A campsite can make or break an overnight outing. There is nothing worse than planning a camping adventure and arriving at an overcrowded or disappointing campsite that doesn’t live up to expectations. And there is nothing better than finding a sweet, secluded camping spot beneath the stars. Here are a few ways to make sure you find the perfect campsite.

1. A good starting point is to figure out what your shelter will be and what your preferences are. The main ways to camp are: pitching a tent, staying in an established shelter (if along the Appalachian Trail or similar footpath), car/vehicle camping, or renting a cabin within a campground.

2. Once that is established, there is the choice of primitive or commercial camping. Commercial camping includes established campgrounds with amenities such as working plumbing and (cold) showers. Primitive camping is just you and nature, which also means it’s B.Y.O. toilet paper.

3. There are benefits to both styles of camping. For those who are beginners or are looking for the outdoor experience without straying too far from civilization, commercial camping might be the way to go. Nicer campgrounds usually charge a nightly fee for campers because of the amenities they provide. These fees can vary from as high as $128 per night in an RV at the Cherokee K.O.A.

4. Campground in N.C. to a flat rate price of $20 a night for either a tent or an RV at Mount Pisgah Campground. Staying at a cozy, lakefront cabin at Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Virginia has a price tag of $112 per night while just $12 will buy you a night at Horse Cove Campground just walking distance from Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Depending on the occasion and your budget, you may opt to splurge on a cabin with a beautiful view or there is always the option to opt for a campsite under $20.

5. Primitive camping generally means little-to-no fees to pay, but there is much more that has to go into the planning process. Expect no electrical or water hookups, no bathroom facility, and often no cell service. You can pack your car full of everything you own, but if a hike is necessary to get to your overnight spot, you may want to narrow things down to what you can carry on your back. This is when having a group along with you is a great advantage since you could share the weight of all the gear you will need.

Now comes the hard part: the search for the right campsite.

Unfortunately there is no one website that will provide you with comparisons of every campground and campsite within the Blue Ridge, but there are several sites that can help you find what you are looking for based on location, the experience you’re after, the price range that suits you, and even the amenities you’d like.

Recreation.gov is one of the most prevalent online platforms to discover where to go on your camping ventures. The National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and 10 other partners have come together to provide information and the ability to make reservations at over 2,000 federal areas. Among the website you are able to narrow down your search by browsing locations and applying filters such as accessibility, pet friendly, and specific amenities such as showers.

The Blue Ridge Parkway also hosts eight different campgrounds which are open from May to October, and their site provides information on group camping and permits necessary to go camping in the backcountry.

State by state, you can search state parks for a site such as all primitive campsites within Georgia’s State Parks.

Social media can be a powerful tool in connecting with other campers and exchanging information as well. From outdoor groups to experienced friends, a simple recommendation or post can go a long way in getting started in the right direction.

The best way to have the camping trip you’re hoping for is to put work into the planning process so all that’s left to do is get outdoors and relax. The Blue Ridge mountains have no shortage of camping destinations, so pack some gear and find yours!

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