Shenandoah National Park, located in western Virginia, is one of America’s most iconic National Parks. The Blue Ridge mountains create a stunning backdrop for the incredible Skyline Drive, a 105-mile roadway that runs through Shenandoah National Park. We think the best way to experience everything that Shenandoah has to offer is to spend a few nights in your tent or RV where you’ll experience this beautiful part of the country first hand.
Shenandoah National Park and the surrounding areas have plenty of options for camping from the five campgrounds located within the park to an abundance of backcountry camping options and plenty of nearby campgrounds only a short drive from the National Park.
Keep reading to get all the details to plan your perfect camping trip in Shenandoah National Park.
In this Post
- Shenandoah National Park Campgrounds
- Shenandoah National Park Camping Must Know
- Camping near Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park Campgrounds
The first step in planning your perfect camping trip in Shenandoah is to first understand a bit about the geography of the park. Shenandoah National Park is over 105 miles long, but quite narrow across. Skyline Drive runs the length or the park and is used to access the majority of campgrounds and trailheads within the park.
As such, most destinations within Shenandoah will have their location given by the mile marker they are located at along Skyline Drive. The mile markers begin at the northern entrance station at Front Royal (mile 0) and finish at mile 105 at the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station located at the southern end of the park.
In between these two points you’ll have several options for camping within Shenandoah National Park. The five campgrounds within the national park provide plenty of options for everything from RV camping to secluded car camping, while over 500 miles of hiking trails provide endless opportunities for the adventurous to enjoy backcountry camping in Shenandoah.
The map below gives you a general sense of where each of the campgrounds are located in Shenandoah National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area.
All of the campgrounds within Shenandoah National Park are open seasonally beginning in the late-Spring through the late-Fall. This typically means that you can expect campgrounds to open in late-April or early-May and stay open through the end of October or early-November.
Reservations & Permits
Reservations for campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park are only required for the Dundo Group Campground. However, we highly recommend making reservations for any of the campgrounds you hope to stay at during the peak summer season, and especially on weekends. The exception to this is the Lewis Mountain Campground, which does not accept reservations.
To make a reservation for the Mathews Arm, Big Meadows, Loft Mountain, or Dundo Group Campgrounds you’ll need to visit the Recreation.gov website, which manages campground reservations for the National Park Service.
It is important to know that even if you don’t have a reservation in peak season you can still find a campground in Shenandoah. All of the campgrounds within the national park (with the exception of the Dundo Group Campground) have a small number of first come, first served campsites available. These can be a lifesaver when you plan a last minute camping trip to Shenandoah!
For those who are exploring the vast trail network and plan to spend a night (or two) at a backcountry campsite in Shenandoah National Park you’ll need to get obtain a backcountry permit. The permit is free and can be obtained at one of the self-registration stations located throughout the park or through the Shenandoah’s online permit system.
What to bring on your Shenandoah National Park Camping trip
Preparing for your Shenandoah National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.
- Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for whipping up classic campsite dinners.
- Tick repellent– Ticks are common throughout Shenandoah, and while it is always a good idea to wear long pants, this tick repellent from Ben’s is worth applying when out hiking or camping.
- Portable water container – Save yourself the countless trips to the water tap and bring one of these.
- Cooler – The hot summer temperatures make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
- Shenandoah National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
- Shenandoah Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Shenandoah. We like this hiking guide from Falcon Guides.
Car camping sites in Shenandoah National Park
There are five options for those looking to car camp in Shenandoah National Park. These campgrounds are spread throughout the park and give plenty of options for those looking to explore different areas of Shenandoah. Details for all five campgrounds are below.
Mathews Arm Campground (mile 22.1)
Number of Sites: 161 individual (up to 6 people) and 3 group sites (up to 25 people)
Mile marker: 22.1
Fee: $15/night for individual sites, $50/night for group sites
RVs: Yes. No electric or water hookups available.
Click Here to Reserve
The Mathews Arm Campground is the most northern campground in Shenandoah National Park, just 22.1 miles from the Front Royal Entrance Station. This is a great place to spend the night before visiting Overall Run Falls, as the campground is short distance from the main trail leading to this spectacular waterfall.
Matthews Arms has 161 individual campsites which can accommodate up to 6 people and two cars in addition to three group sites, which can accommodate up to 25 people each. The campground has a significant number of campsites that are first-come, first-first served, making this a great option for those without reservations.
The campground has five public restrooms, plenty of potable water spigots, utility sinks for cleaning up, and an RV dump station. The Traces Trail can be accessed directly from the campground, making for a lovely walk directly from your campsite.
