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The ultimate guide to camping in Northern virginia

Camping is a recreational activity in which participants take up temporary residence in the outdoors, usually using tents or specially designed or adapted vehicles for shelter.. Camping began as a rugged, back-to-nature hobby for hardy open-air lovers, but it has now evolved into the normal vacation activities for millions of average families.

Camping can be one of the most enjoyable pastimes available. Who doesn’t want to go away from the hustling and bustling of the city, pitch a tent beneath the stars, and prepare a scrumptious supper over an open fire? Camping, whether in campsites, mountains, or on the river, is something I believe everyone should do at least once in their lives. However, if you’ve never been camping before, it might be overwhelming or daunting. That’s why I’ve put together this complete beginner’s guide to camping in Northern Virginia.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about Camping In Northern Virginia or use the links below to jump to a specific section.

Camping is usually a fun time for the whole family, but your experience may differ depending on where you go. Given its closeness to Washington, D.C., it may surprise you to hear that Northern Virginia camping has some of the nicest sites in the country, but you’ll quickly realize that the area has the parks and woods to make it unforgettable. The easiest way to get good at camping in Northern Virginia is to go with someone more experienced than you. If this is an option, definitely take it! But if you don’t have someone to go with, do not fret. In this section, I will go over the basics of camping – specifically, how to choose a destination & book your sites, the best time for camping, how long to make your trip, and what equipment is needed for camping.

Camping in Northern Virginia

Choose a Destination & Book Your Sites

Searching for parks in your region is a fantastic place to start. When you’re considering different parks, consider the following:

  • How far away is it? Parks further from the city tend to be less busy, but they also involve more driving.
  • What facilities are there? Decide what facilities you want and what is available.
  • What things are there to do? While camping is itself an activity, search for hiking / paddling / activities in the area.
  • How popular is it? I suggest Googling something along the lines of “most popular parks” in your location. There is usually a reason a park is so popular – be it beauty, facilities, proximity. Decide how much solitude you’d like on your camping trip, as popular parks tend to be busier.

You will almost certainly need to make a reservation in advance, depending on your destination. If this is the case, make a reservation for a campground or a camping permit.

The best time for camping

Although the actual time of the year may vary depending on your location and hobbies, this advice is applicable to the United States, Canada, and Western Europe as a whole. If this is your first time camping, I strongly advise you to do so during the summer.

Other considerations:

  • Climate: Perhaps the biggest factor is climate, specifically temperature and precipitation. Most people go camping when it’s warm out and try to avoid particularly rainy seasons.
  • Wildlife: Some people will time their camping trips with when they’re most likely to see wildlife. For instance, many people go camping in the winter or early spring for moose spotting.
  • Scenery: Different seasons provide sceneries. Autumn is a popular time to go camping due to fall foliage, but the chillier temperatures mean you need more gear and experience.
How Long to Make Your Trip

If this will be your first camping trip in Northern Virginia, I typically recommend going to a campground for two nights or three I think planning a camping trip is too much work for a single night; with driving, setting up camp, cooking and cleaning, you just don’t get enough time to actually enjoy the camping trip.

On the other hand, if you will be backpacking or paddling out to your campsite it may make more sense to go for a single night. That way, if you are uncomfortable or need something, you’re relatively close to home. My first backpacking and paddling trips were all single nights. Keep the distance you travel short so you have time to enjoy being at the campsite.

Camping Equipment List: What Equipment is Needed for Camping?

Okay, so you’ve got your first camping trip planned. Now it’s time to gather all the essentials you’re going to need. Since there is a long list of things you need to camp, I will only list out the most important things you should carry along with you:

  • Camping Bag

Camping bag is one of the most important pieces of equipment during your camping trip. It needs to be durable, waterproof and lightweight. 

  • Sleeping Bag

A good sleeping bag will help you to have a warm and comfortable sleep since nights are usually much colder in nature. 

  • Flashlight

The flashlight is a must-have item on your camping trip and it is good to have one for each member of your camping party.

  • Wet Wipes

Probably there will be no shower or even running water in sight during your camping trip so it is good to have a couple of boxes of wet wipes for hygiene purposes.    

  • Tent

You are going to need a tent for shelter in the nature. You need to have a sturdy tent that can withhold in varied weather conditions. 

