Home to the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia offers a wealth of outdoor opportunities. Camping in Virginia features dense forests and shaded, comfortable sites. With the Appalachian Trail running through the state, Virginia caters well to outdoor enthusiasts of all levels and interests.
What’s the Best Time of Year to Go Camping in Virginia?
Hiking and camping in Virginia are most comfortable in spring and fall. The further west you are, the more comfortable summers will be, but still expect heat and humidity. Summer weather isn’t the best time for camping in Virginia, especially on the coast.
If you can visit in spring, you’ll beat a good deal of the tourism rush, though fall is the best choice as you’ll catch the leaves change. If you’re visiting the most popular outdoor spots in the state during the peak of fall, do expect crowds taking pictures of the changing leaves.
What Are the Top Outdoor Activities in Virginia?
Hiking is a way of life in Virginia, especially as the Appalachian Trail runs through the state. While you can get out on the water if you head towards the coast, biking, hiking, and camping in Virginia are always the most popular activities.
What Are the National Parks in Virginia?
Easily the most recognized place for camping in Virginia, Shenandoah National Park is the top place to visit for outdoor adventurers in Old Dominion. For those flying into Washington, D.C., this pinnacle of camping in Virginia is only 75 miles from the District. Fall here is incredible, though there are no bad times to visit.
Assateague Island National Seashore is always changing and being remade by the wind and waves. Those wanting to get out onto the water will love the kayaking options here, and if you obtain an Over Sand Vehicles (OSV) permit, you can even drive on the beach.
This isn’t technically a spot for camping in Virginia. While you can camp at this national seashore, it’s split between Virginia and Maryland. The only camping available is on the Maryland side, though that shouldn’t be an issue for campers.
This historic park was the “first great gateway” to the west. Both beautiful and educational, this is a perfect stop for families. You can learn about American history at the Hensley Settlement and take in mountain views all in the same day at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park.
Technically, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are two separate entities, but they’re always put together and visited as one. Even if you only have time to visit one section of the national forest, there’s no wrong choice. Being a national forest, this is the best spot for free camping in Virginia, especially during the fall.
What Are Some of the Most Popular State Parks in Virginia?
This park revolves around the High Bridge Trail itself. This multi-use trail was originally a rail bed and now offers visitors incredible birds-eye views of the surrounding forest lands. While a great hike, mountain bikers will also love this 31-mile trail.
This 4,500-acre park features 40 miles of trail, with a limited number of them being multi-use. The majority of trails here are open for hikers only, though there are certain areas designated for mountain biking as well.
Douthat State Park offers a comfortable option for camping in Virginia, with several cabins and lodges for rent in addition to tent sites.
Just a short drive from Richmond is Pocahontas State Park. You’ll have nearly 100 miles of trails to hike here, as well as an informative set of history programs put on by the park. If you want to change things up a bit, head to the aquatic center. The center has various depths of pools suitable for all ages, as well as a pair of water slides. If you want to stay out in nature, consider a trip to the Swift Creek Lake for the best fishing and boating in the park.
First Landing State Park is a state park and registered national historic place in one. It’s also the first planned state park in Virginia! While it doesn’t offer the widest variety of hiking trails, most visitors will be perfectly happy with the 20 miles of park trails and 1.5 miles of beach trails on the Chesapeake Bay.
What Are the Top Attractions in Virginia?
Step back in time when you visit the “largest outdoor educational living museum in the country.” You’ll feel like you left the modern day and stepped into the 18th century when you head to this immersive historical experience. Events and exhibits do change, even in the 18th century, so check the calendar before you visit to see what’s in store.
The Arlington National Cemetery is a part of many a traveler’s journey when passing through Northern Virginia. Well over 600 acres are dedicated to historic and modern graves, starting with prominent Civil War figures. In more modern times, political figures, such as former presidents, have been interred in this historic cemetery.
This national monument covers more than 500 acres and pays homage to the life of the first president of the United States. While historically significant, outdoor enthusiasts will also enjoy walking the grounds and taking photographs of the sprawling area at this national monument. Note that George Washington is not buried here, but instead at Mount Vernon.
Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most captivating drives in America. Running through the southern and central portions of the Appalachian Mountain Range, drivers get a varied experience of the area’s vast expanses and its dense forests. There are plenty of scenic pull-offs and stops for photos and hikes, so make sure to have a map and guide to the drive with you.
Where’s Some of the Best Food in Virginia?
Sure, possums aren’t always what you associate with fine dining, but don’t write it off just yet. This sophisticated Richmond spot specializes in fun, modern twists on French cuisine and has an inventive cocktail menu to match. Though it doesn’t look like much from the outside, one step through the door will change your whole perception.
This restaurant has one of the best views of anywhere in the whole state. The all-glass dining area gives you panoramic views of the Potomac River as an appetizer while you wait for your meal. The place isn’t all flash, either. The New American-style menu is all farm-to-table and engrosses you in the creativity of their culinary staff.
You might not think of Alexandria, Virginia, when you’re searching for authentic Indian food, but Namaste has been hiding under the radar for years now. Serving high-quality Indian and Nepalese cuisine, this spot is easy to miss but will make you feel like an insider for finding it. If you do just one thing when you visit Namaste, order the Momo dumplings.
This is Washington, D.C.’s first (and only) three-star Michelin restaurant. It’s also a luxurious hotel if you’re looking for accommodations while in the District. If you were curious, the Michelin guide defines three-star as “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey.” If you’re already traveling to Virginia, win-win!
The menu here is upscale American cuisine with a nod to the classic French stylings that any Michelin-star chef is familiar with. Chef Patrick O’Connell curates a short, simple menu with a vegetarian menu also offered.
Hiking and camping in Virginia offer some of the best outdoor experiences in the Eastern United States. While you can always enjoy the tree-lined Virginia hiking trails, fall in Old Dominion should be on every outdoor adventurer’s bucket list!