15 Great Northern Virginia Campgrounds for Camping Near DC

Updated on March 22, 2024 by Julie McCool

Discover the best Northern Virginia campgrounds for tent, RV, primitive, and cabin camping near Washington DC, from the Potomac River to Shenandoah National Park. Our list includes fantastic places to go camping in Virginia near lakes, rivers, mountains, water parks, wineries, historic sites, and more.

Northern Virginia campgrounds offer a wonderful range of experiences. Camping with kids? Several of the best campgrounds close to DC feature waterparks, mini-golf, and other kid-friendly activities.

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Prefer a quiet escape in nature? Virginia campgrounds in the Blue Ridge Mountains and at Shenandoah National Park immerse visitors in natural beauty. Our list includes both drive-in and hike-in campsites.

Tent and RV campgrounds in Northern Virginia make a great base for visiting Washington DC. They're also fun for an overnight or longer staycation close to home. Our Northern Virginia camping guide includes public and private campgrounds, tent sites, RV parks, hike-in primitive camping sites, and camping cabins.

Northern Virginia Campgrounds and RV Parks Near DC

Whether you're looking for a place to pitch your tent for the night or an RV site with electric hookups, you'll find good options at Northern Virginia campgrounds. Most NoVA campgrounds have clean bathhouses with hot showers and camping sites with picnic tables and fire rings.

Some of the best camping in Northern Virginia is at county and regional parks. One Virginia State Park near DC offers hike-in primitive tent sites. And some of the most popular and beautiful Virginia campgrounds are in nearby Shenandoah National Park.

Listings below include information about each campground including the number of sites, registration requirements, pet policies, amenities for campers, and things to do nearby. You'll also find tips specific to each campground and links for more information.

Lake Fairfax Park

Lake Fairfax Park is one of the best places to camp in Northern Virginia, especially if you plan to visit Washington DC. The campground is in a great location, just 22 miles west of DC and a short drive from the Weihle-Reston East metro station. Campers can even hike or bike to the metro using park trails.

A wooded site at Lake Fairfax Park, one of the best Northern Virginia campgrounds for camping near DC.
Lake Fairfax Campground Wooded Site

The Lake Fairfax Campground was my family's choice for a first camping trip when our kids were young. I knew that opting for camping near me would give us a quick escape home if needed. The campground has a nice mix of wooded and open sites for tent and RV camping, plus convenient and clean restrooms.

  • 72 sites, most with electricty, plus group sites
  • RV camping open year-round; tent camping March 1 – November 30; online reservations strongly recommended
  • Leashed pets are welcome but can not be left unattended.
  • Lake Fairfax Park offers hiking and biking trails, a popular waterpark, a small lake for fishing, seasonal pedal boats, a large picnic area, and a carousel. Other recreation options include athletic fields and a skate park.
  • There are excellent restaurants, breweries, and fun things to do nearby in Reston and Vienna. The park is also a good base to see cherry blossoms in Virginia, DC, and Maryland.

Tips: Sites on the western side (39 – 55) and back are the most wooded. Sites in the center are in an open field and popular with RVs. There is a skate park across from the campground entrance so noise could be a factor at some sites.

Burke Lake Park

Fairfax County Parks also manages a Northern Virginia campground at Burke Lake Park. This is one of the only lakeside campgrounds in Northern Virginia, with excellent fishing, boating, and kid-friendly amenities.

Fall Foliage at Burke Lake Park in Virginia
Burke Lake Park

The Burke Lake Campground is geared to tent camping as there are no electric or water hookups. However, small RVs (under 25 feet) are allowed and there are 4 back-in RV sites.

Tips: The 4.5-mile trail around Burke Lake is great for hiking, biking, and bird watching.

Bull Run Regional Park

Located about 27 miles west of Washington DC, Bull Run Regional Park is one of the best campgrounds for history-lovers. The park is close to DC, Civil War sites like Manassas National Battlefield, a fantastic Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and other interesting places to visit. Bull Run is also a good spot for camping near wineries and breweries.

Bluebells bloom on a River Trail Hike at Bull Run Park Virginia
Bluebell Trail Hike at Bull Run Park

Bull Run Campground has a mix of full service, electric only, and no service sites plus camping cabins. Most sites are shady with easy access to park trails. The park also offers 9 rustic cabins with heat/AC, beds, kitchenette, porch with swing, and other comforts.

