CampingCamping the Southeast

Camping the Southeast

Camping season has arrived just in time for a summer of music, mountains, and making memories. We’ve made your job easy with this roundup of first-rate camping options in our region. From quiet backcountry sites and family-friendly campgrounds to the best of car camping and glamping, there’s a spot for every type of adventurer who wants to spend a night under the stars. 

Hinton, W.V. Photo courtesy of national coal heritage area

Great Adventures in the National Coal Heritage Area, W.Va.

Encompassing 13 southern counties in West Virginia, the National Coal Heritage Area is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground located just a short drive from many eastern metro areas. From the New River Gorge National Park and several state parks to miles of trails in between, discover a whole range of sights to see as you hike, bike, or ride ATVs through the area. 

For the water enthusiast, the Guyandotte Water Trail is the hidden gem of the region. Whether you prefer paddling, floating, or fishing, take in beautiful mountain vistas as you flow through historic small towns like Gilbert, Pineville, Logan, and Man. Bring your own boat or rent one from Guyandotte River Kayak. Their shuttle service makes it easy to experience a small section or paddle all 160 miles.

To make the most out of your trip, find a local campground to use as your basecamp. Twin Falls Resort and Chief Logan state parks offer well-maintained campgrounds, plus other amenities like scenic trails and swimming pools, to make your stay enjoyable. Just off the waterway, R.D. Bailey Lake Guyandotte Campground has a number of camping options from secluded campsites to RV hook-up sites. You can even make your way to the mountaintop for epic views at Twin Hollow Campground & Cabins. Choose from primitive camping to full hookup sites, plus a private fishing pond and hiking trails.

Once you’re done on the water and camp is set up, explore two National Scenic Byways and over 1,000 miles of winding roads packed with history along the Devil’s Den Driving Tour. It’s easy to see something spectacular and learn something new along the way. 

At the end of the day, wind down and fuel up at one of the local restaurants. Trail 12 BBQ near Gilbert has some of the best dining views and award-winning barbecue that will have your mouth watering the moment you step through the door. Don’t miss out on a glass of small batch corn whiskey from the micro-distillery Hatfield & McCoy Moonshine. In the town of Pineville, the Ole Jose Grill & Cantina serves everything from wood-fired pizza to authentic Mexican cuisine with chimichanga cheesecake for dessert while the Pinnacle Drive Inn is the place for great hot dogs and hamburgers with that classic diner feel. 

Find your next great outdoor adventure in the National Coal Heritage Area of West Virginia.

WVtourism.com/NCHA

Photo courtesy of Adventures on the Gorge

Get Your Nature Fix at Adventures on the Gorge, W.Va.

Looking for a getaway that checks a lot of boxes? Look no further than Adventures on the Gorge, located on the edge of West Virginia’s beautifully rugged New River Gorge National Park. Explore an assortment of activities, from high-flying zipling and thrilling whitewater rapids to paddleboarding on a calm lake and miles of trails for hiking and biking. Once you experience the magic of the Gorge, you’ll want to keep coming back. 

Lodging 

You’ve got a variety of choices when it comes to deciding where to spend your nights. Load up your RV or pack a tent to stay at one of the campgrounds sprinkled throughout the resort. An array of amenities, such as water and electric hookups, covered areas, fire pits, and secluded sites, means you can easily customize your level of roughing it. Check out the Canyon Rim Store or Mill Creek Store for anything you might have forgotten, including camp supplies, snacks, and season-appropriate apparel.

For a slight step up in comfort, consider booking a glamping tent that comes complete with two queen beds, linens, and a mini fridge. Plus, a number of cabins, ranging from rustic to deluxe, make it easy to sleep in style. Sheltered from the elements, relax and unwind after a long day outside. Whether you’re riding solo or bringing the extended family, there’s a spot for you. 

Dining 

You could whip up one of your favorite chef creations over a fire at your campsite. Or you could save yourself the work and treat yourself to delicious creations from one of five dining options on site. Get your morning going with a caffeine-infused drink or smoothie from Java Falls Cafe. Visit the Canyon Falls Snack Shack for a mid-afternoon refuel stop, including cheesy pretzel bites and a refreshing scoop of ice cream. 

For a filling meal, Chetty’s Pub serves sandwiches, wings, and cocktails with a spectacular deck overlooking the gorge. You might even go for a burger, ribs, or seafood from Smokey’s on the Gorge. Check in for a Sunday brunch menu featuring chicken and waffles, strawberry cheesecake cinnamon rolls, and bottomless mimosas. Large groups can reserve the Rendezvous River Lodge, an open-air pavilion with a full bar and stage. 

If that’s not enough options for you, the resort is only five minutes from the fantastic eateries in Fayetteville. Is your mouth watering yet?

