We love camping in Virginia and have many favorite camping spots that are both easy to explore and stunningly beautiful. With this love in mind, we also want to help you enjoy the outdoors responsibly and smartly to make the most of your Virginia camping vacation, whether you are with your family, friends or pets.
Before embarking on your Virginia camping adventure, decide what type of camping you want to do. Would you like to camp in the foreland, places that are accessible by car? Or do you want to go into the hinterland, usually on foot, but also by canoe, kayak or bicycle? Consider the following camping options to help you determine your camping style.
- Private campsites such as KOA & # 39; s are preferred if location is important, such as if you want to camp near an amusement park or concert venue. They are generally more geared towards motorhomes than tent campers. Go for a private campground if you want more amenities such as laundry facilities, on-site games rooms and more luxurious bathhouses.
- State parks and national parks are good for RVs and tent campers alike. Their campgrounds usually have more amenities, such as showers, but they are also long into nature-based activities such as hiking, paddling, and nature study.
- National forest campsites are generally more remote but have fewer amenities and also less crowds, but are still rich in traditional outdoor recreation such as hiking and paddling.
- Backcountry camping options offer little or no amenities, but make up for it with privacy and remote location. Here it is even more important to observe the principles of & # 39; leave no trace & # 39; to follow and be a good land manager. Most campers are provided with a comfortable campground in the countryside before heading to the backcountry to spend the night.
Camping in Virginia is rich with all of the above options. After deciding what kind of camping you want to do, you must commit to doing it right. A successful, responsible vacation camping site in Virginia uses camping and greenery tips to give you a head start. Camping tips will help you take the rough work out of roughening while taking care of the land. Better enjoy your Virginia road trip, whether you're next to the Atlantic surf, next to a scenic lake, next to a crystal-clear river, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, or high in the Appalachians.
With that in mind, here are 10 great camping destinations for beginners, along with camping tips to enhance your experience and "green" tips to help you walk light on your Virginia camping vacation.
Kiptopeke State Park Campground – Cape Charles
Photo credit: Johnny Molloy
The camping: This well-managed, well-organized state park on the east coast is a great camping destination, ideal for families and beginners. The campsite is open from March to November and offers pitches with only tents and tents and campers with electricity. Hot showers keep campers clean. Upgrade your experience by renting one of 4 camping yurts, each with its own deck, water tap, fire ring and grill.
The fun: Take a walk on a stretch of beach at Chesapeake Bay. Follow some of the 5 miles of hiking and biking trails. License-free from the park pier. Launch your kayak and paddle Chesapeake Bay. Single and double kayaks and paddleboards can be rented from the camp shop during the warm season.
Camping Tip: Keep children, pets and the tent away from the campfire. Clean the area around the fire ring, especially in the dark, to avoid tripping into the flames. Beware of picking up partially burnt pieces of wood; they may burn on their invisible side.
Green tip: Keep a clean campsite. Keep items when not in use. Wind and rain can blow loose waste and other objects over the campsite. Put food away when it's not being eaten to avoid attracting everything from ants to bears.
Prince William Forest Campground – Dumfries
PHOTO CREDIT: JOHNNY MOLLOY
The camping: When camping here, it's hard to believe you're in the shadow of D.C. Prince William Forest is a 15,000-acre natural oasis in Northern Virginia and features the rustic Oak Ridge Campground with 100 sites. Open from March to November, a shady forest covers a variety of campsites, large sites for large families, more secluded walk-in tents, and intimate spots for couples. Hot showers and water taps add a bit of luxury. No hookups make it primarily the domain of tent campers. Do you want to improve your game? Rent a rustic wooden cabin.
The fun: Developed in the 1930s, Prince William Forest features an extensive walking trail system for walkers. My favorite trails are South Valley Trail and North Valley Trail. They travel along South Fork Quantico Creek and Quantico Creek respectively, where you can walk along singing rocky streams in the shade of verdant forests. Scenic Drive is not only fun for a quiet ride through hilly forests, but also for a bike ride. Do you want to paddle? Rent a kayak or canoe at nearby Pohick Bay Regional Park, then explore Gunston Cove, part of the tidal Potomac River.
Camping Tip: Pay special attention to your bedding. A pillow is key. Bring a fluffy pillow at home for a good night's sleep. An air mattress is much more comfortable than sleeping on the floor. Make sure your sleeping bag is warm enough, then bring an extra blanket just in case. A cold bed makes for a long cold night. Consider pajamas for warmth and in case you need to run a night bathroom.
Green tip: When nature calls and there is no toilet available, dig a hole at least 30 meters from the water and about 6 inches deep. Use your heel. Do your business, burn your toilet paper and bury the evidence, sparing both the environment and the next camper unsightly unsanitary hygiene practices.