The campground is set far from the highway so there is no road noise. However, there is frequent daytime noise from the park's shooting range and from planes landing and taking off at Dulles Airport.

Tips: Visit in early April to hike the Virginia Bluebell Trail in bloom. Or take a longer hike on the scenic Northern Bull Run Occoquan Trail year-round.

Pohick Bay Regional Park

A second family camping site managed by Nova Parks, Pohick Bay Campground offers 150 sites near the Potomac River. The park is 24 miles south of Washington DC, so it's a good base for exploring the city.

Pohick Bay is a great place to go camping with kids with lots of amenities to enjoy, including the Pirate's Cove Waterpark. We booked three adjacent sites here for a fun camping weekend with neighbors.

Pohick Bay Regional Park is situated on the Mason Neck Peninsula, a haven for bald eagles and other birds and wildlife. The park offers excellent paddling and fishing in Gunston Cove and the Potomac River.

Boat rentals including jon boats, kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, and stand-up paddleboards are available seasonally. There is also a public boat launch and shore access where you can launch your own kayak or canoe.

  • 150 sites separated in two areas: 50 non-electric tent sites, 100 full hookup sites
  • 6 rustic cabins, 2 deluxe cabins with decks, kitchens, bedrooms, and other comforts.
  • Open year round; online reservations strongly recommended
  • Leashed pets are welcome at tent and RV sites. No pets in cabins.
  • Pohick Bay has hiking trails, Pirate's Cove Waterpark, boat launch and rentals, fishing, playground, disc golf, and a camp store with laundry facilities.
  • Visit nearby Mason Neck State Park for hiking, paddling, and bird-watching. Campers can hike to Gunston Hall, home of founding father George Mason. George Washington's Mount Vernon is nearby, and the quaint town of Occoquan is a fun spot for dining and shopping. Prince William Forest Park is another nearby hiking spot (see campground info below).

Tip: Hiking trails at Pohick Bay are poorly marked and can be difficult to follow. They also get very muddy if there has been any rain. We prefer the trails down the road at Mason Neck State Park, but there is an additional entrance fee.

Find more Northern Virginia Hidden Gems Rich in Nature and History.

Sky Meadows State Park

If your goal is a more remote nature escape, Sky Meadows State Park offers some of the best tent camping in Northern Virginia. You'll need to pack your gear and hit the trail though because campers must hike 1 mile from the parking area to the park's primitive campsites.

Thistle and View from the Piedmont Overlook in Sky Meadows State Park VA
Piedmont Overlook View Sky Meadows Park

Once you arrive, you'll find large, private campsites spread out in the woods at Sky Meadows. Enjoy the stars by night in this designated Dark Sky Park, and hiking trails, including a portion of the Appalachian Trail, by day. It's the perfect place to try primitive camping in Virginia without a long drive from the city.

  • 15 primitive hike-in sites plus 1 buddy site (two family with shared table) and 2 group sites
  • Primitive camping area includes pit toilets, bear-proof food lockers, picnic tables, fire pit, and some sites have hammock posts.
  • Open year round; online reservations required for most sites
  • Leashed pets are welcome.
  • Sky Meadows State Park has great hiking trails including a portion of the AT, historic buildings, a small fishing pond, and camp store.
  • If camping near wineries is on your wish list, you'll find plenty of great vineyards and tasting rooms nearby. Take a scenic drive to quaint towns like Paris and Marshall. Nearby farms offer seasonal strawberry-picking, apple-picking, and fall festivals.

Tip: Sky Meadows hosts special events throughout the year including a strawberry festival in June and a fall pumpkin patch.

Prince William Forest Park

Located 35 miles south of Washington DC, Prince William Forest Park is one of the largest Northern Virginia campgrounds. The National Park site offers a 100-site Oak Ridge Campground for tents and RVs (no hookups), a separate RV campground with full hookups, group camping, and several cabins for individuals and groups.

Historic cabins Prince William Forest
CCC cabins Prince William Forest

In addition, there are 8 primitive hike-in tent sites in the Chopawamsic Backcountry Area. These small sites are free but you must register for a permit at the park Visitor Center.

The park is an interesting place to go camping for history buffs. Prince William Forest was once a spy-training site for the OSS, later to become the CIA. It also served as a summer camp for low-income children from DC. In fact, the CCC built most of the camp facilities and cabins for that purpose during the Great Depression.

