All sites are within 5-8 miles of Skyline Drive, starting from mile 21 in the North District. All are near creeks (runs) and completely undeveloped. Check with the Visitor Center for permits and camping regulations within the park. Many, but not all trails, allow dogs.
I recently led a large group of Scouts to the Mathews Arm Campground in SNP. We spread out over 4 RV/camper/tent sites as our base camp. There was definitely a lot less privacy/space between sites here at SNP than I’ve noted at other parks across Virginia. I suppose it’s because it’s a national park, with a big draw and higher volume of visitors. The roads were well-marked and paved nicely. The bathrooms were okay, I’ve been in better-maintained/cleaned ones and worse ones, so I’m not going to complain. They were quite prevalent though. The staff that circulate around the park were quite friendly! We had a lovely hike to a nearby waterfall that was gorgeous. We even took a group out hiking across the AT and did some backcountry camping. I was impressed by how well-maintained the trails were! We had a really nice time and I look forward to returning again soon. I will note that our original reservation was for the Southern Section, but because of the winter storms, there was a lot of storm damage which caused them to close down quite a bit of Skyline Drive and they automatically shifted our reservation (with the option to cancel) to the Northern Section of the SNP. So, we didn’t hike what we expected to, but we still had a nice time, regardless. Plus, a couple days before our trip they did open the Southern Section, but we left our reservations and plans alone.
I absolutly love this national park! The facility is clean, trails are well marked and there are plenty of different day hikes and camping grounds. My favorite is Old Rag Mountain. It is a pretty decent hike that requires a good amount of climbing and has great views at the top. There is a bathroom on the back end of the trail but it was a little dirty. Parking is a struggle sometimes as it is a good 1 miles hike to the trail head. There is a 10$ entrance fee per person. Overall a great day hike and a great national park. Highly recommend this
Amazing views! On this prticular trip, we witnessed a cub get hit by a car and it took over and hour to find a ranger. we felt so bad for Mom and baby.
The Shenandoah mountains and the NPS's campgrounds never get old. They always offer a unique experience offering several campgrounds giving different experiences each time. They also offer camping for backwoods camping. It is suitable for novice campers to experienced off-trail campers. You'll never tire of the wonders this beautiful piece of America has to offer.
These sites are backcountry meaning they are not established sites. You just wander down the trail and pick your favorite spot with consideration to not disturbing as much nature as possibe. I got to sleep listening to a river all night. It is also convenient since most places are not far from the trails.
There are so many trails to hike throughout the park and with a backcountry permit, you can find countless campsites. I stayed in the area of overall run falls. Make sure to hang your food. There are plenty of black bears in the area.
Starting at Milepost 21 on Skyline Drive, at the highest point in the park, we spent 5 nights and 6 days of glorious backpacking in the North District of Shenandoah National Park. As we descended from the highest elevation in late April, you would have guessed by the state of the trees that it was still winter. As we hiked down through the life zones to our first camp along Overall Run, a nearly 2000+ foot elevation change, the seasons changed from winter to spring! Check out more on our blog on The Dyrt's Online Magazine about our experience in the Shenandoah's.
Some things to consider when backpacking in April:
- We needed every layer we brought, including winter hats, puffy jackets, and gloves. During the 6 days we were in the backcountry, we experienced everything from warm summer-like weather to chilly winter winds, both day and night.
- The creeks (runs) and springs are really flowing this time of year, with some nearly thigh deep. We didn’t see a single bridge, though there were a few creeks that had downed trees or make-shift rock crossings. Bring creek crossing shoes if you don’t want to get your feet wet, as well as trekking poles for stability. Some of the crossings are tricky and rather slippery.
- The black bears are awake and active! Be sure to hang your food or bring bear canisters. We not only saw bear scat all around, we saw an adorable black bear cub run off into the woods along the Piney Branch Trail. Never saw mama bear, but hoped that she was where the little one was heading.
- Ticks are out. While we didn’t see any deer ticks, we saw plenty of dog ticks. It’s a good idea to do regular tick checks before heading to bed and/or first thing in the morning.