Adventures 

While all of the amenities on site create an alluring atmosphere, it’s really the access to wilderness options that make Adventures on the Gorge stand out. Want to take in the area by air? Hook in for a walk across the New River Gorge Bridge, scale sandstone cliffs, or make your way through the canopy tour. Head below ground for a tour of a wild cave to experience total darkness. 

If being on the water is your happy place, book a float fishing trip, take on the New and Gauley River’s tumbling rapids, or paddle the Hawk’s Nest and Summersville lakes. Experience the surrounding network of trails on foot, bike, or horseback to uncover new sights and sounds. Round out your trip with laser tag, paintball, an escape room, and so much more. 

The best part is getting to experience all of this fun against the stunning backdrop of the New River Gorge, the nation’s newest national park. Open 365 days a year, there’s never a bad time to visit the resort. Discover what makes Adventures on the Gorge a destination like no other when you book your getaway today. 

WVtourism.com/AOTG

Roanoke County’s Explore Park, photo courtesy of Roanoke County Parks

Relax Around a Campfire in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Why book an incredible metro mountain getaway to Virginia’s Blue Ridge? With over 1,000 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and paddling—including convenient access to the Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, Upper James River Water Trail, and Smith Mountain Lake—adventure awaits right outside of your tent flap.

Need any more reasons to book your next camping trip in Virginia’s Blue Ridge? Top notch campgrounds will have you feeling at home. The whole family will love the campsites and cabins at Roanoke County’s Explore Park. Located at Milepost 114 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll have easy access to the Roanoke River Blueway, an aerial obstacle course, drinks at Twin Creeks Brewpub, and so much more. 

Take advantage of Jamison Mill Park’s location in Franklin County as you sleep by the shore of Philpott Lake. Spend your days fishing and paddling the water or exploring the trails before curling up in your tent for the night. For the more adventurous traveler, book a multi-day overnight paddling trip along the Upper James River Water Trail, offered by Twin River Outfitters, with camping or glamping along the way. This scenic river provides excellent scenery to share with friends. 

Head into one of the many vibrant downtown districts and charming small towns for a bite to eat and a stop into outdoor shops for supplies. Taste local favorites like Buddy’s BBQ in Rocky Mount or Foot of the Mountain Café in Buchanan where you’ll find good food and great service. If you find you forgot to pack something, Walkabout Outfitter has two locations in Roanoke with just about anything you might need at your campsite. Browse even more equipment and apparel at Outdoor Trails in Daleville or stop into Roanoke Mountain Adventures for bike and kayak rentals. 

Plan your camping trip for the weekend of June 3-5 and take part in the festivities around the area. Join in for a weekend of music, food, and thru hikers at Troutville Town Park in Botetourt County during Troutville Trail Days. Paddle, float, and jam out to excellent tunes throughout Ramble Weekend at Waid Park in Franklin County for even more fun. Both events offer camping options on site as well. 

From a hike to the iconic Roanoke Star atop Mill Mountain and bike ride along the Roanoke Valley Greenways to world class events, there’s no shortage of things to do in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

VisitVBR.com

Newport News Park, photo courtesy of Newport News

The Best Spot in Newport News, Va.

Where can you find one of the largest municipal parks east of the Mississippi River? Head to the coast of Virginia and experience a slice of paradise in Newport News. At the heart of the city, Newport News Park has plenty of space to spread out as you explore all the area has to offer. Nine times larger than New York City’s Central Park, you’ll find everything from hiking and mountain biking trails to canoeing, freshwater fishing, and archery.

But the best part of it all? The park features 188 campsites that make it easy to kick back and relax by Lee Hall Reservoir. Whether you want water and electricity hook ups for your RV or a primitive spot to set up your tent, everyone has access to restrooms and hot showers. 

Make sure to stop in at the Discovery Center where park staff rehabilitates injured wildlife. A variety of exhibits and programs allows you to learn more about the local flora and fauna. See these species for yourself on the White Oak Nature Trail, a 2.6-mile self-guided walk around the reservoir through forests and wetlands. Venture out into the surrounding area for more fun on the James and York rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. Then it’s time to head back to your campsite  for an evening of s’mores and telling stories.

About to light your fire and realize you forgot to pack a starter? Just a short walk down the road, the Newport News Campsite Office is stocked with basic food and supplies for a night under the stars. Plus, you can rent boats and bikes and do a little bit of laundry. If you still can’t find what you need, Camping World, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Wilcox Bait & Tackle, and Walmart all carry the gear essential for a fun and safe experience. 

If you’re not in the mood to cook your own food, there are plenty of restaurants for a night on the town. From fast casual to fine dining, find a place that perks up your tastebuds. After your meal, follow the Toast the Coast Trail for delicious craft beverages at one of the local breweries, distilleries, or wineries.  