  • Camping Chair

The camping chair is the essential relaxation item for camping. Eating, sitting, or just enjoying the campfire on a camping chair is much more convenient and comfortable than sitting on the ground. 

  • Camp Stove

A camp stove is a reliable and faster way to cook food when the weather is too wet/ moist to make a campfire.

  • Trash Bags

Being a good camper requires a well-adjusted sense of nature conservation. It is good to bring a couple of trash bags with you leave the campsite  clean.

  • First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is something smart to have in your camping trip. You can include painkillers, antibiotic cream, bandages, gauze, and mosquito sprays in your first aid kit.  If you are planning to travel with your equipment, there might be additional costs. You can click here to check the extra services price table. 

Campgrounds in Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia is a haven for many folks who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of D.C. Camping here is a calm way to spend a weekend or longer, and the only thing that should bring stress to your life is choose between the several campgrounds. Here are the 8 best spots for camping Northern Virgina:

8 of the Best Spots for Camping Northern Virginia

Washington, D.C. is a densely populated location, but as you go west into Northern Virginia, the populace begins to thin off. As a result, there are several forested areas that provide unique camping experiences. Because there are so many alternatives, finding the finest camping locations in this area of the state might be difficult, but here are a few suggestions:

1. Pohick Bay Regional Park Campgrounds 

Camping in Pohick Bay Regional Park in Lorton, Virginia, on the banks of the Potomac River, is second to none. Boat rentals, a disc golf course, a swimming pool, and hiking trails are just a few of the amenities available at the campsite, which is also near to a golf course. Tents and RVs are welcome, and there are a few cottages available for rent.

2. Burke Lake Park

Burke Lake Park in Fairfax Station is a good option for anyone wishing to camp on a lake for the weekend. Burke Lake offers excellent fishing, boating, and hiking for the entire family, therefore the campground is quite popular. A golf course, picnic spots, disc golf, an ice cream store, boat rentals, and a train are among the other on-site amenities, but bear in mind that they are all in the day-use area, with the campsite on the opposite side of the lake.

3. Bull Run Regional Park 

Bull Run Regional Park in Centerville, Virginia, is a big, 1,500-acre complex with plenty of on-site activities that has a lot to offer. Atlantis Waterpark is located in the park, which also boasts a nearly 20-mile hiking track, a disc golf course, and several sports fields. The campgrounds are peaceful and pleasant, and the venue’s proximity to a Civil War battleground provides some historical context to your visit.

4. Wilderness presidential resort

If you’re looking for the best place to go camping in Virginia, you can’t go wrong with Wilderness Presidential Resort.

Located in the heart of Spotsylvania County near Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Wilderness, and just an hour’s drive from Washington DC, Wilderness Presidential Resort is a good pick if you want a large range of activities to choose from while camping.

Whether you’re looking for a tent site, RV site, or cabin rentals near Washington DC, Wilderness Presidential Resort has something for you on its 600 acres of beautiful woodland and lakes.

You’ll have a large selection of activities to choose from during your stay. Zipline through the adventure park, learn to shoot in an archery lesson, or try the escape room. Play mini golf, disc golf, Knockerball, tennis, or basketball. Swim in the indoor or outdoor pool, or lounge at the lakeside beach. And just a short drive from the resort, you can explore the area’s Civil War attractions or visit Old Town Fredericksburg.

Whether you come for adventure or relaxation, Wilderness Presidential Resort will give you a fun and authentic camping experience with your family. 

5. Mathews Arm Campground 

In Shenandoah National Park, there are plenty of areas to camp, but Mathews Arm Campground is one of the most popular. This facility is nestled within the park’s heavy forest cover and rolling hills, making it an ideal starting place for exploring Shenandoah. The campsite is basic, with few facilities, but it provides a tranquil respite from the hustle and bustle of Metro D.C.

6. Lake Fairfax Park Campground 

Lake Fairfax is more of a pond than a lake, yet it is a popular place because of its central location in Reston, not far from Dulles International Airport. During your visit, you may enjoy a variety of fields, a skate park, a pump track, boat rentals, and waterslides. The campsites are located in a forested region with hiking paths, giving the impression of being in the woods while being in the centre of a city.

