Where most national parks celebrate a specific, often unique natural feature, Shenandoah National Park was created based on the concept that most Americans live east of the Mississippi, and should have a park of their own which they can enjoy without making the long haul out west. An exhibit at Big Meadows Visitor Center even says as much. In all reality, though, the park can also be said to preserve what was once a common sight across the Eastern United States: the rolling green hills of the Appalachian Mountains, covered in the variety of hardwoods, streams and fauna that set the stage for much of this continent’s history and folklore before the rise of civilization replaced them with stop lights and endless stretches of strip malls.
Shenandoah National Park is an oasis of what once was in the middle of the progress of what’s to come slowly rising up around it.
As such, the park today also looks to preserve and portray the history of the region as much as it protects the natural things that live within it. While the park’s main feature, Skyline Drive, can easily be enjoyed by anyone with a healthy set of car keys, everything from fishing for brook trout to hiking a stretch of the Appalachian Trail, watching deer and bear weave in and out of the edges of the forest to a full stack breakfast await those who decide to make Shenandoah their destination.
And what better way to enjoy the northern end of the historic and beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains than to live within them via your RV?
RV Camping in Shenandoah National Park
Immediately within the park’s boundaries, four campgrounds offer hundreds of individual campsites, the vast majority suitable for RVs and not a single hookup between them. Yes, if you want to camp in the national park proper, you’ll be doing so similarly to how the many residents who lived here before the park’s creation did: without power, running water or connection to a modern day sewage system.
Luckily, all of the campgrounds do have restrooms with running water, showers and some–such as the bathrooms at Big Meadows–even have electrical outlets should you find yourself in desperate need. All of the campgrounds except Mathews Arm also feature a campstore, laundry and showers, as well, but in general one can expect shaded–yet wide open–campsites in a family atmosphere with enough amenities to keep you clean and stocked, but still able to say you spent your time “roughin’ it.”
More Public RV Camping Options near Shendandoah National Park
George Washington National Forest houses a variety of campgrounds just outside of the park. Some of these campgrounds, such as Camp Roosevelt, have flush toilets and a minimal fee while most, for example Little Fort, are free and equipped with only minimal facilities (ie, a vault toilet and fire rings.) To keep things even more interesting, national forest campgrounds like Elizabeth Furnace toggle between strictly vault toilets and flush facilities depending on the season.
Aside from those three, a handful of additional camping areas in George Washington National Forest exist west of I-81, though these will place you around an hour’s drive from the park’s entrances and you’ll need to navigate the small towns and highway rest stops that separate you and your national forest site from the park itself.
There is one particular public camping option that may be the perfect combination for those seeking the perfect trinity of convenience to the park, hookups and nature in abundance though.
If your ideal camping experience is a slow roasted blend of shaded privacy with views of layer upon layer of rolling mountains majesty, all coupled with the conveniences of water and electric hookups, hot showers and a river running through it, then Shenandoah River State Park may prove to be your one stop shop for all things camping near the national park. You’ll pay a premium for such amenities of course, but then again, there’s a zipline…
Full-Hookup RV Camping near Shenandoah National Park
When it comes to camping in style and comfort, the communities surrounding Shenandoah National Park have no shortage of places to give your RV its daily dose of full-hookup convenience, many of them offering downright luxury just twenty minutes or so from Shenandoah’s entrances.
The Luray KOA exemplifies this style of camping, with 82 sites set in the middle of a classic country setting and stocked with features like a swimming pool, game room, playground and of course full-hookups. It’s one of the more nicely groomed KOAs you’ll come across, as well. Each site even has its own paver “deck” complete with fire pit.
Endless Caverns provides similar comforts in a woodsier setting and with access to the caves that give this campground its name.
While all of the RV parks in the area are family friendly, few places can capture a kids attention and redefine what camping can be like Jellystone, and one of the more impressive of this chain’s campgrounds is located only minutes from Shenandoah National Park. Swimming pool? How about an entire water park? As if that wasn’t enough, toss in some bounce pads, a pond with pedal boats, an arcade, lazer tag, playgrounds, sports galore, gem mining, a petting zoo…and this is all before they get to hang with Yogi, Boo Boo and the crew.
Shenandoah National Park offers the quintessential camping experience, and provides plenty of options for you to define exactly what that means for you, year-round. Watch the meadows erupt with spring flowers, spend summer nights circling the campfire, drive through the explosive changing leaves in the fall; you can even brave the snow come winter (though you’ll want to check on campground availability ahead of time as the weather goes frigid.) Waterfalls, hiking, fishing and more await, all that’s missing is you!