Nature-lovers will also find a lot to enjoy at Prince William Forest. Managed by the National Park Service, the park has a nice network of well-maintained trails for hiking and biking.

  • 100 tent and RV sites in Oak Ridge Campground, no hookups
  • Separate concessionaire-run RV campground with full hookups
  • 13 rustic cabins in Cabin Camp 3. Other cabins are for group rental
  • 8 primitive hike-in sites (no fires, no pets allowed)
  • Open March 1 – November 30; online reservations required
  • Leashed pets are welcome.
  • Prince William Forest has hiking trails, paved and dirt biking trails, fishing, and a Visitor Center.
  • Nearby attractions include the National Museum of the Marine Corps, the quaint town of Occoquan, historic Manasass, and Manassas National Battlefield.

Tip: Prince William Forest charges a $20 per vehicle entry fee or bring your National Park Pass for free entry. Find more nearby places to visit in our guide: Prince William County Virginia Sites for History and Hiking.

Algonkian Regional Park

There are no tent or RV campsites at Algonkian Regional Park, but they do rent several pretty cabins at the edge of the Potomac River. The riverfront cottages at Algonkian are two to four bedrooms and include furnished rooms, a large deck, grills, and other amenities.

Deluxe riverside cabin at Algonkian Regional Park in Northern Virginia
Algonkian Park cabin

Algonkian cottages make a good base for visiting Loudoun County wineries, golf courses, and historic towns like Leesburg and Waterford. The cabins are well-equipped, and the four-bedroom deluxe models even include hot tubs. Algonkian Park is about 30 miles northwest of DC, and Maryland is just across the river.

Find more unique stays: 17 Amazing Northern Virginia Airbnb and Vacation Rentals.

Shenandoah National Park

There are four popular Virginia campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park plus a group camping site. Shenandoah Park camping is open seasonally from early spring to late fall (generally late March through October).

  • more than 600 sites for tents and RVs (no hookups) in 4 campgrounds
  • open early spring to late fall. Online reservations strongly recommended on weekends and holidays but some walk-up sites are available.
  • Leashed pets are welcome in campgrounds and most trails.
  • Deer, raccoons, skunks, and black bears are common in Shenandoah Park. Be sure to store all food in a bear proof locker or your car.
  • Shenandoah National Park has fantastic hiking trails, overlooks, Visitor Centers, camp stores, restaurants and lodges, and historic sites.
Beautiful View from Little Stony Man Mountain in Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah offers a mix of reserved and first-come first-served sites that are especially popular on weekends and during fall foliage season. Campsites are $30 per night in addition to the park entrance fee ($30 per vehicle for 7 consecutive nights). The National Park Pass is also accepted and the park honors National Park free-entrance days.

Campgrounds at Shenandoah are dispersed throughout the park and all are close to scenic Skyline Drive, hiking trails, and acres of forests. Most sites accommodate tents or RVs but there are no hookups and some have generator restrictions.

Backcountry camping is allowed in Shenandoah National Park but a permit is required and campers must pay park entry fees. Visit Shenandoah's backcountry website for details on regulations and restrictions.

Matthews Arm Campground (mile 22.2), near the park's northern entrance, has 165 sites for tents or RVs. The location is convenient if you are entering from Front Royal, but you'll have to drive further south to reach the best overlooks, Visitor Center, and hiking trails. Reservable group sites will also be offered at Matthews Arm in 2024.

Big Meadows Campground (mile 51.2) has a great location in the heart of Shenandoah's Central District. The 221 sites (including 51 tent-only sites) all require reservations. Reservable group sites will also be offered at Big Meadows in 2024.

This campground is close to the Byrd Visitor Center and excellent ranger-led nature and history programs. Wonderful hikes like Stony Man Mountain are close by and three popular waterfalls—the Rose River Loop, Dark Hollow Falls, and Lewis Falls—are within walking distance.

Lewis Mountain Campground (mile 57.2) is also centrally located and the Appalachian Trail passes right next to it. There are only 30 sites at the park's smallest campground and they are all first-come first-served. In addition, there are 15 cabins for rent at Lewis Mountain.

Loft Mountain Campground (mile 79.5) is the largest camping area in Shenandoah Park with 207 sites (50 tent-only). Reservations are strongly recommended but there are also some first-come first-served sites available. Loft Mountain is in the southern section of the park which is generally less busy and still offers lots of great hiking. Reservable group sites will also be offered at Loft Mountain in 2024.

