RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Whether it’s to tell ghost stories around a fire, take a peep at changing leaves or spend time giving thanks with loved ones, fall is a great season for camping in Virginia.
Melissa Baker with Virginia State Parks said Virginia doesn’t have a bad park for fall foliage. Starting in October, the leaves start changing in Southwest Virginia and provide the chance for awesome views, while Virginia’s lakes and waterfronts are still fun to explore. As the fall season progresses, those orange and red leaves can be seen all over the state.
Baker said that there is still plenty of availability for people to book their fall trip to a Virginia state park. Many of the state park campgrounds offer what you need for tent camping as well as the basics like electric hookups for RV camping. Baker also describes many of the campsites as a “rustic experience.”
“I think there’s a role for everyone in camping,” Baker said.
For those that are interested in branching out beyond state parks, there are private campgrounds or destinations on websites like Hipcamp for different camping options.
As for Hipcamp, it allows people to participate in a “share economy” of campsites. Just like Airbnb or Uber, people rent their own properties and services. The campsites can range from a spot on someone’s farm to glamping locations like cabins and yurts to more traditional clearings in the woods. As with any online booking, it’s important to read reviews and make sure the spot is right for you.
Private businesses more tailored to RV camping may offer additional amenities or more activities like mini-golf or paths for golf carts. And for adventurous Virginians, there are plenty of opportunities to trek out into the backcountry. The Appalachian Trail has a huge variety of spots and shelters for hikers to set up camp for the night.
So which destination is the best? There are a variety of “best” options depending on what campers are looking for when they venture into the woods. 8News compiled a list of campgrounds, state parks and more that offer something for everyone looking for a place to stay this fall.
Western and Southwest Virginia
- Visitors to this national park can explore over 200,000 acres of wildlife. The park boasts thick forests, two mountain peaks exceeding 4,000 feet and plenty of interesting animals and plants. People can venture out into the backcountry and make camp on the trail anytime of the year or check out one of the park’s five campgrounds:
- Mathews Arm Campground: Closes for the season on Nov. 1
- Lewis Mountain Campground: Closes for the season on Nov. 1
- Hop on the Appalachian Trail or Virginia Creeper trail in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area for some great fall hikes and views. The recreation area boasts a number of a campsites, a couple of which are open through the fall:
- For people who want to enjoy one of Virginia’s lakes as well as beautiful mountains they can check out Douthat State Park. A fall favorite, the park has cabins, lodges, tent camping and RV camping. Anyone staying overnight can launch their boat for free. The Department of Conservation and Recreation has a full list of the camping options online.
- Two words… wild ponies! The stunning Grayson Highlands State Park offers people the chance to spot both wild horses while out hiking and pet horses along the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail. There are breathtaking views at plenty of overlooks and hikers can go further and access the Appalachian Trail from this park. Most of the campground’s more glamorous options like yurts and cabins are rented through October but you can primitive camp there through the month of November. The Department of Conservation and Recreation lays out all of the options and seasons online.
Nestled in Buckingham County between Lynchburg and Charlottesville, James River State Park boasts river views and rolling hills. The park has three miles of riverbank and plenty of places for people to explore on land or on the water. There are camping options for everyone, you can either book a cabin, lodge, tent campsite, RV site or equestrian campsite. Reservations should be made ahead of time on the DCR website.
Bear Creek Lake State Park in Cumberland is great for fall as well as summer. During the cooler months, people can venture out onto the lake in a canoe, play on the playgrounds, test their skills on an archery range or hike and bike through the Cumberland State Forest. People can book a cabin, lodge, RV campsite or tent campsite on the DCR website.
Looking for something a little less rustic and little more spooky? Or maybe even a chance to go do something festive in November? There is a KOA campground right beside Kings Dominion in Hanover County. They have cabins, RV campsites and tent sites. During the weekends in October you can check out Halloween Haunt and starting in late November you can go to Winterfest. As always there are plenty of things to do in Richmond and its surrounding areas whether you’re looking for something outdoorsy or indoorsy.
Looking to test out your backpacking skills for the first time? Or maybe you’re just great at packing light? This state park might be right for you. Just a one-mile hike brings you to primitive camping spots at Sky Meadows State Park. There are over 20 miles of trail within the park and access to the Appalachian Trail from the park. There is also plenty of trails for horseback riders. There are even nature and history programs offered throughout the year. Book your campsite ahead of time through the DCR.
This backyard campsite works for people with tents, vans, campers or trailers. This Hipcamp listing is near Top Hill, Virginia and the Shenandoah River. All of the reviews listed on the Hipcamp website recommend the campground and give it a thumbs up. While there you can venture out to an Appalachian Trail access point or stay in and check out their small farm. You can even add fresh eggs, a peacock feather or a chicken feeding experience to your booking. This spot may be best for people with an RV or something similar as no water or toilet is included on the listing.
This national forest is located not too far from the hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. near Dumfries and Quantico. There are hiking trails, paved and gravel roads for biking, man-made lakes and natural streams for fishing, and wildlife watching. There are over 60 tent and RV campsites open through November, a campground with large group sites open year-round. Most reservations can be made on Recreation.gov.
Eastern and Southern Virginia
For many Virginians, there is never a bad season to head to the beach. First Landing State Park has 20 miles of trails and over a mile of beach on the Chesapeake Bay. This park is rich in history and wildlife while still being close to everything the City of Virginia Beach has to offer. Campers can rent a cabin, pitch a tent, rent a yurt for a unique stay or bring their RV. Bookings are done through the DCR.
This Hipcamp site is tucked away in the woods in Zuni, Virginia. You drive down a sand road just to reach the property. It is the top-rated Virginia campsite on Hipcamp and it offers spots for tents, large campers and RVs and has a bungalow available to rent as well. While at the campground you can check out the Blackwater River, use a free canoe or kayak in the pond located in the middle of the property, greet all of the farm animals on-site or sign up for one of their experiences like a beekeeping class.
For campers looking for an RV park with all of the amenities and activities, this Eastern Shore spot is a good fit. There are Halloween-themed weekends and unlike some other spots, Cherrystone is open throughout the year. There are places to fish, a mini-golf course, yard games, playgrounds, a dog park for your furry friend, a cafe, a general store and a bait and tackle shop.
Fall visitors to the Occoneechee State Park can enjoy a view of the changing leaves at the John H. Kerr Reservoir, also known as Buggs Island Lake. People can launch a boat or take a hike. There are 20 miles of multi-use trails. For overnight camping there are cabins. lodges, yurts, tent sites, RV sites and equestrian campsites for people to choose from. Reservations can be made on the DCR website.