- Gnats are hatching and abundant. While they don’t seem to bite, they are annoying and will find you whenever you stop moving. The west side seemed much worse than the east side for some reason.
- Campfires are not allowed, so bring enough fuel for cooking.
Night 1: Overall Run Camp: This is the third established site along the trail downhill from Overall Run Falls, near the junction of the Overall Run Trail and the Tuscarosa Trail. It has great water access in the spring, easy trail access, a small fire ring (though fires are not currently allowed in the park), and room for 2 backpacking tents. Not great “bear hang” options, but we found one down the trail a bit. Beautiful and serene with lots of sun and shade. Didn’t see another hiker the entire time we were there, as this spot is beyond where most day hikers turn around.
Nights 2 & 3: Jeremy Run Camp: This is the first established campsite on the Jeremy Run Trail, just above the creek. Easy trail and water access and room for 2-3 backpacking tents. There are decent bear hang options uphill from campsite, but a very public site as this is a popular trail for both day hikers and backpackers, with easy access (less than 1 mile) from the Appalachian Trail. Lots of sun and shade. Instead of moving camp on Day 3, we did a day hike up to Knob Mountain Summit and returned to Jeremy Run for the night. Given that this was the first backpacking trip of the year, this was a great way to ease our bodies into the elevation changes within this park.
Night 4: Thorton Run Camp: This site was the only option we saw along this trail, tucked between 2 creek crossings and about 4 miles from where the Thorton River Trail meets Skyline Drive. Lots of rocks, roots, and downed trees, so difficult to find space for more than 1 or 2 tents. Easy access from the trail, great creek access and good bear hang options in the area. Lots of sun, but not much shade.
Night 5: Piney Branch Camp: Just about ¼ mile downstream from the gorgeous Piney Branch Falls and very easy trail access, this was our favorite site of all, with spring springing all around us…leaves and flowering trees, wildflowers, fiddlehead ferns unfurling. Good creek access, though a bit steeper than the others, and some good bear hang options. Lots of sun and shade. Has an established firepit, but not in use due to fire ban.
We received this Primus Campfire Cookset for product testing as Rangers with the Dyrt. We've used it on our 2-burner propane stove in our adventure rig, over an open camp fire, and on our backcountry stove. We’ve had the same backcountry pot set for nearly 20 years and it’s held up well, but this one has some extra features which we like even better! We’ve made everything from soup to pasta to chili to omelets so far, and our creative “foodie juices” are flowing.
What we like about this product:
- The 2 nesting pots and sauté pan pack down to a nice size for both backpacking and sea kayak camping, and easily fit into their carry bag.
- Each pot has a different style of foldaway handle, unique to the size, weight, and use of the pot.
- The leather “tabs” on the lids/handle allow you to remove the lids without a pot grip or oven mitt.
- The largest pot is a 3L capacity. That’s a ton of capacity, so it works great for soup, pasta, and can easily feed a hungry group of 4.
- The sauté pan makes a great omelet pan! Eggs slide right off with just a bit of oil in the skillet.
- Everything is made out of durable stainless steel so it is easy to clean and should stay rust free for many years.
- The steam vents on the 2 pot lids are great for preventing boil-overs and for straining out liquid.
What could be improved:
- If the 3L pot lid was large enough to fit over the sauté pan, that would be a great addition as you could keep food warm while something else is still cooking.
- When out in the backcountry, everything you bring needs to be sturdy, and it’s great if it has a second use. The first time we used this set, a hole appeared in the bottom seam of the bag. It’s an easy fix with some needle and thread, but was disappointed that it wasn’t more robustly constructed. Also, if the bag was made out of something that would hold water, it could serve as a small wash bucket as well as a bag to keep the stack together.
- Include a set of pot insulators (or sell them separately), so that soup and pasta stay warm well after you’ve taken them off the fire during the colder months.
Product Video: https://youtu.be/euqTm-HuZbU