MAR 31 2023    
Top 8 Best Virginia State Parks for Camping
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Top 8 Best Virginia State Parks for Camping

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In the old days, when Grandma and Grandpa had to hike barefoot uphill both ways to their favorite camping spot, campers relied heavily on word-of-mouth recommendations and campground guidebooks to find the best places. Those days are long gone, and the internet reigns supreme when it comes to camping guides. 

Finding the best campsites in Virginia state parks largely depends on your camping style. If you’re hauling a travel trailer across the country, your camping needs will be a far cry different from a tent camper seeking an ultra-primitive experience. 

Virginia is home to 41 state parks, with locations stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Cumberland Gap. With thousands of campsites, hundreds of cabins, and over 500 miles of hiking trails, Virginia state parks offer plenty of opportunity for outdoor adventure. Here are a few of our favorite places to camp in Virginia State Parks.

First Landing State Park

If you’re a history buff, you’ll particularly enjoy First Landing State Park, located at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, where English colonists first landed in 1607. Everything from the earliest Native American dugout canoes to modern cargo ships have navigated the waters here. The notorious pirate Blackbeard hid within the borders of this park, and both Union and Confederate patrols used the park’s interior waterways during the Civil War. 

First Landing has over 200 campsites, some of which are tent-only sites, although most are well-suited for RVs and pop-ups. All sites include a picnic table and a fire pit and are conveniently located near modern bathhouses with hot showers. 

First Landing also has four yurts available for rent. A cross between a tent and a cabin, these structures are an excellent option for campers who don’t want to travel with a bunch of gear. Each yurt has a large wooden deck, two picnic tables, a pedestal grill, and a fire ring with a cooking grate. Although the yurts do feature beds, campers must bring their own sleeping bags. 

First Landing is Virginia’s most visited state park, so if you want to get far away from civilization, this isn’t the place for you. However, if you want to camp in a green oasis in the middle of one of the busiest urban areas in the U.S., this is it. 

The park is also close to an active military training center, meaning campers may hear loud training exercises that sometimes last well past dark. The activities pose no risk to park guests.

Chippokes State Park

Located just across the James River from historic Jamestown, Chippokes State Park is home to one of the oldest continually farmed plantations in the U.S. The site has been a working farm since 1619. 

Chippokes’ historic tour allows visitors to glimpse a bygone era and includes visits to the plantation’s antebellum mansion, numerous outbuildings, and formal, manicured gardens. 

Because the park is situated on the banks of the James River, visitors can enjoy plenty of aquatic activities, including fishing, kayaking, birdwatching, and beachcombing for shells and fossils.

Chippokes has a fabulous campground with 51 campsites. Campers can also stay at one of Chippokes' four cabins if they prefer a less rustic experience. Camping is open to the public from the first Friday in March through the first Monday in December.

Staunton River State Park 

Located just 25 miles from the North Carolina Border, Staunton River State Park features 2,400 acres of woodlands, meadows, and shoreline along the Dan and Staunton rivers. Staunton River State Park also has access to Buggs Island Lake. As Virginia’s largest lake, this body of water provides ample freshwater fishing, boating, water skiing, and other aquatic recreational opportunities.

Staunton River is also the first state park in Virginia to be designated an International Dark Sky Park, making the area perfect for stargazing. Budding astronomers can rent telescopes from the park or attend several interpretive programs presented by park staff throughout the year. 

Camping is available within the park from the first Friday in March until the first Monday in December. There are standard tent campsites without hookups and plenty of RV and pop-up sites with water and electricity. Boat launching is free with overnight reservations.

Staunton River also has a designated equestrian campground with extra-large campsites and horse stalls for campers interested in horseback riding. The park also has several rustic original cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s that are available for rent. 

Pocahontas State Park

Conveniently located just 20 miles from Richmond, Pocahontas State Park is the largest state park in Virginia. Pocahontas has over 7,900 acres of recreational opportunities and features more than 60 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Three lakes within the park also offer plenty of fishing and boating opportunities.

If you’re visiting in the hot summer months, the park’s Aquatic Center features two leisure pools, a toddler pool, a fountain wet deck, an activity pool, and two tubular water slides. The park also has a  2,000-seat amphitheater that hosts the Pocahontas Premieres series of concerts.

