The Ultimate Camping Guide

There’s nothing quite like sleeping out in the great outdoors with a campfire crackling nearby and the stars twinkling above. If you’re ready to pitch a tent, fire up an RV or go glamping in the woods, we’ve got the ultimate guide!  We’ve put together an epic list of the best places to go on a family camping adventure near Washington, DC.

Go Off the Grid

photo: iStock

Bull Run Regional Campground

Soak up a little of our area’s civil war historical lore when you set up camp at Bull Run in NoVa’s Centreville area. Besides traditional campgrounds, family’s can reserve ahead to take advantage of cabins and enjoy trails, a frisbee golf course, and Atlantis Water Park. Check out also the cabins at Pohick Bay near Lorton, or riverfront cottages at Algonkian Regional Park near Sterling.

Cost: $25+/night

7700 Bull Run Dr.
Centreville, VA

Cherry Hill Park

You barely have to leave the city to get to this family-fun-filled campground with 350 full hook-up sites, 25 tent sites, 12 premium log cabins and three cottages to choose from. No one will be saying, “mommy, I’m so bored,” because there are two pools, a splash park, minigolf, playgrounds, exercise areas, a café and more.

Cost: $55/night

9800 Cherry Hill Rd.
College Park, MD

photo: iStock

Greenbelt Park

No car? No problem, you can still go camping. Greenbelt Park lets you get away from it all without ever leaving the Beltway. This 1100-acre park, just 13 miles northeast of the city, has 175 campsites, plus a bathhouse with hot showers, several picnic areas, and nine miles of forested hiking trails. Take the Greenline to Greenbelt and hop on a short 2-mile bus ride.

Cost: $20/night

6585 Greenbelt Rd. (Greenbelt, Md)

photo: iStock

Greenbrier State Park

If you like the view of mountain peaks in the distance, but the kids want to sink their toes into a sandy beach, you get the best of both worlds when camping at MD’s Greenbrier State Park. Greenbrier features a 42-acre man-made lake and beach where you can swim, canoe, and build sand castles. There are 165 campsites, each equipped with picnic tables, fire ring and parking area. Forty sites have electric hookups. There’s plenty of shared bathhouses with hot showers to go around.

Cost: $25-$34/night

21843 National Pike
Boonsboro, MD

Loft Mountain Campground

No list of camping destinations would be complete without the Shenandoah National Park. Just 70 miles outside of D.C. and a beloved destination for nature lovers far and wide, Shenandoah National Park offers beauty, convenience and just about any camping experience you can wish for. Loft Mountain campground at mile 79.5 is the park’s largest campground and sits atop Big Flat Mountain with incredible views to the east and west, plus two waterfalls and hiking trails that lead into the Big Run Wilderness area nearby. Each campsite comes with a picnic table, fire grate and parking area. There are no water or electric hookups at the campsites, but there are shared utility sinks, water supplies, showers and restrooms.

Cost: $15/night

3655 U.S. Highway 211 East
Luray, VA

photo: iStock

Lake Fairfax Park Campground

If your family requires multiple entertainment options with your camping experience, then Lake Fairfax is the place for you. Enjoy the Water Mine Family Swimmin Hole, a Western-themed activity pool, complete with twisting slides and fumes, and a lazy river. There’s an 18-acre lake with paddleboats to rent and plenty of fishing, plus an intricate skate board park. There are 136 camping sites each with a picnic table and fire ring, plus nearby bathhouses with hot showers and flushing toilets.

Cost: $28/night and up

li1400 Lake Fairfax Dr.
Reston, VA

Take an RV

Lake Gaston RV & Camping Resort

Woods, water and endless activities await you at this beautiful RV campground in North Carolina. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the countryside, you will find everything you need for an enjoyable lakeside vacation. Let the kiddos stay up late for an epic sunset or two before you rent a boat to get out on the lake the next morning. Grab a kid-friendly movie from the clubhouse and finish off your vacation with a movie night under the stars.

Cost: Varies

561 Fleming Dairy Rd. 
Littleton, NC 

photo: Lake-in-Wood Campground

Lake-in-Wood Campground

The campground celebrates Christmas in October, offers hay and trolley rides around the resort and has tons of activities for all ages every week. In other words, this place has it all. Book a site for laser tag weekend, pool party weekend or their version of the summer Olympics. Don't have an RV? No problem. There are themed cabins available for rent. You can even say goodnight in a double-decker bus. 

