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.
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.
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.