No matter what time of year you’re traveling, let these cozy campsites serve as your home away from home as you discover new trails and good times in Newport News, Va.

Newport-News.org

Hungry Mother State Park, photo courtesy of DCR

Reserve a Campsite in a Virginia State Park

Whether you’re looking for a night of solitude or a place to camp with the whole family, there’s a Virginia State Park out there to fit your needs. More than half of the state’s 41 parks feature some type of lodging, from tent and RV sites to cabins, lodges, and yurts. Find your spot by the water or amongst the trees today. 

For the Tent Fanatics

Known for its old growth forest and sightings of American bald eagles, Caledon State Park offers a quiet getaway just off the Potomac River. With its six hike-in and paddle-in primitive campsites, you’ll need to pack all of your supplies with you, including water for drinking and cooking. Hungry Mother, one of the original six state parks, is a great spot for the whole family. Three campgrounds offer a number of tent sites, plus access to miles of trail, swimming in the lake, and fishing for bass. With three miles of beautiful shoreline, James River State Park is an excellent option at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Spend your days paddling, floating, and fishing the river before curling up by the fire at night. For a multi-day adventure, camp along New River Trail State Park as you hike or bike the 57-mile linear park. 

For the RV Explorers

Pack the rig and hit the road to Claytor Lake State Park for a weekend of fun on the water. Your campsite offers the perfect home base as you explore the 4,500-acre lake. Surrounded by forest, Bear Creek Lake State Park is an oasis for outdoor enthusiasts looking for a peaceful getaway. Follow the 15.7-mile Cumberland Multi-Use Trail or go for a relaxing float on the Willis River. Head out to Virginia’s Easern Shore where Kiptopeke State Park is the go to spot for fun on the Chesapeake Bay. Experience this unique coastal habitat from the extensive boardwalk system or by boat. Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Fairy Stone State Park features activities for families of all ages. Search for the legendary fairy stones, swim or fish in the lake, and navigate 10 miles of trails. 

For the Cabin and Yurt Lovers

Find a spot to sit back and relax at Shenandoah River State Park as the water winds through the valley. The cabins and yurts feature modern amenities that make for a cozy night’s rest as you hike and paddle your way through the park. Access Virginia’s largest lake from Occoneechee State Park. With boat rentals, a splash pad, and record-setting catfish, this is a great summer destination with plenty of sleeping options for your stay. Carved out over thousands of years, Natural Tunnel State Park is a towering limestone formation best viewed from the ridge or the tunnels floor. A quiet campground amongst the mountains is an ideal place to unplug and rest. Rent one of the yurts at Powhatan State Park just off the historic James River. View wildlife from the trail or the water before enjoying a meal on your yurt’s deck. 

This is just a small sampling of what the Virginia State Parks have to offer travelers from all over the region. Discover even more opportunities for camping by the ocean or refreshing mountain lakes—with friends or on your own—as you experience a wide variety of landscapes across the commonwealth. 

VirginiaStateParks.gov

Photo by Scott K. Brown

Quiet Mountain Campsites in Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge County, Va.

There’s nothing quite like falling asleep under the stars to the sounds of the forest after you explore new trails. In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, discover the best of camping in Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge County. Conveniently located just off the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway with countless cool mountain waterways in between, it only takes one visit to make this an annual destination. 

At Glen Maury Park, reserve one of 100 campsites with easy access to fishing and paddling on the Maury River. Whether you’re chilling beside the pool or watching for wildlife on the network of trails, this campground in the shadow of the mountains is the perfect place to relax. Keep an eye on the calendar for a variety of music and events happening at the park throughout the year. 

Cozy up at a campsite or cabin near the shores of Lake Robertson. Pack lunch to enjoy by the water or grab your fishing pole for a chance to reel in largemouth bass, bluegill, and walleye. In the summertime, pull out your identification book and walk the trail loops for a taste of wild and black berries. Cave Mountain Lake in George Washington and Jefferson National Forest is another excellent spot by the water. After a hike through the forest, splash around in the lake and fire up the grill for a delicious meal. 

Experience the finest family fun when you stay at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort. Located just down the road from Natural Bridge State Park, an International Dark Sky Park, you’ll be close to epic towering rock formations, plus a splash park, miniature golf, and fishing on the James River at the campground. Kick back and relax at the Natural Bridge/Lexington KOA Campground right beside the Virginia Safari Park. Choose from over 175 tent sites, RV hook ups, and cabins for your retreat in the mountains.

When you’re not visiting the area’s dazzling natural wonders or sitting around the campfire, explore the charming towns of Lexington and Buena Vista for a bite to eat and a souvenir to take home. With dozens of local eateries ranging across cuisine styles, there’s always something new to try. Cap off the night with a drink from one of the many craft breweries or wineries along the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail.

