The “Mother of States”, Virginia, has ample camping throughout its varied topography. You can camp near beaches, charming cities, and endless rolling forest-covered hills and mountains. There’s a campground for every season here, with the high elevations offering the necessary summer retreat and its oceanside providing the warmer weather for the off-seasons.
Where To Go Camping in Virginia
Virginia is for lovers, especially those who love camping. Despite its chilly winter and warm, wet summers, you can find fun places to camp in a tent or RV year-round if you know where to look and are willing to dress appropriately.
While many of Virginia’s National Park Service (NPS) sites focus on the history of the state, there are ample camping opportunities here. “Old Dominion” has plenty of hiking and camping, holding almost a quarter of the entire Appalachian Trail (AT).
Best Times to Go Camping in Virginia
Virginia summers are known to be hot and humid, so travelers are better off sticking to spring and fall if possible. However, since that isn’t always an option, summer travelers should stick to the coastline and enjoy the oceanfront during the summer, or head up into the Appalachian Mountains, to stay cool.
Aside from the coast, the option during the summertime is to stay in the west. Pretty much any section of Virginia that borders another state (except the section near Maryland) are relatively comfortable during the summer, and high temperatures tend to be in the 80s F. Any of these sections will also put you near some of Virginia’s best hiking options.
Like many states on the East Coast, Virginia experiences beautiful falls with a gorgeous array of colors. The temperatures drop and the air is crisp, making for excellent hiking weather.
Those looking to head to Shenandoah National Park should expect crowds. October is routinely the busiest month in Old Dominion’s only national park, so plan ahead. That being said, the state’s relatively moderate fall temperatures and its beautiful colors make the crowds worth braving.
Early fall and late spring are best for those who want to take advantage of Virginia’s moderate temperatures. From the middle of fall to the middle of spring, temperatures tend to be below-freezing overnight.
Those not wanting to head to the crowded national park, or who are short on time, can drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. The whole drive is a bit under 500 miles, but there are plenty of scenic sections for those who don’t want to do the whole thing.
Because it can get quite cold in Old Dominion, plan accordingly. While coastal spots don’t get too far below freezing, even in January, most of Virginia isn’t that way. Gear up if you’re heading anywhere during Virginia winters.
Of course, coastal spots like Virginia Beach and Newport News (two of VA’s largest cities) have overnight lows around 32 degrees in the winter, with spring and fall getting down into the 40s and 50s.
National Park Service Sites in Virginia
There are 33 NPS sites in Virginia, more than most states. Of those, four offer camping. Many of the sites here are historical parks, national monuments, and historic trails.
While these are all interesting and worth the visit, especially for history enthusiasts, camping options are more limited. That being said, with Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway located in the state, travelers will never be short on scenic views.
- Assateague Island National Seashore
- Blue Ridge Parkway
- Prince William Forest Park
- Shenandoah National Park
National Forests in Virginia
There are two national forests in Virginia, though they’re administratively managed as one entity. In fact, when combined, these two national forests make one of the largest public land masses in the Eastern US. Like many states in the eastern section of the country, most of the public land in Virginia is run by the national park service, so expect most of the good free camping spots to be in these forests as well.
- George Washington National Forest
- Jefferson National Forest
Best Free Camping in Virginia
A bit under 10% of Virginia is managed federally, with the United States Forest Service (USFS) managing the lion’s share of it. The USFS manages just over 70% of Virginia’s federal land and the National Park Service is in charge of about 13%.
There are small portions of United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) land in the state. FWS has one area, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, open for camping in Virginia.
Some of the best spots for free camping in Virginia include the Oronoco Campground in the George Washington National Forest, the Steel Bridge Campground in Paint Bank, and Walnut Flats Campground near Flat Top Mountain.
Virginia State and Public Parks
Like many of its neighbors on the Atlantic Coast, Virginia has a fairly robust state parks system. Old Dominion has 41 parks and 19 of them offer camping. Of those 19, these 10 are some of the best to include in your itinerary.
- Kiptopeke State Park
- Smith Mountain Lake State Park
- Grayson Highlands State Park
- First Landing State Park
- Pocahontas State Park
- Westmoreland State Park
- Fairy Stone State Park
- High Bridge Trail State Park
- Wilderness Road State Park
- James River State Park
RV Resorts and Unique Stays
There are abundant comfortable camping and exciting RV resorts for those not looking to spend the night in Virginia’s frontcountry campsites. While there are plenty of boutique hotels and comfortable stays in the state, these six options are some of the best for unique experiences, glamping and RV stays.
- Sandy River Outdoor Adventure
- Camp Karma Campground
- Kairos Resort
- North Landing Beach RV Resort & Cottages
- Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort: Luray
- Endless Caverns RV Resort & Cavern Tours
Old Dominion is an outdoor playground often defined by the stretch of the Appalachian Trail that runs through it. However, those who venture outside of the AT will find the state has plenty of camping and nature viewing throughout its entirety.