Campers can stay year-round in Pocahontas State Park. The park campground accommodates RVs up to 40 feet with electric and water hookups. The park also features Buddy Sites for larger groups. Each Buddy Site has three campsites with room for up to 18 people. 

Douthat State Park

Founded in 1936, Douthat State Park has a spot on the National Register of Historic Places for its contribution to developing the state park system nationwide. Nestled in a picturesque setting, the park offers jaw-dropping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. No matter which direction you face, the scenery will take your breath away. 

Douthat features 43 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and bridle trails and a stocked 50-acre lake that offers a sandy swim beach, snack bar, boat rentals, and a gift shop. 

Douthat is also brimming with camping opportunities. Camping is available year-round, and several sites at the Whispering Pines campground offer lovely views of Douthat Lake. The park has a total of 82 campsites with gravel pads suitable for parking your RV or pitching a tent, as well as eclectic and water hookups. 

If you prefer to rent a cabin, Douthat features several rustic options, each with a shower, full kitchen, fireplace, fire pit, and porch rocking chairs. All you need to bring your own linens, towels, and food, and you’ll be good to go. 

Fairy Stone State Park

Fairy Stone State Park is one of my personal favorites. The park has a 168-acre lake and miles of hiking trails. Campers can choose from 49 different campsites. Some sites are more suitable for tent camping than RV camping, but all offer electric and water hookups. 

The park also offers historic log cabins and recreational yurts for rent. 

One unique and exciting experience that Fairy Stone offers that you can’t find anywhere else is the opportunity to hunt for fairy stones. These uncommon stone crosses are staurolite. Composed of iron, aluminum, and silicate, staurolite is a metamorphic mineral that has crystalized into the shape of tiny crosses. 

One Cherokee legend explains that fairy crosses are the fallen tears of shy, fairylike spirits that wept when they heard the news of Jesus’ crucifixion, and their rears fell to the earth as hard, tiny crosses. 

Fairy stones are abundant within the park. While visitors can pluck the cross-shaped rocks from the ground, digging tools are not allowed inside the park. However, you can dig with your hands, and the best place to search for these unique stones is around tree roots. 

Campers can find a special fairy cross hunting ground adjacent to a rustic gas station on Highway 57 near Bassett, Virginia. The site is convenient to Fairy Stone State Park. 

Grayson Highlands State Park

Grayson Highlands State Park is a hiker’s dream come true. However, this destination offers more than just your typical walk in the park. Grayson Highlands is well-known for its bouldering opportunities, wild trout streams, waterfalls, and wild ponies. 

The nine-mile hike to the top of Mount Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia, starts in Grayson Highlands State Park. The hike follows the Appalachian Trail into Jefferson National Forrest, which also offers some spectacular dispersed camping options.

However, with two separate campgrounds (Chestnut Hollow Campground and Hickory Ridge Campground) with 89 individual campsites, Grayson Highlands has plenty of camping opportunities all its own. 

Chestnut Hollow is perfect for equestrian camping and provides both open and covered stalls for horses. Hickory Ridge features tent sites, RV sites, and several rustic yurts for a unique camping experience. Water and electrical hookup are available at some of the campsites. Others are perfect for primitive camping. 

Natural Tunnel State Park

Located in the Appalachian Mountains near Duffield in Scott County, Virginia, Natural Tunnel State Park features a massive 850-foot-long, 10-stories-high natural tunnel carved through the area’s natural limestone over thousands of years. The naturally formed cave is so huge that it was used as a train tunnel during the Golden Age of Railway Travel. 

Today, the tracks that run through the tunnel are owned by Norfolk Southern Railway. An average of ten trains a day chug through the natural feature carrying loads of coal from mines in southwestern Virginia and eastern Kentucky to power plants located all over the southeastern United States. 

Natural Tunnel State Park also has several naturally carved limestone “chimneys” that are well worth the price of admission (which is only a $5 parking fee). 

Camping is available within the park’s two campgrounds from the first Friday in March until the first Monday in December. All sites can be reserved in advance and include electric and water hookup. A primitive camping area is located in a wooded area about a half-mile from the main campgrounds and bathhouses. RVs and pop-ups are not allowed in the primitive camping area.

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