Best Campsites in Virginia

by Amy Myers
Photo credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images

Camping in Virginia is just about as common as watching a whitetail jump across a winding back road. So, it’s no surprise that the state’s campsites are almost always just a stone’s throw (or deer’s leap) away. From scenic, trail-facing spots to sandy, beach-front locations, there’s no limit to how, where or when to explore the state’s wildest parts.

Obviously, one of the most popular back country spots in the Old Dominion state is the ever-beautiful and always-exciting Shenandoah National Park. And while there are plenty of places to lay your head underneath the stars and canopy of chestnut and oak branches, there are plenty of hidden gems of campsites scattered throughout the state parks and forests that boast a variety of options and activities. These campsites not only allow for a wider range of accommodations and creature comforts, but they also offer instant access to your favorite outdoor adventures, including (but not even close to limited to) fishing, hiking, biking, hunting, shooting and paddling.

So, without further ado, here are Outsider’s picks of the campsite litter for Virginia.

Smith Mountain Lake State Park

For the waterfront adventurers… an Outsider personal favorite!

  • Location: 1235 State Park Rd., Huddleston, VA 24104
  • Campground Contact: 540-297-6066
  • Park Hours: 8:15 a.m. – dusk, March through the first Monday in December
  • Campground Website

Not only is Smith Mountain Lake State Park a prime choice for Old Dominion natives, but it’s also an Outsider favorite. The 40-mile-long lake hosts a variety of waterfront adventures, including bass fishing, paddling, boating, swimming and more. As the second largest lake in all of Virginia, it’s an easy choice of campsites for adventurers of all kinds, from waders to full-on triathletes. To support all of the lake-front festivities, the park has a fishing pier, boat rentals, a boat ramp and a universally accessible fishing pier.

For those looking for more versatility in their stay at Smith Mountain Lake, there are also special programs, a visitor center, amphitheater and 14 different hiking trails to enjoy.

Campground breakdown:

  • 20 cabins: $118-171 per night
  • 1 bunkhouse lodge: $92-109 per night
  • 26 tent-only campsites: $25-30 per night
  • 50 electric sites: $35-40 per night

Smith Mountain Lake amenities: in-ground grills, fire rings, firewood, full-service bathhouse with hot showers and dishwashing sink, picnic tables, lantern posts, water fountains, playgrounds and sanitation dump station

Reserve a Smith Mountain Lake campsite here.

New River Trail State Park

For the bike-packers.

  • Location: 116 Orphanage Dr., Max Meadows, VA
  • Campground Contact: 276-699-6778
  • Park Hours: dawn to dusk, daily
  • Campground Website

New River Trail State Park is a particularly special spot in Virginia because it is based around a 57-mile-long multi-use trail. The trail follows along the New River for roughly 39 miles and winds through thick forests, scenic bridges and enchanting tunnels. Generally, the New River Trail is pretty flat. This means hikers, bikers and equestrians of all experience levels can enjoy the views of Virginia’s greenest and wildest regions. You can even pick up extra adventures at Foster Falls, where you can rent a boat, browse the gift shop or sign up for a horseback riding trip. For cycling experts, there is also the Hoover Mountain Biking Area.

Campground breakdown:

  • 12 primitive tent-only campsites (Cliffview): $20-25 per night
  • 21 hike-to/bike-to tent sites (Millrace): $20-25 per night
  • 2 hike-to/paddle-to tent sites (Double Shoals): $15-18 per night

New River Trail in 3-4 days: In order to get the most out of your bike-packing journey, you’ll want to start at Pulaski. From here, you’ll bike roughly 24 miles to the first campground, Millrace close to Foster Falls. By day two, you’ll pass the historic Shot Tower as well as several dams, creeks and bridges before reaching Double Shoals Campground, the most remote campsites along the New River Trail, at Mile 40. Before setting up camp for the night, you’ll need to bring your own water as the campground does not have any potable sources. Finally, by day three, you’ll enjoy Chestnut Creek Falls and either camp out at Cliffview or finish out the ride completely at Galax.

New River Trail amenities: fire rings, lantern posts, picnic tables, non-flush toilets, seasonal potable water

Reserve a New River Trail campsite here.

