Guide to Camping in Shenandoah National Park

Guide to Camping in Shenandoah National Park

Camping in Shenandoah is one of the best ways to dig into the park and its surrounding area. It gives you more time to soak up being outside and enjoying the characteristic natural scenes around the National Park.

Some National Parks offer plenty of opportunities to camp inside their border, and others limit this to only a couple of campgrounds. Shenandoah provides quite a few campgrounds on its extensive grounds so that you are close to many of the hikes and overlooks that characterize the park.

The area around the National Park also offers some unique experiences. Some of the campgrounds are themed and make taking children outside more engaging and fun. Whether you decide to stay in or out of the park, be prepared with a waterproof tent big enough for your family or equip your RV.

Campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park

Mathews Arm Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : May to October
  • Cost : $15 to $50 per day
  • Reservation : Yes

Mathews Arm Campground is one of the biggest and more popular campgrounds in the park. It is family-oriented, so don’t forget to pack the kids camping chairs and get ready for some s’mores cook-offs.

This campground has 166 campsites available, all of which can be a place for a tent or can host an RV. There is a fire ring in each of the campsites and a picnic area. The main portion of it has been flattened to accommodate the base of a tent easily.

The entire campground is nestled into a secluded section of the park filled with thick trees and rolling hills. It gives you an allusion to seclusion, even in the large camp space.

The park facilities include flush toilets, one dump station that the whole ground shares, and drinking water. Note that there are no showers provided in this campground. The campground is also available for day use only.

Big Meadows Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : May to November
  • Cost : $20 to $45 per night
  • Reservation : Sometimes

Big Meadows Campground is another campground that is a great fit for families to try camping in Shenandoah National Park. This is an expansive campground, with more than 200 campsites for accommodating a variety of camping scenarios. There are tent sites, RV sites, and sites for larger groups to camp together.

This campground can be reserved during the peak season and the reservable sites are released on a rolling basis. During the off-peak season, through the end of October to November and the first part of May, the campground is open only for first-come, first-serve camping.

If you decide to camp during the offseason, bring enough gear to stay warm. You will often need a winter sleeping bag to get one rated low enough to keep you warm.

Each site has a picnic table, and most have fire rings. There are nonelectric and electric sites. Some of the campgrounds lead to a scenic overlook. Since it is such a popular campground, there are campfire programs lead throughout parts of the year. This campground has drinking water, a general store, laundry facilities, showers, and pets are allowed.

Lewis Mountain Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : Depends
  • Cost : $15
  • Reservation : No

The Lewis Mountain Campground is the smallest campground within the park, but it is positioned very close to most of the park’s popular areas along the Skyline Drive. It is a campground operating on a self-registration system and is only first-come, first-served.

Each campsite has a picnic table, a fire grate for cookware, and a parking area. It is not well-suited to RVs, although there are still pull-through and back-in sites available. There are no electric or water hookups. There is no dump station either, so be sure to follow Leave No Trace guidelines and pack out your trash.

There are potable water spigots in the campground. There is also limited use of generators allowed if you need it. The spaces and times are designated on the campground’s map.

Loft Mountain Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : May to October
  • Cost : $15
  • Reservation : Yes

Loft mountain is the largest campground within the park, offering more than 200 campsites and plenty of modern conveniences. This campground has an appealing location for outdoor enthusiasts as it is perched on top of Loft Mountain and offers expansive views of the valleys below.

The campground offers access to flush toilets throughout its grounds, a water station, and a dump station. There are pay showers available at the camp store that is nearby to the campground. The ground’s location on top of this mountain offers easy access to Skyline Drive for a quick way out and start to your day.

Each campsite has a tent pad, a picnic table, and a fire pit. The campground is set on the mountain but is still surrounded by forest. Dogs are also allowed.

Dundo Group Campground

  • Type : Tent
  • Open : May to October
  • Cost : $45
  • Reservation : Yes

If you are coming to the National Park with a large group of people, consider packing up your larger six or eight-person tents and heading to this group campground. The sites are much more spacious and feature three group campsites, all of which are reservable and non-refundable. The longest you can stay at any of them is for 14 consecutive nights each year.

One of the unique aspects of this campground is that it has part of the Appalachian Trail passing through it. The southern piece of the ground is a picnic area. You have to check into your group sites at Loft Mountain Campground, a little way down Skyline Drive. Check out is at noon.

Each campsite has enough room for five vehicles. Groups are defined as having seven to twenty people. There are two vault toilets accessible at this camp. Each site has camp tables, fire grates, and food storage boxes.

Campgrounds Near Shenandoah National Park

Outlanders River Camp

  • Type : Tent / RV / Cabin
  • Open : Year-round
  • Cost : Varies
  • Reservation : Yes

Outlanders River Camp is a family-friendly campground that focuses on providing a natural camping experience. Each one of their tent campgrounds allows you to walk-in instead of park closeby. It cuts down on the noise and makes it more relaxing. You can select from campsites close to the riverfront, in the woods, or on platforms.

If you need assistance bringing in some of your items to the campsite, they provide hand carts and wheelbarrows to carry your equipment. There is a community hydrant and sites that provide electric hookups.