Lewis Mountain Campground – Madison
PHOTO CREDIT: JOHNNY MOLLOY
The camping: Perched atop the mountain splendor of Virginia's Shenandoah National Park, Lewis Mountain is the preserve's most intimate campground with 30 sites. The entire site is first come, first served, no reservations. This is a great place to visit during down times, such as during the week, or in the late spring and early fall. Campers who like simplicity will love Lewis Mountain – no electricity or hookups – but you do have a camp store, laundry room and showers during the warm season.
The fun: Lewis Mountain is ideally located for exploring Shenandoah. For starters, the one and only Appalachian Trail runs right past the site. Other nearby hiking options include the view-laden Bearfence Mountain. Venture to President Hoover's historic Camp Rapidan. Take a ride on the scenic road that is Skyline Drive. Big Meadows, with its visitor center, wildlife and nearby waterfalls, is only 7 miles away. There is plenty of action with the quiet Lewis Mountain as your base camp.
Camping Tip: Bring good food while camping. Surprise your fellow campers with their favorite treats. Write down a meal plan, then buy all the necessary items before heading to the campground. Don't just think about meals, but also snacks, desserts and drinks.
Green tip: Never feed wild animals. This includes everything from birds to squirrels to raccoons to deer. You can harm their health and expose yourself – and them – to danger.
The Pines Campground – New Castle
PHOTO CREDIT: JOHNNY MOLLOY
The camping: Small, remote and simple, The Pines is located deep in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest. Open from March to November and located northwest of Roanoke, the holiday offers a dozen campsites. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring, and lamp post. Trouty Barbours Creek flows close deep into this wooded backside from beyond. You really get back to nature in the Virginia Appalachians. Bring your own water – and leave your worries behind.
The fun: The nearby Potts Mountain jeep trail draws four-wheelers to the area. Anglers can compete for trout in the adjacent Barbours Creek. Explore the nearby trails of Fenwick Mines, hike and swim at Craig Creek or visit the Iron Furnace and Waterfalls at Roaring Run. Or you can just pull a chair together and read that book for free distraction at The Pines.
Camping Tip: Provide adequate lighting for darkness. Headlights provide hands-free lighting. A lantern brightens up the campsite, while string lights add to the camping fun.
Green tip: Leave natural souvenirs where you find them. This means wild flowers, rocks, shells and driftwood, as well as historical artifacts such as fossils and arrowheads. Let others discover and enjoy them too.
Hurricane Campground – Sugar Grove
PHOTO CREDIT: JOHNNY MOLLOY
The camping: Located where Hurricane Creek and Comers Creek meet in the famed Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, this overlooked mountain campground offers 27 bookable campgrounds in a serene setting. Hot showers, water and an on-site camping host keep things clean and orderly. Pitches are large and far enough apart for good privacy on the site.
The fun: Quiet but not too far off the beaten track, you can relax at camp, play in the creek or explore the adjacent Raccoon Branch Wilderness on the Appalachian Trail or the Virginia Highlands Trail. Grab the view from nearby Dickey Knob or check out Comers Creek Falls.
Camping Tip: Bring lighting materials: candles, pre-formed lighting sticks, kindling wood, dry paper and lighter fluid. This makes it much easier to make a campfire. However, do not bring firewood. Instead, collect it on site or buy wood at your favorite campground to avoid spreading wood pests like emerald ash borer, hemlock woolly adelgid, and others.
Green tip: Do you like the outdoors? Show your commitment through action by volunteering with a conservation group or hiking organization, or by donating time to your favorite national, state, or local park.
Longwood Park – Clarksville
Photo Credit: Sam Dean, IG Account: @sdeanphotos
The camping: This lovely site is located on the shores of the great Kerr Lake, with more than 800 kilometers of coastline! The large campgrounds are spread across three peninsulas that stretch across Lake Kerr's Grassy Creek arm, just 10 minutes from Clarksville, allowing for plenty of lakeside campgrounds to reserve. These 66 well-maintained campsites are suitable for tents and campers, have a lot of shade and also more open spaces. They have electric and non-electric campsites, hot showers, and water taps. Frequently used sites increase privacy. Also open all year round!
The fun: Water is the name of the game here in Longwood Park. Swim on the designated beach in an inlet of Lake Kerr. Throw a line for freshwater bass and bream. Use the boat ramp to launch your powered watercraft or paddle your kayak or canoe along the wooded shoreline. Splash your toes in the water at your campsite. Ride your bike on the roads of the campsite.
Camping Tip: Preparing for your Virginia camping adventure saves more time than it takes. Start a camping checklist and save it to your phone so you can tweak the list after each adventure.
Green tip: Recycle your old camping gear by giving it to someone or an organization that will reuse it.
Chincoteague Island KOA – Chincoteague
Photo Credit: Todd Wright, IG Account: @toddwrightphoto
The camping: Several camping options are available at this resort style campground. Bring your own tent or camper, or rent a "glamping style" safari tent. Almost a camping village, amenities are plentiful with pretty bathhouses, golf cart rentals and an outdoor pool. Run smoothly.