Big Meadows Campground (mile 51.2)
Number of Sites: 222 individual (up to 6 people) and 2 group sites (up to 15 people)
Mile marker: 51.2
Fee: $20/night for individual sites, $45/night for group sites
RVs: Yes. There is a dump station, but no electric or water hookups available.
Click Here to Reserve
The Big Meadows Campground is centrally located in Shenandoah National Park, and is located at mile marker 51.2. The campground is well situated and makes for a perfect place to camp before visiting Dark Hollow Falls, Lewis Falls, or the Fisher’s Gap overlook. The Appalachian Trail pass just north of the campground, so you can expect to see a few through hikers!
Big Meadows has 222 individual campsites and 2 group sites, which can accommodate up to 15 people. Most of the campgrounds at Big Meadows require a reservation, although there are still several that are always available on a first-come, first served basis. Big Meadows Campground also has a number of ‘walk-in’ campsites where you’ll park your car and then carry your camping gear to your site. These offer a bit more privacy and are a great option for those looking for more solitude and a true wilderness experience.
The campground has nine restrooms, plenty of water spigots, showers, laundry, firewood for sale, and an ice machine. There is also a dump station for those traveling in an RV.
Lewis Mountain Campground (mile 57.5)
Number of Sites: 30 individual sites
Mile marker: 57.5
RVs: Yes. No dump station, water or electric hookups available.
No reservations accepted
Lewis Mountain Campground is the smallest campground in Shenandoah National Park, and is located just off the Appalachian Trail at mile marker 57.5. The campground is well located for those looking to do a bit of hiking on the AT, hiking to South River Falls, or visiting the ruins of the Upper Pocosin Mission.
Lewis Mountain Campground only has 30 campsites, and they are spaced relatively close together. This can cause the campground to feel a bit noisy and crowded despite its small size. Facilities include restrooms, water spigots, showers, firewood for sale, and an ice machine. There is no dump station available for RVs.
Loft Mountain Campground (mile 79.5)
The Loft Mountain Campground is perennially a favorite among campers in Shenandoah National Park. Although one of the largest in the park many of the campsites feel very private and the views looking out over the Blue Ridge Mountains are truly spectacular! The site is located at mile marker 79.5, making it a great option for those coming from the southern entrance station at Rockfish Gap.
Loft Mountain features 207 campsites, most of which are available on a first-come, first served basis. The campground has five restrooms, which can feel a bit crowded given the size of the campground, plenty of water spigots, showers, and a camp store selling essentials. The edges of the campground feature several tent only campsites which are a good option to get a bit more privacy. Nearby hikes include the Blackrock Summit hike and Doyles River Falls.
Given the popularity of the Loft Mountain Campground, reservations are recommended during peak summer weekends. If you don’t have a reservation be sure to arrive as early as possible to give yourself the best change to secure a campsite.
Dundo Group Campground (mile 83.7)
The Dundo Group Campground in Shenandoah National Park is exclusively for groups, with each of the three campsites accommodating between 7-20 people. Although a group campground, the fact that there are only three campsites makes this a pleasant place to spend the night. The campground is located at mile 83.7 and is close to many of the highlights of the southern section of Shenandoah such as Blackrock Summit and Sawmill Run Overlook.
Given that there are only three campsites and the Dundo Group Campground, all sites must be reserved in advance.
It is also important to note that there are no RVs allowed at Dundo, so if you’re traveling in your RV you’ll need to camp at one of the other campgrounds in Shenandoah.
Backcountry campsites in Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is a backcountry campers dream. The park features over 500 miles of trails that wind their way throughout this stunning landscape and provide countless options for your perfect backpacking trip. However, there are some rules and regulations you’ll need to keep in mind as you plan your backcountry camping trip in Shenandoah National Park, outlined below.
Backcountry Camping Permits
All backcountry campers in Shenandoah National Park are required to obtain a free permit before starting their trip. This can be done at one of the eight self-registration stations conveniently located throughout the park. You can also obtain a permit through the National Park Service’s online permit system for Shenandoah, accessible here.
Regardless of where you obtain your permit you’ll need to have the following details:
- Trip leader name and contact information
- Itinerary including planned stopping points for each day
- Number of people in your group
- Number of nights at each campsite
- Planned start and finish date
Where to camp in the Shenandoah backcountry
Unlike many National Parks, Shenandoah does not have designated backcountry campsites. Rather, the NPS recommends that backcountry hikers camp at obvious campsites which have been developed by previous users. These should be fairly obvious on the trail as you’ll generally be able to see where tents have been placed, logs arranged for seating, etc.
