The 12 Best Places to Camp in Virginia

Shenandoah, United States.

Virginia presents a plethora of options when searching for a stunning camping destination. Along the Atlantic Ocean coastline sits the world-famous Virginia Beach, and westward the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. With 24 state forests, 38 state parks, 19 national park services, and numerous primitive campgrounds, the best camping in Virginia has lots of competition. 

Virginia is the perfect state for a back-to-nature getaway, with plenty of secluded spots for pitching a tent. There’s also a big choice of campgrounds offering RV sites, with varied access to amenities. Whether it’s oceanside at Virginia Beach, or within the huge George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, the perfect camping destination for you can be found if you read on. 

 

A trail in the woods.

With large sections of the Appalachian Trail running through the state, Virginia is considered one of the best camping and hiking locations in the eastern United States.

 

 

1. Shenandoah National Park

Just 75 miles from the nation’s capital, nearly 200,000 square acres of forest, wetlands, waterfalls, and rocky peaks make up the Shenandoah National Park. It’s the perfect place for relaxation and recreation, attracting many for a city getaway from Washington D.C. One huge attraction to this national park is the Skyline Drive, a road that runs 105-miles along its entire length.

The road follows the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, with phenomenal views the entire way. Amongst the 75 overlooks from the Skyline Drive are vistas of the Shenandoah Valley to the west and Piedmont to the east. You can also access many popular trails from the road, including the Appalachian Trail, and paths used for mountain biking and equestrians. 

Other ways to spend your time inside Shenandoah National Park could include the massive 500 miles of hiking trails, from which you can see cascading waterfalls, more stunning views, or enjoy the famous color-changing leaves with the seasons. 

Big Meadows Campground is perfectly located in Shenandoah National Park, close to several of the major sites and facilities, with easy access to popular hiking trails. There are three waterfalls within walking distance of the campground, it couldn’t be better located. The campsites are wooded and equipped with fire grates and picnic tables, and coin-operated showers and a camp store are also on-site. Note that there are no electric or water hookups at the individual campsites, but laundry facilities are available, as are toilets. 

 

2. First Landing State Park 

Boating and swimming are everyday activities at First Landing State Park, just outside of Virginia Beach on the Chesapeake Bay. Here, 19 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails and a 1.5-mile beach make a lovely destination, some of the best camping in Virginia. It’s actually the state’s most popular state park, where fishing and crabbing are common activities. 

Located on Cape Henry, nearly 3000 acres of natural environment provides space for swimming, hiking, biking, boating, or just a nice setting for a picnic. Rare plants and abundant wildlife make this a great destination for the nature-loving camper, and the gorgeous coastline is just a short walk from your campsite.

The campground at First Landing State Park offers tent sites and RV sites, with or without hookups. A camping store where bikes are available for rental, as well as restrooms and showers are all on-site. A boat launch is free to use for campers, so bring your best tackle box and do some fishing in the Atlantic Ocean. In the area, educational programs can teach campers about the scenic nature and rich history of the Chesapeake Bay area, so your camping trip can be a learning opportunity!

 

Virginia Beach, United States.

Enjoy some sunbathing and swimming in First Landing State Park, right by Virginia Beach.

 

3. False Cape State Park

This beautifully scenic park is one of the only undeveloped areas along the entire Virginia Atlantic coast. A beautiful oasis of untouched shoreline, False Cape State Park is perfect for oceanside camping. Six miles of gorgeous untouched beachfront is perfect for campers who want to unzip their tent straight onto the sand. Because it’s a wildlife refuge and preserved area, no there is no public vehicular access of any kind. Instead, the beach and park can only be reached on foot, by bicycle, beach transport, tram, or boat. 

Swimming and sunbathing are popular activities at False Cape State Park, and visitors can also enjoy guided kayak tours and biking trails. Walk some of the 15 total miles of hiking trails to see dunes and beaches, maritime forests of oak and pine, wooded swamps, marches, and views of the Chesapeake Bay. 

Primitive campsites are available year-round, this campground is perfect for some wild beach camping. There are no showers and no electricity, but several non-flush toilets are available throughout the park. Drinking water is also accessible, and while campfires aren’t allowed, camp stoves are permitted. 

 

4. Lake Fairfax Park

In Fairfax County, this 476-acre park also contains a 20-acre lake, which is ideal for fishing. There are also fun activities on the grounds, such as the Water Mine family water park, as well as a skate park and a pump track. This is the ideal family camping destination, you can even rent paddle boats on the lake. 

