UPDATED SEP 1, 2020
Start a campfire. See stars. Wake up with the morning light… all the things you can never do in the city are the best part about camping. Pack a bag. These amazing campsites near DC are just a short road trip away.
Just 75 miles outside of DC, Shenandoah National Park offers over 200,000 acres to explore. And with a permit, you can “backcountry camp”, laying down your sleeping bag anywhere you see fit. After you've pitched your tent, hike the AT (Appalachian Trail), take in the stunning views at White Oak Canyon, or bike through Skyline Drive. However you choose to spend your time, you'll be surrounded by towering trees and all sorts of wildlife.
For a quick weekend getaway, head three hours west to Coopers Rock State Forest. This woodsy destination is home to two main campgrounds (available April through October), one of which comes with electrical hook-ups, showers, and WiFi. The other, more primitive option is only available for tented and hammock camping, but offers a more get your hands dirty type of experience. There’s also tons of great bouldering in the area, so bring your gear if that's your thing.
Here’s your itinerary for the weekend: Head north to Gettysburg, explore the battlefield, then set up camp at Caledonia State Park. There’s more than enough to do. Go whitewater rafting, horseback riding, or kick back at the on-site swimming pool and soak up some rays. Even better, you can choose how you camp: sleep in a cottage, cabin, tent, or go rogue, and try car camping.
When Ocean City gets too crowded (which is always), head to the beach in Cowans Gap State Park. Just a two-hour drive from DC, this over 1,000-acre park features a 42-acre lake and offers places to camp, swim, bike, and fish year-round. Try ice skating and ice fishing in the winter, then come back to lounge on the beach in the summertime.
Next to Great Falls, Cunningham Falls State Park might be the shortest distance to DC on this list. An hour’s drive from the city in the Catoctin Mountains, this nature-filled oasis offers hiking, off-road trails (reservations required), and tubing — all with scenic views of the park's picturesque waterfalls. Spend the day exploring, then take a load off in the fully equipped camper cabins, or settle in at one of their 21 basic, tented campsites. Heads up: The area is known for black bears, so consult the park's website for safety tips before heading out.
It’s a trek to Blackwater Falls State Park — three-and-a-half hours without traffic. But the breathtaking views of the surrounding waterfalls and Blackwater Canyon is well worth it. There are 60+ campsites available for reservations and about half of them with electric hook-ups. If roughing it isn't your style, book a stay at one of the area’s 20+ cabins. Word to the wise, their vacation cabins feature four bedrooms, so you can plan a group getaway in the great outdoors.
Seneca Rocks in West Virginia is a go-to destination for climbing and camping. Take in the sweeping views and scale the area’s many boulders. If you choose to take a climbing course (or sign up for a climbing guide), great news: there’s free camping included at the base of the rocks. Otherwise, Seneca Shadows offers a modern campground with electric hook-ups and running water.
With miles of beaches, wild horses, and scenic views, Assateague Island is one of the most beautiful areas to set up camp. But you have to come prepared with your own firewood, insect repellent, tent screens to protect from insects and wind. When you're not enjoying the beach, take a walk through the area, or go for a cruise on the bike trail.
If sleeping under the stars isn’t your thing, check out Cherry Hill in College Park, MD. It has cottages, premium log cabins, glamping pods, and over 400 RV sites available for your use. And when you're not roasting marshmallows at the campsite, you can take advantage of the park's many amenities. We're talking hot tubs, swimming pools, mini golf, laundry, hot showers, and even an on-site cafe.
For those of you who love water adventures, Harpers Ferry is a must. Plan a group kayaking, tubing, and whitewater rafting trip on the Potomac. And if you prefer to stay ashore, there's also zip lining. When it’s time to crash, head over to the Harpers Ferry Campground, where river-front cabins (you'll need to book ahead), tented and RV sites are all up for grabs.
Just 12 miles from DC, Greenbelt Park makes for a quick retreat from the city. And with 174 campsites available for just $20 a night, it's one of the most affordable around, too. Offering nine miles of trails to explore, you can easily spend the weekend hiking through woodsy pathways and peaceful forests. No worries if you worked up a sweat, either. Hot showers are available at the camping areas.
Camping in a treehouse? Sign us up! Less than two hours from DC, Maple Tree includes a Hobbit house, tree cottages, tree houses, and tent sites. Around the campsite, you can enjoy hiking in the Appalachian Mountains or antiquing in Harpers Ferry. And on the off chance you left firewood or matches at home, the on-site camp store has you covered. Oh, and bring the dog, this spot is pet-friendly!
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