There are no pets allowed in this campground for the most part. Children under six are only allowed in certain areas to keep the campground peaceful for those looking for a relaxing time away.

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp

  • Type : Tent / RV / Cabins
  • Open : Year-round
  • Cost : Varies
  • Reservation : Yes

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp is curated specifically for families with small kids. There are many of these parks and campgrounds around America, and some in Canada as well. These campgrounds are a feature to visit in themselves. Many of them have water attractions and other amenities, offering a break from the wild nature across Virginia.

From swimming pools to waterslides, plan the perfect family vacation for your kids. Some areas have mini-golf courses built into the campground and playgrounds to expend some more energy.

Several of these campsites are quite close to the National Park and can add some variation into the natural journey.

Luray KOA

  • Type : Tent / RV / Cabin
  • Open : May through November
  • Cost : Varies
  • Reservation : Yes

KOA’s across the country have made camping holidays easier to organize for years. They offer reliable campgrounds equipped with more than the basic needs campers tend to have.

The KOA in Luray, VA is no different and offers close enough access to Shenandoah National Park to make it easy to get an early start. Oftentimes, pets are allowed on KOA campgrounds so long as they are kept on a leash.

The campground is relatively rural, nestled into a high hill that perches above the Shenandoah Valley. It gives you arching views across parts of the valley. KOA staff can offer you recommendations for where to rent out canoes or tubes that you can use on the nearby Shenandoah River.

The campground isn’t only close to the National Park and Luray Caverns, New Market Battlefield State Historical Park, and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The campsite has a pool, flush toilets, showers, and hookups depending on which site you are at.

Shenandoah Valley Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV / Cabins
  • Open : March through November
  • Cost : Varies
  • Reservation : Yes

The Shenandoah Valley Campground sets itself apart by having a heated pool open throughout most of the year. Furthermore, it has a spectacular waterfall flowing into it and four indoor hot tubs.

The campground is nestled into a 1.5-mile horseshoe bend in the corner of the Middle River. They allow you to take advantage of this river access by offering river tubing, trout and bass fishing, areas for wading, and more.

Beyond these natural interests, the campsite has a mini-golf course, a game room, and multiple playgrounds. They also offer plenty of other fun-centric activities like karaoke on Friday nights and a DJ on Saturdays. There is a choice of site between tent sites, pull through and back-in RV sites along the river, and cabins for rent.

Endless Caverns & RV Resort

  • Type : Camp / RV
  • Open : April to November
  • Cost : Varies
  • Reservation : Yes

Endless Caverns is a campground and resort based around the caverns discovered in the area in 1879. They have been an underground treasure ever since and there are guided tours offered for those interested in fascinating geology.

Endless Caverns campground offers spacious sites for camping, housed on about 265 acres situated above the caverns. The site is heavily wooded and offers stunning views of Shenandoah Valley at certain points. There are some on-site amenities offered, as well. There is a zero-entry swimming pool and Civil War hiking trails around the site. A gift shop equips you with memorabilia from the vacation.

The entire RV resort is pet friendly and offers spaces for your pups to experience the forest as well.

Camping Tips for Shenandoah National Park

  1. Bring weather-appropriate equipment. Shenandoah National Park is open year-round. As long as there isn’t snow blocking the roads through the park, then you can navigate through it. The campgrounds tend to only be open from April through November. If you are going to visit, make sure you are ready for the weather. It can get quite hot at some points while being freezing cold at others. Always have blankets and emergency kits in your car just in case.
  2. Be ready for the rain. If you look around you in the park, you will notice dense forests and lush green undergrowth. What this means is that the park gets plenty of rain, year-round. Make sure you have a rain jacket, rain pants, and have a waterproof spray to coat over anything that needs more attention. Being wet outside can feel pretty miserable.
  3. Understand best practices around bears. There are large populations of black and brown bears in this area. Check-in with your park’s rangers to learn more about the best behavior if you encounter one. Otherwise, take storing your food supplies in the bear-proof containers very seriously.
  4. Get backcountry permits. If you are going to trek and camp in the expansive backcountry wilderness in the park, be aware that you need to secure a free permit. You can do so ahead of time or at the park’s visitor centers.
  5. Consider camping in the park. Some National Parks do not have as many campsites as Shenandoah. There are more than 600 campsites throughout the different campgrounds in the park. Most of these are very well-equipped.
  6. Get up early for first-come, first-served sites. If you did not get the chance to book a reservable site, then check out one of the first-come, first-serve sites. To get these before other people, check with the rangers about the current availability and get up early to catch people leaving for morning hikes. These sites will go like hotcakes.
  7. Understand the size of the park. Whether you camp in or out of the park, understand how big it is to know when to get up to get to your hikes. The maximum speed throughout the park is 35 miles per hour, and there is a lot of traffic during the peak season. It can take 3 to 4 hours to get through the whole thing, especially if you stop anywhere.

Amanda Williams

Amanda Williams is a writer, plant-nerd, and outdoor enthusiast. She has traveled extensively, around the U.S., throughout Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Everywhere she treks, she takes time to enjoy the outdoors. John Muir is her hero. She aspires to inspire people to live better as he did.