Best Free Camping in Virginia

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Free Camping in Virginia

Are you looking for a spot to explore in the northeast that offers beautiful scenery and plenty to explore on a budget? Look no further than Virginia!

Is camping allowed in Virginia?

Between the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. There are public (state parks, national forests, national parks) and private options for campgrounds, many of which are RV accessible.

Developed campgrounds usually have an associated fee that includes amenities like picnic tables, fire rings, and nearby bathhouses. At these developed campgrounds, you might also have access to water, electricity, and sewer hook-ups.

Undeveloped camping opportunities do not typically have amenities. Still, what they lack in amenities, they make up for in savings. Think of dispersed camping as a way to hone your survival skills and reconnect with nature

Where can you camp for free in Virginia?

Want to find camping for free in Virginia? Luckily, there are several options for you to explore.

Public Lands

Primitive, walk-in tent camping is an option on some public lands. However, dispersed camping must be away from any developed recreational areas or campgrounds.

To be a good steward of the land when you are dispersed camping, remember to find a flat or worn spot that looks like it has been camped on before. Camping on an established site will protect the landscape and preserve the ecosystem. To further protect the natural areas, camping is limited to a maximum of 14 days within any 28 consecutive day period.

National Forests in Virginia

Sections of two different national forests are in Virginia, George Washington National Forest and the Jefferson National Forest. The forest service allows for free primitive or dispersed camping in some areas within the forest.

Dispersed camping or backcountry camping is limited to undeveloped areas. Recreation areas, administrative areas, active timber sale areas, and any areas that have a “no camping” sign cannot be used for primitive camping. Free camping is limited to no longer than 21 consecutive days, and all campsites must be at least 200 feet away from any water sources.

Combined, there are 2,340 miles of perennial streams (with almost half of these miles being considered trout waters), so make sure you pack some fishing gear if you have an angler with you on your camping trip.

Parts of these forests are adjacent to the Shenandoah National Park. If you want to explore the national park and camp for free, you can always set up camp at the nearby national forest in an undeveloped area.

Parking Lots

Depending on where you are in the state, you can look into staying overnight at a large parking lot (with owner approval) like a Bass Pro Shop, Cracker Barrel, or Walmart.

If you want to explore the Virginia coast, some RV campers have had positive experiences at the Eastern Shore of Virginia Welcome Center. Be sure to check-in with management, support local businesses, and leave no trace.

Recent Virginia Free Campsite Reviews

Jul 16, 2024

"Great place to stop for a little free shut eye. "

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Great place to stop for a little free shut eye. The facilities are very clean, and there is a nice little trail in the wildlife preservation area. Picnic tables are available and pets are welcome.

6 reviews
Mechanicsville, VA

Cracker Barrel

Jun 16, 2024

"Recommend "

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The entire shopping / dining commercial area off Exit 37A seems fairly recently built. Very well-planned, and actually a half-mile from the exit. Very clean. We pulled in around 11pm in our 21’ campervan and immediately felt quite safe. We slept with the windows cracked and fans on and experienced little to no noise. Friendly staff. The only...
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2 reviews
South Hill, VA

Love's RV Dump Station

Jun 14, 2024


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1 review
Chester, VA

Cracker Barrel

Jun 12, 2024

"My review "

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My review Cracker Barrel 12401 Red Water Creek Road Chester, VA - 23831 (804) 748-4032 ) Our dinner was great and I even ordered French toast for breakfast. We were rv parking boondocking overnight on our way north. No other RVs were there (first sign) got woken up at 1:00 am with screaming we saw 2 guys behind our rig then someone from the...
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Franklin, VA


May 29, 2024

"Lots Of Tractor Trailers "

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We called ahead to ask and they said yes to overnight parking. When we stopped there were about 10 Tractor Trailers parked, some with their engines running. Seemed like we would be in between noisy trucks all night so we moved on.

21 reviews