7. Oak Ridge Campground 

Although there are a few campgrounds in and around Prince William Forest Park, Oak Ridge Park provides one of the greatest camping experiences in the state. This property is located outside of Montclair, Virginia, in a densely forested region near to beaches, restaurants, and a waterpark. The campsite itself features tent and RV sites, pathways, and a tranquil ambience that will make you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.

8. Historic Cold Sulphur Springs Campground 

The Historic Cold Sulphur Springs Campground in Goshen, Virginia, is a rustic place with tent and RV sites and some of the greatest pond fishing in the vicinity. The campground is serene and surrounded by lush woodlands, yet it’s close enough to Goshen that conveniences and additional supplies are never far away. You may also go hiking nearby, since the Goshen Pass Trailhead is only a short drive away..,”

Places to camp in Virginia

Camping links you to nature in a manner that is difficult to define, with a sky full of dazzling stars overhead and the relaxing sounds of crickets singing. 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 an unforgettable bond with the Virginia outdoors.

These campsites provide a scenic stay in some of Virginia’s most intriguing regions, whether you’re planning a vacation to camp near Virginia vineyards, want a short break from the city, or want a weekend retreat with your four-legged friend. So here’s a list of 5 beautiful places to camp in Virginia:

1. False Cape State Park

False Cape State Park on Virginia’s Atlantic coast is one of the most picturesque spots in Virginia, if not the whole Eastern shore, for people with a more adventurous spirit who want to go tent camping in Virginia.

The 4,321-acre park is located immediately north of Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge on the Currituck Banks Peninsula, a short barrier spit between the Back Bay of Currituck Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.

This delectable little six-mile stretch of coastline is wonderfully protected, wild, nearly wholly undeveloped, and one of the few campgrounds in the state with no automobile access, all of which combines for a coastal camping experience that is among the greatest in the US overall.

The park’s campsites are basic, with no showers, power, or facilities, but if you’re willing to rough it for a few days, this locale has a lot to offer, including kayaking expeditions, bike trails, and six miles of undeveloped coastline for swimming and sunbathing. Oh, and there’s a lot of serenity.

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.

2. New River Trail State Park

In the late spring through early October, New River Trail State Park is a popular destination for hikers, cyclists, fisherman, swimmers, canoeists, and horseback riders.

Cliffview, Millrace, and Double Shoals are the park’s three rustic campsites. Because none of the campgrounds offer automobile access, showers, or washing facilities, this is another option for people who are willing to forego a few creature amenities in exchange for a bit more privacy and tranquilly.

3. Grayson Highlands State Park

Grayson Highlands State Park Campground has modest campsites with lovely views, but that’s not all. The park serves as a starting point for the Appalachian Trail as well as the state’s highest summit, Mount Rogers. The pathways are suitable for hiking, biking, and even horseback riding. Don’t be shocked if you stumble across some intriguing species while exploring the area; wild ponies wander freely throughout the park. From November to March, there is no electricity at the sites and no water, as well as no restrooms or showers, so be prepared to rough it while camping.

4. Shenandoah National Park—Backcountry Camping On The Appalachian Trail

There’s no better area to go camping in Virginia than along the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park for those who want to experience the wildest camping the state has to offer. The park’s 200,000 acres provide nearly endless chances for really wild backcountry camping.

While backcountry camping in Shenandoah requires experience, survival skills, and the ability to carry all of your own gear and supplies, the rewards are enormous—think silence, raw, unadulterated nature, and a last-human-on-earth vibe with a dash of Hunger Games and Blair Witch Project eeriness thrown in for good measure.

5. Lewis Mountain Campground

Lewis Mountain Campground is the smallest campground in Shenandoah National Park, located just off the Blue Mountains’ Skyline Drive at mile 57.5. It is a delightfully serene choice for travelers seeking to avoid the throngs that sometimes form elsewhere in the park.

The campground has just 31 campsites and works on a first-come, first-served basis, but those that arrive early and reserve a place are rewarded with a wonderfully lovely setting that feels considerably more secluded and primitive than other camping spots in the vicinity.

The campsite is close to some of Virginia’s top hiking routes and natural wonders, including as Bearfence Mountain, Dark Hollow Falls, and the 8.9-mile (and very challenging!) Old Rag Loop. Visitors who like a bit more verticality may use the campsite as a “basecamp” to explore the area’s multitude of rock climbing crags, and those with more time and energy to burn can easily extend the treks in the camp’s vicinity with hundreds of loop walks on the park’s 500+ miles of trails.