Grayson Highlands State Park

For the summit chasers.

  • Location: 829 Grayson Highland Ln., Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363
  • Campground Contact: 276-579-7092
  • Park Hours: 8 a.m. – 10 p.m., daily
  • Campground Website

Located near Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s two tallest mountains, Grayson Highlands State Park has the best choice of campsites for Outsiders looking for sky-high views. Both of these summits reach over 5,500 feet tall and overlook lush, green hills, or if you camp out during the fall, bursts of gold, auburn and vermilion across the landscape. The campsites here are also in close proximity to the Appalachian Trail, meaning the only limit to your weekend’s adventures is your own imagination.

There is a fair amount of variety available at Grayson Highland’s campsites. Whether you’re bringing a trailer, a horse or just a tent, the park’s campground can accommodate visitors of all kinds.

Campground breakdown:

  • 28 standard non-electric campsites: $25-30 per night
  • 36 electric/water sites: $35-40 per night
  • 23 equestrian sites: $35-40 per night
  • 1 group campground: $72-80 per night
  • 1 bunkhouse lodge: $92-109 per night
  • 4 yurts: $75-88 per night

Grayson Highlands amenities: picnic tables, grills, fire rings, firewood, ice, trash and recycling containers, bathhouse with showers, playground and sanitation dump station

Reserve a Grayson Highlands campsite here.

Grayson Highlands State Park. (Photo by Norm Shafer/For the Washington Post)

First Landing State Park

For instant beach access.

  • Location: 2500 Shore Dr., Virginia Beach, VA 23451
  • Campground Contact: 757-412-2300
  • Park Hours: 7 a.m. to dusk, daily
  • Campground Website

There’s a reason First Landing is Virginia’s most-visited state park – not only does it serve as a gateway to the ever-popular Virginia Beach, but it also has access to 20 miles of hiking, biking and self-guided trails and a variety of ecosystems. You can spend the day lounging on 1.5 miles of Chesapeake-facing beach or explore the area’s bald cypress swamps, lagoons and maritime forest.

Really, First Landing gives you the control to incorporate as much relaxation or adventure as you want. All you have to do is reserve a campsite.

Campground breakdown:

  • 108 electric/water campsites: $40-46 per night
  • 75 standard, non-electric sites: $30-35 per night
  • 1 group campground: $30-35 per site, per night
  • 20 cabins: $137-175 per night
  • 4 yurts: $75-88 per night

First Landing amenities: firewood, boat launch, picnic tables, fire grills, bathhouse with hot showers, camp store, laundry facilities, trash and recycling containers, sanitation dump station, potable water, boardwalks to beach and playground

Reserve a First Landing campsite here.

Bear Creek Lake State Park

For the hunters, archers and anglers.

  • Location: 22 Bear Creek Lake Rd., Cumberland, VA 23040
  • Campground Contact: 804-492-4410
  • Park Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., daily;  8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays
  • Campground Website

Whether you enjoy hunting, fishing or shooting, Bear Creek Lake has campsites to accommodate your favorite outdoor activities. The 40-acre Bear Creek Lake has plenty of largemouth bass, crappie, bream and channel catfish to catch, while the 15.7-mile Cumberland Multi-use Trail takes adventurers of all kinds through the thick, cool woodlands of Virginia. In addition, the park has access to the 16-mile-long Willis River Trail in Cumberland State Forest, which allows hunters, so long as they get the proper licenses and permits.

The park also has a 10-lane archery range with excelsior bales and 3D targets from the first weekend in March through the first weekend in December. All you need to do is bring your own bow and arrows or bolts. For beginners or those that need to work on their shot, Bear Creek Lake State Park even has several programs throughout the year for archers of all ages.

Campground breakdown:

  • 37 electric/water campsites: $35-40 per night
  • 11 waterfront tent-only sites: $25-35 per night
  • 1 backcountry group site: $125-148 per night
  • 12 cabins: $115-159 per night
  • 13 lodges: $359-459 per night
  • 1 bunkhouse lodge: $92-109 per night

Bear Creek amenities: firewood, ice, tent pads, restrooms with showers, sanitation dump station, boat launch, playground, picnic areas and tables.

Reserve a Bear Creek campsite here.