The fun: KOA on Chincoteague Island is all about location, location, location! It is located in the heart of Chincoteague Village with all of its amenities and attractions such as the Maui Jacks Waterpark, restaurants, and outdoor outfitters such as Chincoteague Island Adventures. Still, the KOA is also close to Chincoteague and Assateague beaches, as well as the natural attractions of Assateague Island National Seashore, including the Chincoteague Lighthouse. The campground rents bikes for working around and kayaks for paddling around salty waters.
Camping Tip: Make reservations if possible. Most online booking platforms show individual campsite photos. If you arrive at the campsite and your campsite is unfavorable, ask to switch – it won't hurt. Once you are in a campground, make a note of your favorite campgrounds for future trips.
Green tip: Avoid sensitive ecological areas if possible. Hike, rest and camp at least 30 meters from streams, lakes and rivers.
Shenandoah River State Park – Front Royal
Photo credit: Tony Hall
The camping: Located on a wooded bend of the Shenandoah River, the park has campgrounds for RVs and tent campers. The 31-pitch EW Campground has very large, well-separated pitches, all with electricity and water, good for campers. Some sites have mountain views. There is also a beautiful modern bathhouse on the campsite. The deeply wooded River Right Campground has 12 walk-in (or paddle-in) campsites that are located right on the river. A full bathhouse is available for these nice tent spots. The park also offers three yurts for rent, as well as 4 small camping cabins.
The fun: The historic Shenandoah River is the heart of recreation here. Use the state park as a starting point or take it with you. Find a deep spot and immerse yourself in the river. Use River Run Outfitters or Front Royal Outdoors to rent a boat, take a shuttle and float the Shenandoah River. Additionally, hikers and mountain bikers can hike along 24 miles of state park trails that run through the river valley and adjacent hills. Head to Cullers Overlook or take the River Trail to access the fine fishing waters of the Shenandoah's Smallmouth Bass.
Camping Tip: Keep your cooler cold for as long as possible by pre-cooling it with ice before adding ice for your camping trip. When camping, keep the cooler in the shade, out of a hot car, and away from fire. Open and close it as rarely as possible (very tough job with children). Drain the water from the cooler to prevent food from floating.
Green tip: Do your best to avoid birds and animals that are mating or caring for their young.
North Bayshore Campground – Sandbridge
Photo credit: Johnny Molloy
The camping: This camping resort is located on a quiet bank of the Ashville Bridge Creek tidal area, yet close to the Atlantic Ocean and the beaches of Sandbridge. It offers more than 40 waterfront campsites and much more. The scenery is peaceful and natural as the site is largely bordered by Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Still, almost all sites offer water, electricity and Wi-Fi.
The fun: Tidal creeks, large bays and the Atlantic Ocean are all close by. Launch your boat directly from the campsite and go fishing for salt water. Or take a fun 5 mile loop paddle that includes Ashville Bridge Creek, Hell & # 39; s Point Creek, and Back Bay. Take a short drive to Sandbridge Beach and take a walk along the Atlantic Ocean. Ride your bike along the coastline roads of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, then return to relax at camp.
Camping Tip: If you are taking a newcomer to the campsite, plan the trip with them in mind. Consider the newbie's desires, physical abilities, and lack of experience when choosing where to camp and what to do once you get there – you want them to like it.
Green tip: Be courteous to other campers and outdoor enthusiasts. After all, we enjoy the same piece of nature together. Let's take turns making it better for all of us. Comb etiquette helps a lot to smooth things out when we rough it up.
James River State Park – Norwood
Photo credit: Johnny Molloy
The camping: Your biggest challenge here is choosing the perfect campground in one of Virginia's newer state parks. James River State Park presents 5 different campgrounds! Red Oak is the most developed, with large, fully-connected campgrounds designed with RVs in mind. Add a nice bathhouse and laundry and the big installations are ready. Three campsites are designed for tenters. Solitude seekers will head to Branch Pond's seven primitive sites, while water enthusiasts will pitch their tents at Canoe Landing's 12 riverside walk-in sites. These camps provide a mix of sun and shade. The five Walnut Grove campgrounds are set back from the river, but still have quick access to water. Horseshoe Campground offers developed water and electrical sites for riders.
The fun: An on-site paddling livery, open during the warm season, rents out canoes and kayaks then takes you up the James River where you can float back to the state park on Class I waters. Choose your trip – 8 miles, 6 miles or 2 miles. Tubes offered for the 2-mile run. Landlubbers can tackle 22 miles of trails. My favorite is the River Trail. True to its name, the path runs along the banks of the James. Some other trails have been designed with mountain bikers in mind. No matter how you travel, you can enjoy multiple looping options.
Camping Tip: Take care of your belongings after your camping trip: air your tent and sleeping bags, roll and dry sleeping mats / mattresses, wash camping equipment / pots / cutlery, empty your backpacks / daypacks and store your things well after drying. Sounds like a hassle, but aftercare of the equipment protects your camping gear for the next adventure.
Green tip: Conserve our natural resources. Loving care and tax money have gone into creating public campsites and parks. Do not damage signs or trees. There is no need to let passers-by know you were here.