The campground has 136 tent campsites and RV spaces, with electric hookups available. There are no full hookups and no wi-fi connection. This campground is popular because of its close vicinity to Washington D.C., so it’s recommended to make a reservation ahead of time.

 

5. Chickahominy Riverfront Park

If you’re looking for riverside camping, this is the best camping in Virginia. This park totals 140 acres right in the center of the historic Triangle region of Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg. Green scenic waterfront views are offered in every part of the Chickahominy Riverfront Park, where you can boat, canoe, kayak, fish, swim, or just sunbathe along the shores. There’s also a pool in the park, as well as hiking trails which wind around this historic area. 

When deciding on a camping spot, you’ll have a choice of 160 campsites that sit along the bluff above the Chickahominy River. Each boasts an excellent view, along with access to a boat launch and canoe and kayak rentals. There are picnic areas where you can enjoy a meal with your group and do some wildlife viewing, and restrooms are available on site. 

 

A river running through the forest.

The beautiful Chickahominy River offers endless fishing and boating opportunities.

 

6. Douthat State Park

If you prefer mountainous scenery, there’s still a place for you in Virginia. Douthat State Park offers a 50-acre lake, where swimming, boating, and fishing are popular activities. There are also over 40 miles of wooded hiking trails encircling the lake, offering wonderful views and wildlife viewing opportunities. This is one of the six original Virginia state parks and is only a short drive from attractions such as the Warm Springs Baths or the Natural Bridge in Lexington. Here, you’ll find rich Civil War history, so Douthat State Park is a great camping destination for any historical enthusiasts. 

As well as campsites for tents and RVs, this park also has 32 cabins and 3 lodges for group rental. Picnic areas and a playground are close by, as well as a camp store for restocking your supplies. Breathtaking mountain scenery combined with lots of useful amenities makes this one of the best camping spots in Virginia. 

 

7. New River Trail State Park

This linear park spans 57-miles along an abandoned railroad right-of-way and is parallels the scenic and historic New River for 39 miles. This area is great for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Guided horseback trips are available, and in the park, there are boat rentals, gift shops, and a horse arena. This park is unique as it offers 57-miles of continuous trail, with peaceful surroundings and pleasant scenery the whole way. Fishing is popular in the river and streams, so this park is good for those wanting a peaceful angling retreat. 

Primitive campsites are scattered along the length of the park, offering challenges for all experience levels. Otherwise, the Cliffview and Millrace sites have fire rings, lantern posts, and picnic tables. This park has no showers or bathhouses, so is only for those who can rough it a little bit. In return for giving up some modern conveniences, this peaceful state park offers some of the best camping in Virginia. 

 

8. Grayson Highlands State Park

Near Virginia’s two highest mountains, Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Grayson Highlands State Park offers some of the best views of these alpine peaks. The state’s highest peak (Mount Rogers) is easily accessed from this state park, as is the famous Appalachian Trail. Wildlife viewing in this park is excellent, as wild ponies roam the area freely. The mountain streams contain the opportunity for some superb trout fishing, the scenery of the entire area is just to die for.

The Grayson Highlands State Park Campground offers basic campsites with stunning views, with power on the sites but only water for the peak season. There’s no access to restrooms or bathhouses, however, facilities for horse camping are available. There are so many trails for horseback riding in this area too, we would really recommend it to equestrian campers. 

 

A man in a hammock by a river.

Primitive camping in such a beautiful environment is incredibly rewarding.

 

9. North Bend Park

North Bend Park sits on the John H. Kerr Reservoir, a 50,000-acre lake. More than 800 miles of scenic wooded shoreline encircles the lake, dotted with coves and all waiting to be explored. Wildlife viewing is a popular activity, waterfowl and Bald Eagles can be observed year-round, as well as scenic lakeside views. 

Several trails are available nearby for hiking and mountain biking, and Buggs Island attracts osprey in the summer, great blue herons, and the occasional river otter. The lake is also well known for fishing, with largemouth bass, striped bass, and crappie available. This is the perfect destination for any campers looking to improve their bass angling; check out our bass fishing tips before you go! 

There are more than 200 campsites for tents and RVs around the lake, each area has its own beach. There’s also a day-use area with picnic shelters and a swim beach, as well as 3 boat launching ramps. Alternatively, 249 primitive campsites also surround the lake, which offer peaceful seclusion and wonderful private views. 

