Making s’mores, fishing, hiking, sleeping under the stars, connecting with nature… these are just some of the things associated with camping. Camping is a great way to spend time together as a family and it often can be a simple (and inexpensive) getaway. In Northern Virginia, you don’t have to travel too far to find parks with camping facilities suitable for an overnight stay, weekend trip, weeklong vacation, or more. See below for descriptions on the biggest public campgrounds in the area that offer tent camping in Northern Virginia (some locations also offer RV camping and cabins). Please note: there are a few more parks in the area that offer camping, but they are severely limited and/or offer camping for groups only. Our list includes only public parks that can accommodate a good number of people.
In or near Fairfax County
Burke Lake Park
Fairfax Station, Virginia
Burke Lake Park, a Fairfax County Park Authority property, is a popular destination year-round for its many amenities. In addition to its hiking trails and 218-acre lake popular for fishing (especially for largemouth bass), the park ha many fun options, such as rowboat rentals, a miniature train, a classic carousel, miniature golf, an 18-hole golf course, clubhouse and snack bar, volleyball, disc golf, horseshoe pits, an ice cream parlor, picnic areas, playgrounds, and an amphitheater with free summer concerts and other shows. The campground (open mid-April through October) has 100 wooded campsites (no electric or water hookups), a bathhouse, public phones, a camp store, picnic tables, grills, and fire rings.
Bull Run Regional Park Campground
Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority’s (NVRPA) Bull Run Regional Park has a popular campground, with 150 shaded campsites plus rustic cabins, two bathhouses, and a camp store that sells supplies, snacks, ice and firewood. Camping is available year-round and options include RV sites with electric only service, electric RV sites with water, full-service RV sites, tent sites, rustic cabins, and group camping areas. This big park also has many amenities including disc golf, multiple playgrounds, and historic hiking trails. It also is home Atlantis, a water park with a large main pool, 500-gallon dumping bucket, huge slides, water cannons, sprayers, tot areas, and a snack bar. The park also is the site for many large festivals and community events.
Lake Fairfax Park Campground
Lake Fairfax Park, run by Fairfax County Park Authority, provides a peaceful retreat in the middle of suburbia. This 476-acre park boasts a 20-acre lake with fishing, boat rentals, boat tours, a carousel, playground, picnic areas, and more. Two special attractions include a skatepark and The Water Mine, a water park on more than one acre with three giant slides, water sprays, fun floatables, tot areas, and a 725-foot lazy river. The year-round campground at Lake Fairfax Park has 136 campsites (54 with electrical hook-up), a bathhouse, and other amenities. There are separate camping areas for small groups and large groups.
Pohick Bay Regional Park
NVRPA’s Pohick Bay Regional Park also boasts a good variety of features. Its year-round campground has a total of 149 sites including tent campsites, rustic cabins, two luxury cabins, and sites with electricity, water, and full hook-up options. There’s also a camp store (some groceries, ice, charcoal, and firewood) and comfort stations with hot showers, toilets and sinks, and laundry facilities. In the park’s 1,000 bayside acres guests also will find hiking trails and fun on the water with canoe, paddleboard, stand up paddle board, and kayak rentals (you also can bring your own boat and use the public boat launch ramp). A one-mile trail connects the family campground to Gunston Hall Plantation, home of George Mason. Pohick Bay is also home to Pirate’s Cove Water Park, which features a huge main pool, separate tot pool and “beach” (sand play area), a 500-gallon dumping bucket, play area with slides and sprayers, and a cafe.
Sky Meadows State Park
Sky Meadows is a Virginia State Park with scenic views, woodlands and the rolling pastures of a historic farm that captures the colonial through post-Civil War life of the Crooked Run Valley. The 1,864-acre park hosts nature and history programs throughout the year plus fishing, many hiking trails, and picnic areas. The park offers year-round primitive hike-in tent camping with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Guests must hike a mile from the overnight parking area to get to the campsites; the campground also is accessible by bike (there is no drive-up option). There are 15 individual primitive tent sites plus a Buddy Camp, for two families camping together, and group camping areas. Pit toilets, non-potable water and firewood are available in the campground; there is no electricity.
Only 12 miles from Washington, DC, this national park is a quiet oasis perfect for hiking along nine miles of trails or just enjoying a picnic or Junior Ranger program. Greenbelt Park’s year-round campground has 174 sites for tent or RV parking, and hot showers and bathroom facilities. There are no electrical or water hookups available, but there is a dump station available to registered campers.
Just a bit further away
These campgrounds are about an hour or two from Fairfax County and the metro DC area:
Prince William Forest Park
Prince William Forest (part of the U.S. National Park Service) has a 100-site, wooded campground, Oak Ridge, for tents, RVs, and trailers (note: no hookups). The year-round campground has restrooms and showers. On summer weekends, enjoy evening ranger programs and campfire talks in the amphitheater. The park itself has many hiking and biking trails, playgrounds, and Junior Ranger and nature programs.
Shenandoah National Park
This national landmark is actually 200,000 acres of protected lands with plenty of hiking trails, waterfalls, animals, and beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and its valleys. The park offers fishing, biking, hiking, horseback riding, Junior Ranger programs for kids, and seminars for guests of all ages, plus great drives along Skyline Drive. Shenandoah National Park has four campgrounds open in the spring, summer, and fall. There is tent camping throughout, and some campgrounds are very close to waterfalls. Thee of the campgrounds can accommodate RVs, and though the park does not offer hookups, it has potable water and dump stations.
Lake Anna State Park
Lake Anna State Park is a popular getaway offering a beach on one of Virginia’s most popular lakes, a fishing pond accessible to children and the disabled, a boat launch, play areas, and more than 15 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Camping, picnicking, six camping cabins and 10 two-bedroom cabins, seven with views of the lake, also are available. Other activities include nature and gold panning programs and guided tours of the Goodwin Gold Mine. The park’s campground has campsites with and without water and electric hookups, centrally located restrooms with hot showers, laundry facilities, fire-rings, picnic tables, and lantern holders. There are also fully equipped cabins plus a camping lodge (bunkhouse, not full-service).
Westmoreland State Park
Westmoreland State Park is a waterfront park on the Potomac River’s Northern Neck. The park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, offers plenty of activities, with fishing, hiking, playground, boat rentals, a power-boat ramp, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and an adjacent bathhouse, meeting area, snack bar, and camp store. Nature lovers will enjoy fossil hunting for ancient shark teeth along the Potomac and bird-watching (you may spot American bald eagles, ospreys, kingfishers, great blue herons, common terns, green herons and gulls, and wintering waterfowl. The campground includes 133 campsites; cabins are also available. Camping options include standard tent sites, Buddy sites for groups, and RB sites with electric and water hookups. Cabins are fully equipped and range from a one-room log cabin to a resort-like “retreat” that can accommodate 16 people.