For a camping trip you won’t soon forget, make Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge County your home for a few days.

LexingtonVirginia.com/Campgrounds

Photo courtesy of Patrick County

Campsites Galore in Patrick County, Va. 

Patrick County, Va., is filled with outdoor adventure. Explore a hiking trail. Get on the water at one of the area’s many rivers or lakes. Meander down a curvy back road and stop off for a picnic at a scenic mountain overlook. Enjoy dark starry skies as crickets sing you to sleep, all at your perfect campsite.

Travelers on the Blue Ridge Parkway will find great places to camp at the convenient Rocky Knob Campground. Just off the parkway is Meadows of Dan Campground and Willville Motorcycle Campground. All of these are right next to the charming mountain village of Meadows of Dan where you can find unique artisan crafts, delicious fudge, fresh coffee, and much more. Those looking for even more adventure will enjoy the remote campsite on the Rock Castle Gorge National Recreation Trail. Be sure to get your permit before backpacking in for the night! Primland Resort in Meadows of Dan also offers guided camping experiences to guests at their award-winning five-star mountain resort, just south of the parkway.

Families may enjoy camping in and around Fairy Stone State Park for their many hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, expansive swimming beach, guided outdoor activities, and much more. The park hosts individual or group camping spots for tents, campers, and RVs, along with several cabins and even yurts! Just outside of the park you can find Goose Point Campground on the shore of neighboring Philpott Lake, as well as the family-friendly Deer Run Campground down the road.

Looking for private group camping spots? Wolf Creek Haven Campground in Ararat, Va., is surrounded by a beautiful forest with a creek and hiking trail to get you closer to nature. Your hosts can prepare food for your group and even fire up the sweat lodge or perform a healing reiki session. Nature Freaks Acres, hosted by “The Nature Freak” (a fun children’s environmental educator), is a great place for private group camping, especially with children. Enjoy camping spots, the open-air cabin, hiking trail, and optional swimming pool access. 

If event camping is more your style, check out FloydFest on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Front Porch Fest in Stuart, Va., Wayside Bluegrass Festival and the Stuart Beach Music Festival at Wayside Park, or bluegrass and gospel weekends at Dominion Valley Park. All are fun music festival camping experiences.

Find yourself in Patrick County, Va. 

VisitPatrickCounty.org

Kayaking Catawba River. Photo courtesy of McDowell County

A Four-Season Destination in McDowell County, N.C.

Regardless of the season, the Blue Ridge Mountains shine in McDowell County, N.C.  Numerous campgrounds make it an ideal location for those who prefer to stay close to the action. 

Within Pisgah National Forest, Curtis Creek Campground is an idyllic spot beside a refreshing trout stream just a short walk to miles of trails, including six miles of mixed-use trail designed for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians opening in June 2022. Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Crabtree Falls Campground, Milepost 339.5, features 81 tent and RV sites with easy access to the 70-foot waterfall while Bear Den Campground, Milepost 324.8, offers camping options or cabin rentals with an onsite fishing pond and trails. 

Fall asleep to the sounds of the river at Catawba Falls Campground, enjoy the views of Mount Mitchell from Sky Island Retreat, cool off in the lake, creek, pool, and water slide at Hidden Creek Camping Resort, or stay in one of the bunk lodges at Camp Grier. Gold River Camp, a new site, offers tent, cabin, and creekside tiny homes in an area known for gold mining. A number of RV parks, including Buck Creek Campground, Mountain Stream RV Park, Mountain Paradise Campground, and Camping World, provide a laid-back, family-friendly atmosphere with plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the setting. 

Surrounded by 70,000 acres of Pisgah National Forest, the steep slopes of the escarpment create ideal conditions for mountain biking and hiking. Be sure to check out Woods Mountain Trail, a 26-mile loop that crosses the Mountain-to-Sea Trail, and Snook’s Nose, a trail for the experienced hiker with long-range views from Green Knob Lookout Tower. Stop by Flavors on Main or Old Fort Outdoors for any gear you might have left at home or maps of the area. The Old Fort Ride House rangers also provide expert trail details, maps, and info.

At the end of the day, unwind at a restaurant in Marion, including Marion Wing Factory, Toonez Chop House, Burrito Bros, McDowell Local, and Crabby Abby’s Bar & Grill. Don’t miss The Feisty Goldfish, a funky retro arcade and bar, or the Spillway Bridge, a music hall and bar supporting regional artists. 

Walk downtown Old Fort or catch a Sunday outdoor performance at the Mountain Gateway Museum. Hillman Beer is the perfect spot to swap stories and grab a beer before heading back to your campsite for another night in the mountains of McDowell County. 

BlueRidgeTraveler.com

Cover photo: Dark Sky Camping. Photo by Steve Shires, courtesy of Visit Lexington

Places to Go, Things to See: