With a sky full of bright stars overhead and the soothing sounds of crickets chirping, the experience of camping connects you to nature in a way that is hard to describe. A rough, more primitive campground can teach you survival basics necessary to live off the surrounding landscape, but even the most luxurious camping trip has the power to create a bond with the Virginia outdoors that is unforgettable. Whether you are planning a trip to camp close to wineries in Virginia, want a quick escape from the city, or are looking for a weekend getaway with your four-legged friend, these campsites offer a scenic stay in some of Virginia’s most interesting areas.
Outdoor Recreation/Primitive Camping
False Cape State Park—Virginia Beach
One of the only underdeveloped areas along the Virginia Atlantic coast, False Cape State Park is a beautiful oasis of untouched shoreline that is perfect for coastal camping. The park is popular for primitive camping (no showers, electricity, or stall bathrooms) but offers extensive activities for visitors, including guided kayak trips, biking trails, and six miles of untouched beachfront for swimming and sunbathing.
Reachable only by foot, bicycle, or boat, the campgrounds have no public vehicular access. Pets are allowed in the campgrounds, but since the access trails through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge don’t permit pets, the only way to arrive with dogs is by boat. Camping reservations cannot be made on the same day, so make sure you call ahead of time. Campers should read all the details about the sites before arriving, as the area can be difficult for beginners and unprepared campers.
New River Trail State Park—Foster Falls
Hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding keep the New River Trail State Park busy during the day, but many outdoor enthusiasts stick around to stay at the park’s campground. There are primitive campsites located all along the trail for escalating levels of experience. If you are looking a little more comfort, the Cliffview and Millrace sites have fire pits, lantern posts, and picnic tables. You can even rent canoes and bikes if you do not have your own equipment.
The Double Shoals and Baker Island sites are for the truly rugged camper. These sites may not have any frills, but they allow the serious campers to focus on the surrounding natural landscape. With no vehicular access to campsites and no showers or bathhouses, this Virginia campground is not for the faint of heart. There are many entrances to this park, as it winds through Grayson, Carroll, Wythe, Pulaski, and Galax along the New River for 39 miles. Get directions to the closest entrance point.
Grayson Highlands State Park Camping—Mouth of Wilson
Grayson Highlands State Park Campground offers basic campgrounds with beautiful views, but that is just the beginning. The park is the gateway to the state’s highest peak, Mount Rogers, and also an entry to the Appalachian Trail. You can hike, bike, and even ride a horse along the trails. And don’t be surprised if you come across some interesting wildlife while venturing through the region; wild ponies roam the park freely. There is power at the sites but no water from March-November, and also no bathrooms or showers, so be prepared to really rough it while camping.
Backcountry Camping—Shenandoah National Park
For the avid outdoors enthusiast, it doesn’t get any more primitive than backcountry camping while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Very few areas in the park are off-limits to overnight stays, and park campers get a front-row seat for discovering Virginia’s amazing scenery and wildlife. A word of caution: Backcountry camping in Shenandoah National Park is not for beginners. Preparing for an overnight trip in the mountains of Virginia requires experience, survival skills, and the right tools and supplies. Make sure you are fully aware of the risks and rules to backcountry camping before you plan your trip to the park.
Camping for History Buffs
Christopher Run Campground—Mineral
Sitting beside Lake Anna in Louisa County, Christopher Run Campground has over 200 campsites, with water and electric hookups available at many of the sites. Rent canoes, rowboats, and paddleboats during your visit or bring your own and utilize the six boat ramps available for visitors. The campgrounds are great for kids, with volleyball and basketball courts, horseshoes, shuffleboard, and a playground. And you’ll find plenty of history nearby, as the campground is less than an hour from many historic sites, including Montpelier, James Madison Museum, Monticello, Ash Lawn, and Shenandoah National Park.
Chickahominy Riverfront Park—Williamsburg
Centrally located in the historic Triangle region of Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg, the Chickahominy Riverfront Park is 140 acres of gorgeous riverfront campgrounds that put you right in the center of Virginia history. A total of 160 campsites (some with water and electric) sit alongside a bluff above the Chickahominy River. Guests enjoy the scenic views of the waterfront and all the activities that the river affords, such as boat, canoe, and kayak access (which can be rented through the park), fishing, swimming, or simply sunbathing along the shores. If river water isn’t your thing, take a dip in the park’s pool during the summer months, or hike the walking trails that wind around the park, providing an up-close experience with Virginia’s coastal wildlife. Only 20-40 minutes from each of the historic sites, the Chickahominy Riverfront Park is a great option for campers looking to discover the origins of American history in Virginia.
Douthat State Park—Clifton Forge
Nestled in the Alleghany Mountains, Douthat State Park provides visitors with plenty of activities and a scenic mountain backdrop. The park’s 50-acre lake offers swimming, boating, and fishing, and there are more than 40 miles of wooded hiking trails encircling the park. The campgrounds have bathhouses with showers and toilets, and the sites are pet-friendly. Grill at the site’s fire pits and enjoy an evening meal at the picnic tables.
Straddling Bath and Alleghany counties, Douthat State Park is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the original six Virginia State Parks. History buffs find plenty to do all within an hours’ drive of the park. Visit Bath County to experience the famous Warm Springs Baths or travel to Natural Bridge in nearby Lexington, which has a rich Civil War history. The campsite is also close to Virginia’s oldest standing covered bridge, Humpback Bridge, on Route 60, west of Covington.