 

10. Sherando Lake Recreation Area

Locally known as the jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sherando Lake Recreation Area is an ideal family camping destination. Visitors can enjoy hiking, picnics, great fishing in the 25- acre spring-fed lake, or sunbathing and swimming on the sandy beach. This beautiful state park is also wonderful for nature watching.

The campground offers tent camping, and each campsite has a picnic table, fire pit with grill, and a bear box for food storage. On-site you can find flush toilets, vault toilets, and warm showers. There are also sites with electric hookups for RVs, and a dump station is located nearby. 

 

11. Sky Meadows State Park

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Delaplane, Sky Meadows State Park is rich in Civil War history. More than 1800 acres of scenic woodlands and rolling pastures make up this park, as well as a historic farm where visitors can learn about colonial life in the Crooked Run Valley. This peaceful getaway destination offers hiking, fishing, and primitive camping in a lush green setting. There are miles of trails, with lots of choice for hiking, biking, and bridle trails. 

Hike-in primitive camping is available year-round, for tent campers. Campsites are one mile from the parking area, but bicycles can be used on this journey. Enjoy some tranquil camping while you learn about colonial and Civil War history, this state park is the ideal destination for history buffs. 

 

A field with mountains.

This scenic pastoral state park is a great destination for history enthusiasts.

 

12. Pocahontas State Park

Not far from the state capital of Richmond, this state park was the largest at the time of its creation. Pocahontas State Park offers more than 60 miles of hiking trails, as well as nature and history recreation programs. Three lakes offer plenty of good fishing, and at Swift Creek Lake boat rentals are available seasonally. 

Campers use the boat launch and swim for free at Pocahontas, where campsites are available for tents and RVs. RV sites have varying hookups, with electric and water available. Amenities include centrally located restrooms and hot showers, grills, picnic tables, and lantern holders. Campfires are allowed in each campsite’s steel fire ring, and firewood is on sale at the campground should you need it. 

 

Final Verdict:

The best camping in Virginia depends on the type of getaway or recreation you prefer. There are options for hikers, anglers, primitive campers, and beach lovers. The many state parks and forests offer numerous options, whether you prefer to primitive camp or glamp with all the modern amenities. 

Big Meadows Campground in the Shenandoah Valley National Park is our recommendation for those wanting a peaceful, back-to-nature getaway from Washington D.C. With easy access to some of the most popular hiking trails, as well as three waterfalls to see nearby, this lush green setting certainly is some of the best camping in Virginia. Mountainous scenery and many natural attractions are also on offer in Douthat State Park, which is another option for a tranquil and scenic getaway. 

For tenting on the riverside, Chickahominy Riverfront Park is the best camping in Virginia. A great location for history enthusiasts located in the Historic Triangle region, this park also offers great fishing, swimming, and other water activities. Sky Meadows State Park also offers a historical attraction, you can learn about colonial life as well as civil war history, all from this scenic wooded natural area. 

The famous Virginia Beach is a huge camping destination, so if you’re looking for beach camping in Virginia, choose one of these locations. First Landing State Park offers a 1.5-mile beach as well as hiking and mountain biking trails, where fishing and crabbing are popular pastimes. False Cape is another favorable option, it’s one of the only undeveloped areas along the whole Virginia Atlantic coast. This is one of the most secluded and natural spots, as it’s not reachable by car. The beautiful surroundings and fun seaside activities make False Cape State Park a big contender for the best camping in Virginia, we highly recommend this destination. 

There is also a large number of choices for lakeside camping in Virginia. Lake Fairfax Park offers excellent fishing, as does the Sherando Lake Recreation Area. Sherando Lake is an ideal family camping destination, as there are plenty of recreation activities year-round. Our favorite, however, must be North Bend Park, where the huge lake is surrounded by 800 miles of stunning wooded shoreline. The campsites here each have their own segment of the beach, and fishing for bass and crabbie is popular. This is also a great bird watching location, as Bald Eagles, blue herons, and other waterfowl frequent the area. 

So, all you need to decide if you prefer fishing, birdwatching, hiking, or swimming for your next Virginia camping trip. No matter your choice, any of the locations in this article will provide you with an enjoyable and memorable camping experience. Take your friends, take your family, everyone can have a fantastic time camping in the state of Virginia.

 

Bonus tip: Check out this video to see what trout fishing is like in North Bend Park!

 

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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.