Lewis Mountain has a small number of RV sites (all without connections), and tent campers make up the great bulk of the campground’s visitors, so this place is likely to offer a little more peace and quiet than campsites with more amenities and easier access.

Campgrounds with cabins in Virginia

While camping is not exactly an every-day occurrence, tents can and do get blown over or drenched in extreme weather. Wind and rain both have the potential to ruin the tent camping experience. A cabin, on the other hand, has a foundation, solid walls, a roof, and isn’t going anywhere. The truth is that you can go camping without necessarily sacrificing your comfort.

Cabin camping is the best way to experience the great outdoors, and you’ll be amazed how fast your kids will put down their phones to spend time with their family. Cabin camping in Virginia is one of the most unique vacation experiences available, and the state’s many campsites will have your family coming back for more. Here’s a list of our pick on the best campgrounds with cabins in Virginia:

1. Bull Run Regional Parks

Bull Run is located in Centreville and has campgrounds, cottages, and acres of activities, including hiking trails, disc golf, and picnic areas. It includes Atlantic Waterpark, which has a large pool and a play island featuring a dump bucket area with covered slides, open slides, water cannons, and sprayers. For younger children, there’s also a baby pool and a sand play area.

2. Pohick Bay Regional Parks

Pohick Bay is located in Lorton and features not only a waterpark but a bay with canoe, paddleboard, and kayak rentals. The park’s Pirate’s Cove Waterpark has a pirate-themed play structure featuring a 300-gallon dump bucket, waterslides, and a large baby pool with a clam shell slide.

3. Prince William Park

If you’re looking for a campground with cabins close to Washington DC, check out Prince Wiliam Forest. 

Tent, RV, and trailer camping is available, but the historic cabin rentals are perhaps the most interesting. Four of the five cabin camps are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built during the great depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps as summer camps, they were also used by the Office of Strategic Services as a spy training area in World War II.

While you’re there, hike through the park’s 37 miles of trails with creeks, wildlife viewing, and historic sites. Bike on paved and gravel trails, fish in 18 miles of streams and man-made lakes, and bird watch for rare species of birds.

4. Wilderness Presidential Resort

If you’re looking for the best place to go cabin camping in Virginia, you can’t go wrong with Wilderness Presidential Resort.

Located in the heart of Spotsylvania near Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Wilderness, and just an hour’s drive from Washington DC, Wilderness Presidential Resort has tent and RV sites, as well as cabin rentals to meet your glamping needs.

Book a Lakeside Camp Cabin for lakeside camping with all of the comforts of home, including air-conditioning, television, kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms. Two bedroom cabins are also available with a hot tub to take your glamping to the next level. 

Cabin rentals near Washington DC

You might think that you have to drive many hours away from DC to escape the suburban sprawl, but there are several exciting, nature-filled campgrounds with cabins around Washington DC.

If you are looking for cabin getaways near DC, check out these campgrounds that offer many onsite amenities for your next getaway. 

All of the cabin rentals near DC included on this list are between a half hour and two hours away.

1. Wilderness Presidential Resort

The Wilderness Presidential Facility is a 600-acre camping resort located in Spotsylvania, Virginia. Whether you’re searching for a modest tent site or charming, amenity-filled log cabins near Washington DC, Wilderness has you covered. They provide luxury camping accommodations in their Lakeside Camp Cabins and Presidential Log Cabins, as well as economical camping cabins, RVs, and tent sites that are open all year.

They have two sets of lakeside cottages, Cool Springs Lakeside Camp Cabins and Hazel Grove Lakeside Log Cabins, which are some of the greatest lake cabins near Washington DC. The cottages on Cool Springs Lake can accommodate a total of six people. A fully furnished eat-in kitchen, colour TV with cable, high-speed internet access, central heat and air conditioning, a veranda, and an outside picnic table with seats and an outdoor grill are just a few of the amenities available.

The Hazel Grove Lakeside Log Cabins are best for those looking for lake cabins near Washington DC, as they are ideal for fishing and other water activities. Hazel Grove’s cabins are offered as one or two story cabins with a southern-style porch complete with rocking chairs. 

