, bring a little in a subtle container and do not bother the other campers. Swimming is also technically not permitted but there were many people swimming and we swam also and no one was bothered.
Now onto our campsite. Site 52 was nearly perfect. The views were to die for. We were able to clearly see the water past the trees from our tent and from our picnic table. The trip to the water was just a few yards away by a footpath carved through tall grass. Unfortunately, the guests before us were very dirty and there was fresh trash scattered about our spot, so we had some cleaning to do when we arrived. The other downside to this spot is you could just barely see site 53 from your spot, which wasn't a huge deal but it wasn't total privacy. Since the surrounding campsites are just barely spaced out to give enough privacy, you can clearly hear your neighbors if they are being noisy. Keep that in mind if you are being the noisy one too. The park strictly enforces its rules and if you are being a nuisance you will be escorted off the property. We saw it first hand on our overnight trip. Our neighbors were college-age, very loud and rowdy, chugging beers and smoking (both are not permitted so don't make it obvious if you are doing either). Suddenly it got quiet and we look over and there are 3 cops at their site arresting them. We were thankful that it got quiet after that, but it was short lived, right before the sun set our other neighbors boat in and start playing music loudly and chopping wood, this continued until around 1am. We would have complained but we were just too tired and kept just falling back asleep. But seriously please don't be that guy.
Onto the the tl;dr!
- Breathtaking scenery
- Gorgeous crystal-clear water
- Sites are in a beautiful wooded area
- Sites have a picnic table and nice fire rings
- You can boat, kayak, or canoe right into your spot if you have a water-access site, site numbers are posted to help you find your spot
- Great spot to watch wildlife
- Amazing spot for water sports, fishing, swimming, etc
- Beautiful, scenic trails to hike or bike
- Can confirm the sunsets are gorgeous
- Every site is dog friendly!
- There is a lot of variety with the sites (water access or more into the mountain, full shade, partial, or no shade, how far they are spaced apart, etc) so you will be able to find the site that is perfect for you
- Paths that allow for emergency vehicles, police, and rangers keep the place safe and fun while giving you the remote feeling of a campsite
- Lots of tinder and firewood available to gather
- Our site had a couple clotheslines hung already
- Each outhouse had bear-proof trash cans, very handy
- Our site was left littered
- Noisy, disruptive neighbors
- Not full privacy (depending on the site)
- Outhouses smelled like death and were terribly dirty and dark
- Only 2 water pumps were working when we went, and they were both way too far, we brought a water filter and pumped our own water straight out of the reservoir
- The trail had a surprising amount of litter, mainly tinfoil and cigarette butts scattered along the trail. Perhaps the rangers could be more strict about littering
- Mild boat noise at water-front sites
THINGS TO DO AT ROUND VALLEY
- Great fishing
- Beautiful hiking trails
- Wildlife/bird watching
- Mountain biking
I highly recommend this campground as a place to get out and camp out on the water. You can hike in by foot but if you have camp gear and tent equipment my recommendation is to canoe your belongings in! There’s usually a couple of campfires at each site and you’ll book with the rangers when you drive in or by phone to get your permit. The sunsets here are incredible and I’ve camped in Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota!
We went to Round Valley Resevoir on 6/21-6/22/19. When hit the water around Noon and after paddling for about 15 minutes the wind really kicked up and the water got pretty rough. We originally were supposed to camp at site 83, but the water was too rough to continue that far. The strobe lights were activated and we pulled off of the water. After about 30 minutes I called the ranger station and requested a new camp site because the water was too rough, and the strobe system was activated. The person I spoke to said that the strobes didnt mean to get off the water, but just to stay close to the coast and continue paddling. I told the person that it was not safe to paddle and we got reassigned to another site. (It should be noted that in the ranger station as well as on the literature they give you when checking in says to get off of the water if the stobes are turnd on). We ended up at site 40. The site itself was ok, but not really level. We were a little over a mile to the nearest water point. It was nice to see bathrooms along the trail with trash cans. However the bathrooms were really dirty and unmaintained. I understand it is a wilderness camping spot, but the one bathroom actually had feces covering the floor. The trash cans were nice though.
The wind died down early on 6/22 and we hit the water, paddling back to the boat launch in about an hour in calm water. Over all the site was not too bad, with a great view of the water. The staff was not very friendly , saftey concious or helpful. I felt the advice to just keep paddling close to coast while th strobe alert system was activated was not very wise. We will probably visit again, but will hike in so we do not have to deal with the unpredictable wind ans water conditions. Also his is an active Bear area , so bring bear spray. Also , there was no cell servce by the ranger station , but our phones worked well when out on the water and at the camp site.
I absolutely love this place and has become my go to for quick spur of the moment trips in Jersey. It’s about a 3mi hike to campsites #1 & #2 and 6mi to the last sites #84 & #85. The hike is not terrible in my opinion just lots of ups and downs for the first 3mi. Once you get to the campground trail it’s pretty easy going on asphalt surface. You also have the option to boat into a lot of the sites but will warn you that the winds pick up out of nowhere on the reservoir and can make paddling a bit taxing at points…. so check the forecast and be prepared. Only reason for a 1 star loss is, like others have mentioned, these sites are hit or miss. I’ve gotten beautiful sites with ample space and great lake access to pads that can barely hold a tent, have way too many sharp rocks to put a tent on or covered in 6 inches of mud. Would just do your research before reserving and if possible scout out a few of your favorites beforehand. Also make sure to take a look at the water situation. Was out there this weekend (6/22/19) and because they are installing a new filtration system only two water pumps are working and depending on which site you get you can be up to 1.5mi away from the nearest one.
Great campground and hike. Has become a yearly hike with our Scout Troop.
Came here for a day trip. Very pretty and it was a gorgeous day. Was able to take some beautiful pictures.
Hike in or boat across the reservoir, thats the only way to access these primitive sites. Beautiful sites right on the lake, or up higher if wanted. If possible I suggest scouting out the perfect site prior to booking because some are gems while others are difficult to get into. We boated/canoed kayaked in for a huge group one year and single sites every other year. Earlier in the year is better to prevent lots and lots of bugs, August is hot and buggy!! Rangers always come by sites to check on campers and are nice.
This is a great campground that is super private and quiet - great for getting out to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. It's a pretty strenuous hike, but you'll be rewarded for the effort! If you get a site on the water, you can take a boat across to to your site (check the site for regulations/restrictions) - in-season rentals should be available on-site.
There is a pump for potable water and vault/pit toilets. Trails are well-kept. Definitely a great place to start with getting into backpacking and enjoying nature.
Some of the sites are at least 3 miles to get to unless you take a boat across. Beautiful peaceful and primitive. The reservoir can turn into the Bermuda Triangle at any moment-- be careful