Cost: from $51

576 Yellow Hill Rd.
Narvon, PA

Shenandoah Valley Campground

A small family campground nestled in the Shenandoah Valley is the perfect place to make special summer memories. With the mountains as your backdrop, you can visit local caverns or hike in the nearby national park. Ask for a site at the back of the campground, and the morning view from your window will make your coffee even sweeter.

Cost: Varies

168 Industrial Park Rd.
Mt. Jackson, Va

photo: iStock

Camp LeConte

Minutes from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this camping spot is full of adventure for the whole family. Ziplines, rafting, and one of the country's best aquariums are all right in town. LeConte is a glamorous camping destination where you can stay in a luxury treehouse, European safari tent or a 1960's retro camper. Bring your RV or camper and stay in one of their full hookup sites.

Cost: Varies

1739 E Parkway
Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Wilderness Presidential Resort

Explore the spectacular 600-acre resort offering quaint cottages, vintage RVs, RV and tent sites and tons of memory-making, family-orientated activities. Pick one or all of the pools, playgrounds and lakefront fun for your crew to enjoy. If you're ready for some fun outside the campground, head to downtown Fredericksburg for a trolley ride.

Cost: Varies

9220 Plank Rd
Spotsylvania Courthouse, VA 

Prince William Forest RV Campground

While the location makes it feel like you’re far from civilization, the perks make you feel as if you’re staying at a hotel. Spend your days in the swimming pool or hike through the picturesque trails. And while the forest is filled with natural beauty, it’s also home to rich history- some of it dating back to 8,000 BC. Want even more history? DC and all of its fascinating museums are a short drive away.

Cost: from $36

16058 Dumfries Rd
Dumfries VA

Go Glamping

Western Maryland's Hideaway Co.

If you've ever longed for a 5-star hotel experience in the great outdoors, check out Hideaway Co., a Western MD-based glamping experience created by regional boutique hoteliers. For those looking for a kid-free getaway (which is ALL of us after a year of 24/7 childcare!), Hideaway Co. hosts romantic weekends and girlfriend getaways filled with massage appointments, wine and cheese pairings and curated excursions. There are also a handful of family-friendly weekends for those looking for a no hassle way to camp with kids (hint: the next one is Labor Day weekend).  Family weekends feature arts-and-crafts, outdoor movies (with s'mores, of course!), kid-friendly excursions (like horseback riding and river floats) and kid-favorite menu items. 

Cost: $300/person

Branch Bender Cidery
1202 Harmon Rd.
Accident, MD


Savage River Lodge

If you like sleeping under starlight and moonshine, minus the cramped tent and hard ground, glamping is the way to go. Savage River Lodge features stylish yurts and cabins nestled in 700 acres of woods. Each yurt has a king bed, full bathroom, deck, and gas fireplace. The cabins are beyond luxurious. It’s the perfect place to unplug in comfort and style. You’ll even get robes and house-made hot chocolate. There’s a spacious lodge with a restaurant and bar, a library, comfy reading nooks, and plenty of board games. It’s pet-friendly too!

Cost: $220/night

1600 Mt. Aetna Rd.
Frostburg, MD

Airydale Retreat

Head north to this retreat in the woods. The family-friendly glamping site has everything your gang needs to get away and unplug. This family-owned spot provides unique luxury camping accommodations that combine elements of traditional camping with some of the creature comforts we all crave. The best part, after you slide down the slide, you'll be able to say you went camping without actually sleeping on the ground.

Cost: Varies by site

10272 Big Valley Pike
Mill Creek PA 

Rose River Farm

Located about two hours from D.C., Rose River Farm offers the ultimate glamping experience. The property features three large luxury yurts. Yes, your fam can stay in a yurt! Yurts include amenities like A/C and heat, two full bedrooms and two full baths, a full kitchen, a flat screen TV, and high speed WiFiEach yurt also features a wall of windows and a big porch to capture the spectacular views of Old Rag Mountain, the Rose River Valley, and a pond full of fish. There is even a charcoal grill and a big outdoor fire pit so you can cook outside and hang with your crew. While this Virginia getaway caters to a more posh posse, outdoor exploring and adventuring can still be a big part of the agenda with nearby guided kayak tours and horseback rides.