Distance from Washington, DC: 1 hour, 15 minutes (60 miles)

2. Westmoreland State Park

Westmoreland State Park, at Colonial Beach, Virginia, spans along the Potomac River’s banks. Hiking paths, camping, fishing, boating, swimming, and breathtaking cliffside vistas of the Potomac River are all available in the park.

With vacation cabins dating back to the 1930s, Westmoreland provides scenic cabin vacations near DC. Many are placed on the cliffs of Horsehead, providing guests with a breathtaking perspective. From the clifftops, you may see eagles and other birds.

The beaches are the major draw in Westmoreland State Park. Take the short, sandy 0.7 mile route down to Fossil Beach if you want to avoid the crowds at the park’s main beach. Not only is Fossil Beach a terrific place to swim and fish, but you could even come across a petrified shark tooth. Because of the short walk necessary to get there, Fossil Beach has less visitors than the main beach at Westmoreland State Park, so even if you don’t want to look for shark teeth, it’s worth the trip for the tranquilly.

Distance from Washington, DC: 2 hours (74 miles)

3. Cunningham Falls State Park

Cunningham Falls is one of the greatest spots to go if you’re seeking for mountain cabins near Washington DC. Their cabins are located in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. The state park’s name implies that it is home to the state’s highest cascading waterfall, which stands at 78 feet.

Cabins for four and six people may be rented in the William Houck sector of the park. Picnic tables, fire rings, and lantern posts are among the amenities. The cabins do not have air conditioning, but they do have power, allowing campers to bring their own electric heater or fan. All cooking must be done outside the cabin, and campers must bring their own bedding.

There are many hiking trails throughout the park from short, flat hikes for beginners to challenging rocky ascents. The park’s waterfall can be reached either by a hiking trail or a short walking path. Lake activities can be enjoyed at the nearly 50-acre William Houck Lake. Swim, boat, picnic, or watch for native Maryland wildlife around the lake. Visit Cunningham Falls Aviary to see native area birds.

Distance from Washington, DC: 1 hour, 20 minutes (63 miles)

4. Harpers Ferry Adventure Center

Cabin rentals near DC and campsite spots along the Potomac River are available at Harpers Ferry Adventure Center. The cottages are on a private, gated mountainside that is only accessible by cabin guests.

Electricity, air conditioning, a picnic table, and a grill/fire ring are all included in each cabin. While the cottages do not have running water, a facility with hot showers is just a short walk away. Air mattresses, sleeping bags, and linens must be brought by guests.

Harpers Ferry has a zipline, ropes course, segway rides, and a playground, as well as tubing, kayaking, and rafting on the Potomac River, which runs through the camp.

Cabin guests may take advantage of many picturesque observation spots, private river access, and activity savings. Choose from a variety of half-day and full-day activities, and save money with bespoke or pre-packaged play and stay packages.

Distance from Washington, DC: 1 hour, 15 minutes (65 miles)

5. The Treehouse Camp

There’s just one place to go if you’re searching for treehouse rentals near Washington, DC. The Treehouse Camp, located in Rohrersville, Maryland, is a unique campground that rents out tree cottages, treehouses, and campsites.

The new Firefly Deluxe Treehouse, which has a big bottom deck, is one of their treehouses.

Treehouses and tree cottages are available, as well as a covered porch, loft, four skylights, and outside solar lighting.

The treehouses are modest, with merely screened-in walls on eight of them. They are available in sizes ranging from four to twelve people and are highly popular with kids. There is no power or running water in the treehouses, but there is an outside grill and fire circle. Bedding, kitchenware, and a flashlight must be brought with you.

Tree cottages are similar to treehouses, except they are insulated for year-round usage, include internal tables and chairs, and wood burners for heating and cooking.

You may rent the Hobbit House, a cottage carved into the earth, if you wish to sleep closer to the ground. With a roof full of wildflowers, a thatch-covered porch with fairy lights, and an enchanting woodland painting inside, it evokes the atmosphere of a storybook.

A bathroom, private outdoor hot showers, indoor heated showers, a multi-use pavilion, and a camp shop are among the campsite’s attractions.

There are numerous enjoyable outdoor activities nearby, including river rafting on the Potomac and the lively town of Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

Distance from Washington, DC: 1.5 hours (68 miles)