When campers think of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, they often think of Shenandoah National Park, an East Coast wonderland for its scenic Skyline Drive and its hiking, views, and waterfalls. But all too often, the surrounding area gets overlooked. Here’s why that’s a mistake.
The surrounding Shenandoah Valley, with its craggy mountains, rustic farmhouses and winding Shenandoah River, offers just as many of the same recreational opportunities without the price or crowds of the nearby park. Campers can take a float down the Shenandoah River, visit a lavender farm or farmer’s market, check out some famous caverns, or travel the region’s wine, whisky, and beer loops, all of this while avoiding the national park crowds by visiting Shenandoah Valley campgrounds.
Skip the National Park Crowds at These Shenandoah Valley Campgrounds
If you’re looking to enjoy the numerous campgrounds in the Shenandoah Valley, consider camping at some of these favorite campsites shared by The Dyrt campers. You can choose between quaint, off-the-beaten path campgrounds nestled in the woods, campgrounds that can rent out tubes or kayaks for a day on the river, or big, splashy family-friendly campgrounds with lots of amenities.
Shenandoah River State Park’s gentle, forested hills border nearly six miles of the lazy Shenandoah River. Campers can hook up their RVs at a campground near the parking area, or walk a short distance to ten primitive tent sites right next to their water. Wagons are provided to carry your things. Day users can enjoy the park’s large riverside picnic areas, hiking trails, and boat launches. That makes this park one of the most popular campgrounds in the Shenandoah Valley for kayakers, anglers and people looking to float down the river on tubes.
“This is a cool place to camp if you are just getting into backpacking or are just looking for an easy but primitive camp experience. The primitive tent sites are private, on the river and only a short hike from the parking area.” —The Dyrt camper Nathan D.
The Elizabeth Furnace was used in the 19th century to make pig iron (or, crude iron) with water from the Passage Creek. These days, the trout-filled creek gurgles through this family-friendly, Shenandoah Valley campground known for its hiking trails. The campsites are first-come, first-served, except for large groups who must make reservations ahead of time. It is tent-only. Some of the amenities like the flush toilets and the warm showers are seasonal.
“Great campground with tons of trails for awesome hiking. Different levels, easy to tough.” —The Dyrt camper Kristy B.
This Shenandoah Valley campground is located minutes from Shenandoah National Park, with easy highway access. The Dyrt campers call it “cozy” because the sites are nestled among the trees near a creek with a fantastic swimming hole. Pets are allowed on leash.
“Gooney’s is run by a lovely woman named Pam. She went out of her way to make our camping trip a success. we landed the prime spot all the way at the back of the campsite, nearest to the swimming hole.” —The Dyrt camper Deanna S.
This is one of many family-friendly Shenandoah Valley campgrounds. There are 57 tent sites and three cabins available from April to November. There are some electric hook-ups as well. Sites like the Luray Caverns and, of course, Skyline Drive are a short drive away, but there’s plenty to do on-site, like fishing and enjoying the river. The campground rents out kayaks, canoes and tubes.
“I love this place. I’ve been going several times a year for 3 years… The owners are great and are happy to shuttle you up river with your tubes. Super convenient since you get off the river at your campsite after a 3-4 hour float.” —The Dyrt camper Crystal M.
Located in the heart of Shenandoah Valley near prime hiking in Shenandoah National Park and George Washington National Forest, this campground doubles as a river outfitter. You can rent canoes, kayaks and tubes to float. Other facilities include hot water showers, firewood for sale, and a small camp store. Unfortunately, the sites aren’t set up for RVs, but there are plenty of tent sites a short walk from the river.
“I really liked this campground. Everything was clean and very well maintained, and the sites were actually pretty large.” —The Dyrt camper Katy R.
This is the place to go if you have kids with lots of energy. The Dyrt campers call it “family glamping.” A “camp-resort” on 73 rolling, wooded acres near the water, Jellystone has plenty of space for tent and RV campers. It has a water amusement park with a 400-foot water slide and a splash zone. Other activities include on-site mini golf, gem mining experience, arcade, pedal boats, fishing pond, two jumping pillows, daytime and nighttime laser tag in the woods, outdoor sports, and playgrounds.
“Yogi Bear’s had so many activities the weekend we were camping. Our boys loved it. There was a dance party with Yogi Bear and his ‘birthday’ celebration the next day with face painting and a piñata. We usually do state park camping but this was a fun switch up for us and the kids still remember all the activities offered.” —The Dyrt camper Lanie B.
7. Luray KOA
This Shenandoah Valley campground is close to all the important sights, including the Luray Caverns, but has an off-the-beaten path vibe. Part of that quaintness might come from the cow pastures right next door. There are sites for tents and for RV campers. There are two seasonal pools and a large dog park. Campers on The Dyrt love this place for its comfort.
“The feel of the campground was that of a country cottage and the friendly owners echoed the same hometown feel. It felt like someone was welcoming you to stay with them at a B&B of sorts designed for RV Campers.” —The Dyrt camper Crystal C.
Located at the end of a picturesque four-mile drive from the main road, this site offers the most big-city convenience of all the Shenandoah Valley campgrounds. It’s big-rig and tent-friendly, but those might be the only places you’ll feel isolated at this campground: you can even get pizza delivered to your site! Head into Harrisonburg for some good beer at one the charming town’s many breweries or take a stroll in its historic downtown. You can also lace up on your hiking boots for some trails nearby. The Dyrt campers recommend Crab Tree Falls.
“The most interesting part about it is that there are bunnies running around everywhere. There is also a river to play in, tube down, or fish in.” —The Dyrt camper Sam M.
Made up of more than six miles of beautifully-carved natural limestone tunnels in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this is one of many cavern-related Shenandoah Valley campgrounds. What makes this unique, however, is the chance for campers to beat the crowds at larger caverns and stay right on-site at the Endless Caverns—campers who book at least one night receive a discount on a guided tour. The campground is big-rig friendly, though reservations for such are recommended. There’s a small pool on-site and plenty of other activities nearby.
“While there, we went to a little Mexican restaurant in town which was good. Also went to Natural Bridge wildlife safari and zoo, mini golf on a rainy day, and hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Nice area, close to the blue ridge Mts. I’d return.” —The Dyrt camper Regina C.
- Shenandoah Crossing Campground, Gordonsville, VA