Cost: $250/night; $1500/week

3099 Old Blue Ridge Tpk.
Syria, VA

Grassy Creek Cabooses

Ever wonder what it would be like to live in a caboose? Come spend some time in an authentic refurbished, modern, railroad caboose along the Blue Ridge Parkway! Your kids will drool over this experience. Spend the day hiking down to Grassy Creek where you can hang among the trees. Play “I Spy” with the kids to see if they can spot does, turkeys and bucks. Sit outside at night and see the thousands of stars that light up the serene skiesThe site has three cabooses that sleep two guests each. Each caboose is fully furnished with a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. There’s even a Jacuzzi! The cabooses each have decks with rockers and charcoal grills so you can enjoy being outside.

Cost: $117/night

278 Caboose Ln.
Fancy Gap, VA

photo: iStock

Point Lookout State Park

Take Pennsylvania Ave. and keep going, turn left after Solomon’s Island, and you’ll end at the confluence of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. Staying in one of the six four-person camper cabins at Point Lookout State Park in St. Mary’s County, you’ll be serenaded by songbirds from the leafy trees near your cabin. Not an ace at fire-building? No worries! The friendly rangers can help get you started (hint: use pinecones). After climbing on the jetty rocks near the lighthouse, kiddo will find sandcastle bliss at the small beach on the riverside of the peninsula. If your family is feeling really adventurous, ask about snagging a license to do some night fishing. Bonus: Two cabins are ADA accessible.

Cost: $52/night

11175 Point Lookout Rd.
Scotland, MD

photo: Getaway House

Getaway House

If you need a unique, off-the-grid weekend, the Getaway home might be your cup of tea. Created by two Harvard grads, these homes are geared towards folks that need to escape the city, and dive into nature, but without having to wrangle their own camping gear. The stocked cabins ( ideal for 2-4 people) are tucked away near Shenandoah National Park and are designed to let you unplug, but not too severely . Homes have a full bathroom, kitchen, running water and queen bunks where your family can hide away!


2010 Madison Rd
Stanardsville, VA

photo: iStock

Little Bennett Campground

Thirty miles north of DC your campsite is set up and awaits your arrival. Little Bennett Campground, which is part of the Montgomery County Park system, offers to pitch your four-person tent and set up your campsite with two camp chairs, a propane stove, and a lantern. You just bring the happy campers, bedding, cooking gear, and food supplies. And, get this, you only need to give them one week’s advance notice for a two-night minimum stat.

Cost: $46+/night

23705 Frederick Rd.
Clarksburg, MD

The Hobbit House

Yes, there is a Hobbit House in Maryland…for reals…and you MUST go! Truly, there’s nothing quite like the hobbit house at The Treehouse Camp at Maple Tree Campground in Rohrersville, Maryland. This unique cottage will make you and your family feel like you’ve stepped into the Lord of the Rings and we mean that in the best possible way. You’ll arrive to find a thatch covered porch, outdoor fire circle, grill, and picnic table. Everything you need for a most unique camping experience. Step inside and you’ll find a wood stoveWoodland mural, and a hand-made harvest table that can seat up to eight people. Accommodations include two queen mattresses that can sleep up to four people. The wooded area around the hobbit house provides plenty of enchanting opps for outdoor adventures.

Cost: $140/night

20716 Townsend Rd.
Rohrersville, MD

Camping at Cunningham Falls

Cunningham Falls State Park is located in the picturesque Catoctin Mountains in Maryland. Next to Great Falls, Cunningham Falls might be the shortest distance to D.C., just an hour’s drive from the city. Cunningham falls offers hiking, off-road trails and tubing in the summer. The waterfalls are a must see! The campsites offer everything from cottages, cabins, and other unique venues April through October.