Regardless of where you decide to pitch your tent you’ll need to be at least 1/4 mile from the nearest road, and avoid close proximity to water sources, other campers, structures, and trails.
In addition to mapping out a successful itinerary it is imperative to carry a detailed map and know how to navigate utilizing a map and compass. We highly recommend bringing a copy of the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Topo Map for Shenandoah National Park on any backpacking trip in Shenandoah.
Additionally, trekkers need to be prepared to treat their own water. We recommend bringing a small, packable filter like the Sawyer Squeeze.
Planning your Itinerary
The expansive trail network in Shenandoah can make planning a backcountry camping trip seem a bit overwhelming. If you’re not familiar with the National Park it can be difficult to know how to start even thinking about what a good itinerary might be. Luckily, the National Park Service has put together comprehensive list of backcountry camping itineraries in Shenandoah. Check it out below.
Leave No Trace
Given the sensitive ecosystem of Shenandoah National Park it is essential that you practice Leave No Trace principles when backpacking in the National Park. This includes packing out all of your own trash and property disposing of your waste. Fires are not permitted in the backcountry.
Properly storing your food is also essential as bears and other wildlife are common throughout the National Park. We recommend bringing a bear canister for any trip into the backcountry.
Shenandoah National Park Camping Must Know
The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Shenandoah National Park.
Campfires in Shenandoah
Fires are generally allowed at each of the five campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park. The fire must be contained within the provided fire pit/grate and should not be left unattended. It is also important to ensure that any wood you bring into the park is properly sourced, as firewood can introduce invasive pests that can cause irreparable damage.
Campfires are not allowed in the backcountry of Shenandoah, so if you’re planning a backpacking trip be sure to bring a camp stove.
A wide variety of wildlife calls Shenandoah National Park home. For campers in the park there are a few you’ll want to be especially aware of. These include:
- Black bears: Be sure to properly store your food in either the park provided bear bins or in a bear canister. This is especially important for backcountry campers in Shenandoah.
- Snakes: Shenandoah is home to a diversity of snake species. Most of these are non-venomous and all of them are likely to try and avoid contact with visitors. However, there are several venomous snakes including timber rattlesnakes in the park. Be aware of your surroundings and always keep an eye out!
- Birds: The stunning landscapes of Shenandoah make a perfect habitat for several species of birds to thrive. Keep an eye out for the stunning peregrine falcon and the elusive scarlet tanager.
For those camping, you’ll primarily want to be vigilant about keeping food properly stored and keeping a close eye out for snakes.
If you’ve spent much time in National Parks you’ll know that pets are typically not permitted on any of the trails. Shenandoah is one of the few exceptions, and you are welcome to bring your pets along on your Shenandoah National Park camping trip.
Pets are permitted in all of the campgrounds within the park, as well as on backcountry camping trips. However, there are several trails where pets are not allowed, and the National Park Services lists those here.
If you do plan to bring your pet on a camping trip in Shenandoah, keep these regulations in mind:
- Pets must be on a leash at all time. This includes at the campgrounds.
- Please pick up your pet waste. Do not bag it and leave it on the side of the trail.
- Always practice Leave No Trace principles.
Where to get supplies
Given the length of Shenandoah National Park the best place to get camping supplies is highly dependent on where in the park you are camping. Our recommendations for each section are listed below:
- Northern section (Matthews Arm Campground)
- Front Royal, Virginia: The northern gateway town to Shenandoah, Front Royal has all the essentials you’ll need to stock up for your camping trip including a grocery store, outdoor store, liquor store, and gas stations.
- Elkwallow Wayside: This small eatery is located at mile 24.1 on Skyline Drive. You’ll be able to pick up some basic groceries, camping supplies, and even takeout food here.
- Middle section (Big Meadows Campground, Lewis Mountain Campground)
- Luray, Virginia: Luray is smaller than some of the other towns near Shenandoah, but you’ll still find a grocery store, gas station, and outdoor store.
- Big Meadows Wayside: Larger than Elkwallow Wayside, Big Meadows (mile 51.2) stocks basic groceries, camping and hiking supplies, has a small restaurant, and also sells gas and diesel.
- Southern section (Loft Mountain Campground, Dundo Group Campground)
- Waynesboro, Virginia: Waynesboro is near the southern entrance to Shenandoah and has gas stations, groceries stores, and an outdoor shop.
