The history of Virginia’s people, from indigenous communities to the first British colonists, has always been tied to the richness and diversity of its environment. Camping in Virginia today can offer a respite from the grind, and meaningful connection with the state’s natural resources—as well as an opportunity connect with the ones you love. Imagine spotting a family of deer in Shenandoah National Park while sipping coffee with friends, or sharing a sunrise with wild ponies in Grayson Highlands.

When you stay at campgrounds in Virginia, you have the chance to immerse yourself in the Virginia of the past and the present—and share a special experience with those who join you, whether that’s fellow campers or the local wildlife.

The Best Campgrounds in Virginia, According to The Dyrt Campers

The Dyrt’s campground reviewers share some of Virginia’s most famous campgrounds, along with their insider tips.

1. Comfortable Camping on the Skyline Drive: Big Meadows Campground

sun rays peering through the clouds over big meadows

Image from The Dyrt camper Caren L.

This is “glamping”. . . but with more bears. Big Meadows Campground—the most popular campground in Shenandoah National Park—offers hundreds of sites with easy access to hikes, including the nearby Appalachian Trail. You can spot wildlife like deer, bears, and owls from your tent. Located in the middle of Skyline Drive, this Virginia campground is also a good jumping-off point for exploring the rest of the park. The amenities are top-notch, in particular because of the proximity to stores and restaurants like the Big Meadows Lodge.

“Great centrally located campground on Skyline Drive. Staff was super friendly, animals are too (we saw 10 bear in 3 days 😊). Bathrooms were nice and clean. Can’t wait to go back again.” —The Dyrt camper Shannon S.

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2. Backpacking near Wild Ponies: Grayson Highlands State Park

pony grazes on grass in grayson highlands on a clear day

Image from The Dyrt camper Caroline G.

Nestled among the alpine-like peaks of Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain in southern Virginia, Grayson Highlands State Park is a favorite among Virginians because of its scenic views, access to hiking, and beauty in all four seasons. And, of course, because of the wild ponies who roam the hills. For the equestrians out there, the park even includes a horse camping area and horse trails.

“Wild ponies, endless blueberries, spectacular view of wildflowers make this one of my go to spots to introduce someone to backpacking.” —The Dyrt camper Michael B.

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3. A Quiet, Pet-Friendly Beach: First Landing State Park

dog stands at alert at the first landing beach in virginia

Image from The Dyrt camper Kristy B.

This Virginia campground brings you the beach and the waves of the Chesapeake Bay, without the urban crowdedness of nearby Virginia Beach. Campers can find mostly secluded tent and RV sites among the woods of First Landing State Park—just a short walk from the beach. Longer hiking trails through the forest and the marshes nearby are also accessible, bringing you close to a rarely-seen side of Virginia. Other activities include fishing and kayaking. Plus it’s pet-friendly!

“The variety of activities within the Park, including Ranger led activities, along with easy access to the Virginia Beach boardwalk via the local bus system, biking, or personal vehicle, make this State Park the only place we stay in VaBeach. We love this Park so much we have volunteered as Camp Hosts for eleven years❤️” —The Dyrt camper Janet P.

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4. Water Sport Fun: Smith Mountain Lake State Park

green trees reflect on a cove in smith mountain state park

Image from The Dyrt camper Diane D.

Smith Mountain Lake State Park is the place for inland water-lovers. Visitors can go swimming, boating, kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing. There are various places to stay around the lake, including comfortable cabins and a state campground with 25 tent and 24 RV sites. Half the tent sites are reservable, while the other half are available on a first come, first served basis. Families get a multi-day beach pass with their camping reservation.

Huge lake with tons of outdoor activities (trails for running/walking, boating activities, kayaking). There is a cool brewery nearby (Sunken City Brewery). ” —The Dyrt camper Daniel P.

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5. Historic Destination: Douthat State Park

two mountain bikes rest near an overlook at douthat state park

Image from The Dyrt camper Robyn S.

Nestled among Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains, Douthat State Park offers some of the most scenic views in the state. A 50-acre lake offers swimming and boating, and there is ample hiking and mountain biking. It’s a great place for history buffs as well as adventure lovers. Part of the original six Virginia state parks that opened in 1936, Douthat is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s a short drive to other historical sites, including the quaint town of Lexington with rich Civil War history.

Douthat is amazing! There are three camping loops here but we love to stay in the white oak loop which is secluded and the majority of the sites have the creek on the back side of your site. My children love to go down in the creek and skip rocks, play in the water, and catch crawfish.” —The Dyrt camper Amanda C.

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Camille von Kaenel

Camille von Kaenel

Camille von Kaenel was born in Switzerland, grown in California and raised by mountains. She is a journalist interested in the relationships between the environment and humans and previously covered climate change policy in Washington, D.C. Find her most happy reading in a hammock near a body of water after a full day of hiking and climbing.