Overall, it's a decent campground. There are a few trails encompassing and leading out from the campground, and it's nice to have a central location from which you can out on small hikes. It is also more central to the northern region of the park and is a good stopping place in that aspect.
A few things that left me wanting was the large line of cars at the entrance to the campground, as I did not have a reservation, and a bit of inefficiency in getting campers set up in this aspect. I think I waited around 30-45 minutes to get a spot when I went on a Friday in early October. Also, the bathrooms at the campground that I used only have one stall and one urinal, so it was hectic when multiple people needed to go.
Otherwise, the long slab of pavement at each campsite and especially the food storage locker were very positive aspects of the campground.
Arrived after 8 pm on a Friday evening, and was pleasantly surprised that park rangers were still manning check-in process as it was close to filling up. He gave us his best option left for a small tent. Site was quite open to HC accessible adjacent sites and had a bit of light trespass from the restrooms. Can't complain for a last minute trip!
Great site. Cement parking area and tent site is designated with log surround. Clean and airy.
What do I love about Mathews Arm Campground in Shenandoah National Park? So many things!
- The simplicity of a national park setting: no frills in a beautiful setting.
- Generator-free area: No generators are allowed in parts of the A and B sections.
- Non-reservable sites! This makes it easier to travel without a plan other than arriving early at a campground. The entire A section (A1-A116) and a small part of C (C143-C145) cannot be reserved. Sites in B (B117-B141), the rest of C (C146-C164), and D (group sites D165-D167) can be reserved.
- $15 price: Our Lifetime Senior Pass cuts that in half (and covers the park admission fee).
- Hiking! You can hike to Overall Run Falls from a trail in the parking lot near the campground and turn this into a loop hike by returning a different way. The ranger at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center near the Front Royal (North) Entrance Station was extremely helpful. We told her we planned to try 3 of the 4 campgrounds as we drove north to south on Skyline Drive and wanted hiking recommendations. There are 15 separate maps with multiple hikes in each, and we left with several of those marked up by the ranger. We also hiked the Stony Man loop on the way to our next stop at Big Meadows; the 180+ degree view while standing up on top of the rocks was spectacular.
- It's quiet! People don't come to national park campgrounds to party. They come to see the sights and hike. They're tired at night and don't make a lot of noise.
I guess that's enough.
- Sites are large but many are lined up right next to each other. I recommend staying away from A72 to the end of A. They're lined up too closely for my taste, and there isn't much shade.
- I liked our site A55 and thought A56-A61 were nice sites. When we entered a sparsely populated park in mid-afternoon on a Monday in October, those sites were already taken. By evening, the park was half full. Arrive early in the day if you don't have a reservation, especially later in the week.
- Bathrooms are adequate. There is potable water and a utility sink near the bathrooms, but there are no showers. The closest (coin-operated) showers are about 30 miles south at Big Meadows Campground, the next campground on Skyline Drive. Bathrooms are newer/nicer at Big Meadows and Loft Mountain.
- Trash disposal, ash disposal and recycling bins are available.
- Some sites have food storage lockers. Google reviews indicated park rangers insist you keep all food in a locker, camper or vehicle and you can be fined if you don't. Apparently, bears recognize coolers so you should cover them up in vehicles. (I also heard this at Rocky Mountain NP.)
- There's no store at the campground, but there's one a couple miles south on Skyline Drive.
We towed a boat ( not used here - we drove across country) and had plenty of room for a tent too so you can pull a trailer if you like. The pull in area was paved and behind it was a nice flat tent area. Our truck has a converted area in the back with a shell on top and carpeting inside converting to a bed so we slept there ( nice to get away from insects). Our dog was along and slept in his kennel. A mile or 2 away was a store selling a variety of camping supplies. It also had a small cafe so you could order food and drinks. The firewood they sold was too wet to use so I dont suggest buying it. The campground itself was quiet and peaceful and located in a deciduous forest. A deer kept running through the camp area and there were many birds. Each site came with a metal standard table and bench style seating as well as a fire pit with a metal ring. The bathrooms were well equipped and worked fine although the light was broken at the womens so you need a flashlight at night. There are no showers at this campground. The water is fully drinkable at the bathroom/fountains etc. There is a beautiful trail leading to the largest waterfall in the park called Overall runs trail. It is 5.1miles round trip (out and back trail). Its considered moderately steep meaning challenging for an unconditioned person and the trail has a steady incline. The overall elevation gain is 1291 ft. Wear hiking or exercise shoes but there is no bouldering or pull yourself up areas. In case of rain it can likely be slippery so be careful. You will probably encounter a small stream of water near the trail and in rain season possibly cross an area that could be wet. We went in the summer so it was dried out. We saw some people come back in bathing suits although the spring stream isnt very deep but maybe with more exploration there could be deeper areas. Its really beautiful among deciduous trees and stunning greenery and the waterfall view gives you a view of the valley as well. If you want a shorter hike, you can circle the camp ground in traces trail hike. Its considered an easy 1.7 mile with very little if any elevation change. These both trails do connect with other trails if you want to hike further. For camping - there are bears here so you need to bear proof any food or item that smells. Keep it in your car. We saw multiple bears in the park. There are also a lot of mosquitos as well as no seems and biting flies. We used insectshield clothing but deet or similar are options if you dont want to get bit. The store sold a netting you can use over your head. Even the dog preferred to restraining his head to getting his ears bit like crazy. It's a good place to explore Shenandoah national park from. Its nice your leashed dog is welcome almost everywhere ( not inside buildings etc and not on all trails).
Make sure not to leave food unattended (even if just for 5 minutes) as I almost received a heavy fine. Other than that, this is a nice campsite for families. Bathrooms were clean and dish washing stations were also present
Skyline Drive is amazing in itself with it's vast national Forest and wildlife that reside within. Mathew Arm is one of the first campgrounds that will encounter on your 130 mile drive through Skyline Drive. You only pay 15 dollars a night, the staff is super friendly, and you get a front row set to all the wild life action your heart can handle. Also the campground houses a trail that leads to a 100 foot waterfall.
Loved the trails. Lots of beautiful foliage and varying levels of intensity.
The Northern most campground in shenandoah. No showers but toilets and running water. great access to trails on most sides of the campground. Overall run falls is a great hike and the trailhead starts in the back of the park. fills up fast on the weekends. you may want to call ahead.
the info on this site is wrong regarding showers and drinking water. there are no showers but there is drinking water.
Have you ever gone exploring in the woods by your house, well this place is even more secluded from being in dense woods at your site to being able to go off on you own