- Loft Mountain Wayside: Similar to the other options in the park, you’ll be able to get simple groceries, some camping essentials, in addition to the small restaurant on site.
Camping near Shenandoah National Park
Given the popularity and scarcity of options, it is always possible that you won’t be able to find a campground within Shenandoah National Park. However, don’t give up as there are plentiful camping options just outside the National Park boundary! Check out your best options below:
RV campgrounds near Shenandoah National Park
Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Shenandoah National Park. The best option for you will depend on which section of the park you’re planning to explore, and we’ve provided RV campgrounds near the northern, central, and southern sections of Shenandoah below.
Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $40 – $45/night depending on electricity hookup size.
Capacity: Prices are for two people. Extra guests are $5/night. Kids 16 and under free
Reservations: Required. Visit website here or call (540) 636-6192
Twin Rivers Campground is located north of Shenandoah in Front Royal, VA. A short drive from the Front Royal Entrance Station, this is the perfect place to camp if you’re looking to explore the northern section of the park. The campground features electricity hookups at every site, and river front access to the Shenandoah River.
Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: Varies depending on size of RV and hookups required.
Capacity: No stated limit.
RVs: Yes, up to 70′.
The KOA Luray Campground is located just north of the town of Luray, VA. From here, it is an approximate 20 minute drive to the Thornton Gap Entrance Station. The Luray KOA can accommodate RVs up to 70′ in length and provides guests with access to WiFi, a dog park, snack bar, and pool.
Misty Mountain Camp Report is located south of Shenandoah National Park in Greenwood, VA. The campground is located just 10 minutes from the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station, providing excellent access to the southern section of Shenandoah. Misty Mountain can accommodate all types of RVs and also has tent sites and cabin rentals. Guests staying at the RV campground get access to tons of amenities including WiFi, a swimming pool, fishing pond, and multiple playgrounds. See their full list of amenities here.
Car camping sites near Shenandoah National Park
If you’re looking for car camping sites near Shenandoah National Park you’ll have a few good options to choose from. In addition to the campgrounds listed below, car camping is permitted and recommend at all of the campgrounds listed in the RV camping section above. Keep reading below to see what your best bets are for car camping near Shenandoah.
Number of Sites: 71 sites
Fee: $25 – $46/night depending on hookups and residency. More info here.
Capacity: 6 people per campsite
RVs: Yes, up to 60′.
Reservations: Recommended. Half of the site are also available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Shenandoah River State Park is a true gem that offers abundant camping options just outside of the National Park. This campground is perfect for those looking to avoid the feel of an RV park and also gives access to the beautiful Shenandoah River. The campground is open year round and offers sites with electric and water hookups, tent-only sites, restrooms with showers, and each site also features a fire ring.
This is a great campground for those traveling with their family.
Number of Sites: 35 sites
Capacity: None stated.
Reservations: All sites are first-come, first served.
The Elizabeth Furnace Family Campground is located near the northern entrance to Shenandoah National Park in the adjacent George Washington National Forest. The campground features 35 sites that can accommodate tents and smaller RVs. All of the campsites are first-come, first-served, so be sure to get there early in the day if you’re hoping to snag a spot.
The campground features vault-toilets (flush toilets and showers available during warmer months) and a water source. Alcoholic drinks are prohibited at this family campground.
Dispersed campsites near Shenandoah National Park
Your final option for camping near Shenandoah National Park is to find a free, dispersed campsite in the adjacent George Washington National Forest. This national forest is overseen by the Forest Service/BLM which manages hundreds of thousands of acres of public land throughout the country and generally allows for ‘dispersed camping’ on it. You can find more information on dispersed camping on BLM land here.
Crisman Hollow Dispersed Camping
Located to the west of Luray, Crisman Hollow Road (also known as Forest Service Road 724) offers some excellent dispersed camping in George Washington National Forest. Many of the campsites are located along Passage Creek and have fire rings.
Freecampsites.net also has good information on Crisman Hollow Dispersed Camping.
Slate Lick Fields Dispersed Camping
Located north-west of Harrisonburg, VA the Slate Lick Fields offer great dispersed camping near Shenandoah National Park. The campsites are located along Hog Pen Road and directions can be found here. Keep in mind there is not a good water source here, so you’ll need to bring plenty of drinking water with you.
BLM regulations on dispersed camping allow you to camp for up to 14 days in a 28 day period, so be sure to observe that limit at both of the sites above.
It is especially important to practice Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping.
Have a great trip!
That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Shenandoah National Park in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!