Dundo Group Campground (mile 83.4) Update: Group camping is no longer offered at Dundo as all water had to be turned off. Picnic tables are still available but there are no fires allowed.

Tip: Planning a last-minute camping trip to Shenandoah? Text SHENCAMP to 888777 to receive twice-daily weekend alerts about first-come, first-served campsite availability.

Shenandoah has some of the best nature trails in Virginia for spotting wildflowers and wildlife. Autumn is a beautiful time to see fall foliage in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Drive or hike to park overlooks for some of the best sunrise and sunset views in Virginia.

Find more Fantastic Virginia Day Trips Near Washington DC.

Rappahannock River Campground

If you love time on the water, Rappahannock River Campground is for you. This beautiful spot offers rustic camping at the edge of the Rappahannock River. They even rent canoes, kayaks, and tubes (with optional shuttle) so you can float and paddle the day away.

All 50+ Rappahannock River Campground sites are for tents only, with no electric hookups. Potable water, pit privies, and hot showers are near the sites, but there are no indoor facilities. When you're ready for extra comforts, head 30 minutes west to beautiful downtown Culpeper for great restaurants, breweries, shops, and more. Or drive 40 minutes east for dining, history, and fun in historic Fredericksburg.

Private Campgrounds Near Northern Virginia

Here is a sampling of private Northern Virginia campgrounds that offer tent and RV sites in the DC area.

Harpers Ferry Adventure Center, Purcellville

Harpers Ferry Adventure Center offers tent and RV camping plus rustic cabins at the edge of the Potomac River near Harper's Ferry. Active families can book tubing, zip-lining, and ropes course activities with the center.

Watermelon Park Campground, Berryville

Watermelon Park Campground is an RV park at the edge of the Shenandoah River in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountain. There are 90 RV sites with full hookups. There are great restaurants, hiking trails, breweries, wineries, and fun things to do in nearby Bluemont and Winchester.

FAQ for Camping in Northern Virginia

Here are some frequently asked questions and camping tips to make your Northern Virginia campground visit a success.

Can you swim in Northern Virginia lakes with campgrounds?

No, swimming is not allowed in Lake Fairfax and Burke Lake. Swimming is not recommended in Pohick Bay, the Potomac River, or Bull Run due to water quality concerns and strong currents.

Are there public swimming pools near Northern Virginia campgrounds?

Yes, there are public waterparks near the campgrounds at Lake Fairfax Park, Bull Run Regional Park, and Pohick Bay Regional Park. All three waterparks include water slides and swimming pool options for different ages. The Water Mine at Lake Fairfax also has a lazy river.

Are pets allowed in Northern Virginia campgrounds?

Yes, leashed pets are allowed at all of the Northern Virginia campgrounds on our list. Pets should not be left unattended. Pets are not allowed at Ranger programs and some trails in Shenandoah National Park.

Are there entrance fees at Northern Virginia parks with campgrounds?

Bull Run, Pohick Bay, and Burke Lake charge an entry fee for non-residents (generally on weekends and holidays) but residents are free. Lake Fairfax and Algonkian do not have an entrance fee. Sky Meadows, Prince William Forest, and Shenandoah National Park all have entry fees. Show your National Park Pass for free entry to Prince William Forest and Shenandoah.

Is there free camping/boondocking in Northern Virginia?

Hike-in primitive camping sites in Prince William Forest and Shenandoah National Park are free but campers must still pay park entrance fees. Backcountry permits and registration are required.

Need some gear for your camping expedition? Check out Good Wolf Gear at Sunset Park, one of the great local spots in Herndon VA. They are a local gear exchange with great deals on gently used and new camping equipment, clothes, and food. We picked up a basic 4-person tent for just $15!

Good Wolf Gear camping equipment exchange and sales inHerndon Virginia
Good Wolf Gear Herndon

Ready to check out van camping? Local Alexandria business Vander Outdoors has you covered. They have several van configurations available to rent and you can arrange pickup at Dulles Airport or the Reston Weihle Metro Station for an extra fee.

Camping is fun, whether you plan a quick overnight close to home or a longer stay in nature. Virginia campgrounds offer a nice range of experiences and amenities for residents and visitors to the DC area. No matter which campground you choose we wish you happy camping and a great time in the Northern Virginia area.

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Best Northern Virginia Campgrounds and Camping Near DC
Best Campgrounds Near DC