Cost: Varies

14039 Catoctin Hollow Rd
Thurmont, MD 

Zipline in the Shenandoah

After a day of zipline flying through a hardwood forest in Shenandoah River State Park in Virginia and then sitting around the fire, your kids are gonna love you for this camping trip. Forever. Kiddos over 10 years old and that weigh over 70 lbs can get this “you and your folks did what during the summer” cool cred if they pass the ground school, can walk about a mile and are in reasonably good health. You could do the rustic cabins (no kitchen, ac or bathroom) but after a heartbeat racing zipline tour you’ll be glad you booked one of the of cabins that are equipped with a kitchen, including a microwave and coffeemaker (tip: bring your own coffee filters), bathroom, fireplace and linens on the beds. In prime season these cabins require a weeklong stay. Bonus: Fido can stay at the cabin for an extra fee. To get the zipline tour ($42-$84) you need to reserve it separately from Virginia Canopy Tours.

Cost: $708+/a week (2 bedroom cabin for the week)

n50 Daughter of Stars Dr.
Bentonville, VA

Get Beach Vibes

Assateague State Park

What little kid doesn’t love horses? Or the beach? Together, and you have a destination fit for the youngest set. Camping is allowed on the Maryland side of this island, famous for its wild horses. Oceanside walk in sites are approximately 200 years from the parking lot. While you can stake your tent on the beach, the sites that are sheltered by shoreside shrubs and grass experience less wind. The grasslands are also easier to pitch a tent on. Oceanside sites do not have a view of the ocean, but seeing horses is nearly guaranteed; the famous ponies are known to  roam the campground greeting visitors (and nosing for food). Don’t let your kids pet the ponies, though (they can kick or bite). Campsites do require an advanced reservation (sites are $30). Assateague Island is approximately a three hour drive from D.C.

Cost: Varies

6915 Stephen Decatur Hwy
Berlin, MD 

False Cape State Park

If you have experienced the great outdoors with your kids and are ready to take it to the next level, look no further than False Cape. This area of the Atlantic coast is so undeveloped, you have to hike or bike in to access camping sites. This State Park features 15 miles of hiking trails and 6 miles of beach to explore. There are only 12 campsites along the shore line and reservations are required. This is primitive camping at its best (there are no showers; only pit toilets).  Due to the primitive nature of this beach, camping here is best suited for children 8 and older. For day visitors, there are beach trams which include a tour of the area ($8 a person). False Cape is a four hour drive from the city.

Cost: Varies

4001 Sandpiper Rd
Virginia Beach, VA 

photo: First Landing State Park

First Landing State Park

If you want to take the family camping — and we mean the whole family, fido included — head to Virginia’s most popular State Park, First Landing. You won’t get a secluded experience on these grounds, but you will have access to a number of (little kid necessary) amenities (think: electric hookups, showers and restrooms, grills, picnic tables and more). There are 200 campsites; spots range from $24 to $32. This beach is approximately a three and a half hour drive from the district.

Cost: Varies

2500 Shore Dr
Virginia Beach, VA 

Belle Isle State Park

You don’t need to travel towards the ocean to hit the beach. This park, nestled along the Rappahannock River, offers 28 well-equipped, private camping sites (sites cost $30). Onsite you’ll find private showers with hot water, restrooms, washers and dryers, a playground and more. The park boasts seven miles of shoreline.  Kids will enjoy exploring the areas tidal pools and sandbars. Biking and boating are also popular past times at Belle Isle. The park is a two and a half hour drive from downtown.

Cost: Varies

1632 Belle Isle Rd
Lancaster, VA 

Worth the Drive: Governors Island

If not everyone in your family is “outdoorsy,”  Collective Retreat, a new “glamping” experience nestled along New York harbor, will let you and your family relax under the stars without all the work. Well-appointed, luxury tents feature private bathrooms (starting at $500 a night; breakfast is included). Luxury tents can accommodate up to 2 adults and 2 children (rollaway beds are available for children 12 and under for an additional fee of $100).  While the Island’s sandy stretch, Water Taxi Beach,  is just short bike ride away, the real lure of this site is the skyline view. We’ll repeat that: The. New. York. Skyline. There are a number of playgrounds on the Island, along with family-friendly bike paths.

Cost: Varies

Governors Island
New York, NY 

—Meghan Yudes Meyers, Angelica Kajiwara, Guiomar Ochoa and Linda Bennett


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