Camping near Wineries & Breweries
Camp Karma Campground—Bedford
Camp Karma Campground is an upscale but primitive camping location that sits on 42 acres between Roanoke and Lynchburg. The 37 campsites offer a back-to-nature approach to camping, although there are bathrooms, fire pits, and picnic tables available for use. With Goose Creek right beside the campgrounds, guests can fish and swim while staying at the camp, or they can drive about ten minutes and reach Smith Mountain Lake, which offers a wider variety of water sports. Although it is a fairly primitive campground, there is Wi-Fi available at the main building. Wine lovers at Camp Karma travel to the Bedford Wine Trail, stopping at wineries like Peaks of Otter Winery, White Rock Vineyards, Savoy-Lee Winery, and breweries such as Apocalypse Ale Works and Sunken City Brewing Company.
Misty Mountain Camp Resort—Greenwood
There is plenty of activities to fill your days when staying at the Misty Mountain Camp Resort. Guests go for a dip in the outdoor pool, fish in the camp’s pond, play a game of pool in the recreation room, or get a team together for a basketball or volleyball tournament. The 50-acre park has a mixture of camp sites, with primitive tent locations, sites with water and electric, RV spots, and even cabins, allowing you to choose your comfort level during your visit.
At the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, the Misty Mountain Camp resort gives you access to over 30 wineries and vineyards on the Monticello Wine Trail, like Barboursville Vineyards, Veritas Vineyard & Winery, Jefferson Vineyards, and Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards. Plus, there are plenty of fun guided tours and adventures nearby to round out your Virginia mountain vacation.
Big Meadows Campground—Luray
Big Meadows Campground is located near many of the major facilities and popular hiking trails in Shenandoah National Park, in addition to three waterfalls within walking distance of the campgrounds. The Meadow, an open area of the park, features abundant plant growth, scenery, and wildlife. Pets are allowed and the bathhouses at the center facility have hot showers and toilets, although there are no electric or water hookups at the individual campsites. The Big Meadows Campground is close to the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail, and nearby wineries and breweries include DuCard Vineyards, Sharp Rock Vineyards, Hopkins Ordinary Ale Works, and Little Washington Winery & Vineyards.
Right Outside City Limits
Pocahontas State Park—Chesterfield
Just 20 miles outside Richmond, Pocahontas State Park has campsites with electric and water hookups, picnic tables, and grills. There are restrooms with showers and hot water available in the park, along with an outdoor pool and laundry facilities open to guests. Visitors can also rent rowboats, paddleboards, kayaks, paddleboats, and canoes during the summer months. Swimming, fishing, and boating are free for overnight campers, but guests to the park have to pay a fee to dock their boats and use the pond, which is stocked with crappie, largemouth bass, bluegill, and catfish. Pets are allowed on the campgrounds for a nightly fee.
First Landing State Park Camping—Virginia Beach
First Landing State Park is located right outside of Virginia Beach on the Chesapeake Bay, where boating and swimming are an everyday part of life. The area has educational programs where visitors can learn more about the rich nature and history of the Chesapeake. The campsites have water and electric hookups, access to restrooms and showers, and picnic sites for your group to use during meals. Nineteen miles of biking and hiking trails and one and a half miles of Atlantic coastline span the more than 3,000 acres of First Landing State Park. It is Virginia’s most visited state park for a reason; you’ll find rare plants, abundant wildlife, and gorgeous scenery everywhere you look at First Landing State Park, plus you can bring your dog along for the ride!
Lake Fairfax Park Campground—Reston
This Northern Virginia campground is ideal for families bringing along the kids. There are many entertainment options, like the Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole, a Western-themed activity pool, complete with interactive play features including twisting slides and flumes. There is an 18 acre lake with paddleboat rentals available, and fishing is popular in the seasonally-stocked lake. We recommend making reservations for this popular campground located outside of the metropolitan D.C area, as it is frequently fully booked.
Off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Wintergreen Resort, the Crabtree Falls Campground is open year-round and sits on the Tye River. The campgrounds are only a short hike away from their namesake, Crabtree Falls, which is the highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi. Tent, RV, or cabin camping options are available to guests, and pets are welcome throughout the campground. Amenities include a heated bath-house, washer and dryer, and recreation room. If you plan on bringing your pets, be sure to bring records that show your pet is up to date on rabies vaccinations.
Horseshoe Flats Campground—Scottsville
Bring your pets along to Horseshoe Flats Campground for a vacation that is filled with fun past-times. Tubing, swimming, canoeing, fishing are all popular in this area, and the sites have fire pits for campfires and cookouts. Take the old-school approach and chop down your own wood for the fire (no power tools, please!). Within walking distance of the historic town of Scottsville, Horseshoe Flats Campground gives you the “roughing it” experience while keeping you close to civilization. The bathrooms have showers, toilets, and hot water. While pets are welcome at the sites, they are not allowed in the water or on the beaches.
North Bend Park & Campgrounds—Boydton
North Bend Park & Campgrounds sits on the John H. Kerr Reservoir, a 50,000-acre lake with more than 800 miles of wooded, cove-studded shoreline that you are free to explore. There are 249 primitive and electric/water hookup sites on or near the lake, and centrally located bath houses provide guests with hot showers and toilets. Biking and pet-friendly walking trails wind through the campground, and public picnic areas with grills make an evening barbecue a great idea for your camping trip. The beaches at the campground will make you feel like you are right on the Atlantic coastline, and water activities abound. Fish from the pier, swim in the lake, or drop the boat in the water at one of the boat ramps to explore the lake. While the beaches do not allow pets, you are welcome to take your animals on the trails around the campground.
There are hundreds of campsites across Virginia and we have yet to experience even a fraction of them. What makes your favorite Virginia campsites stand out? Let us know which areas you prefer when setting up camp and where we should go next!
© pkeppel for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2016. |