Back to Basics—Primitive Camping in Virginia State Parks

There is so much to do at all 39 Virginia State Parks, but only a select few offer year-round primitive camping.

If solitude is what you are looking for and getting back to nature is your goal, then head out to one of our primitive camping sites. Often referred to as backcountry camping, it is typically sleeping outdoors without the amenities of bathrooms, running water or vehicular access. Just think food, water and the basic shelter of a tent.

You can hike or canoe to unique primitive camping sites at several of our parks, and we even have primitive group camping at Shenandoah River, Sky Meadows, James River and Powhatan state parks.

Grab your tent and sleep by the water at one of the 13 Canoe Landing waterfront sites at James River State Park. The sites are near the canoe launch so you can boat to your spot, or in this case, drive – whatever works for you. There are also seven primitive sites at Branch Pond and five at Walnut Grove. Both are less than 2 miles from the river. Spend your days hiking, boating and exploring and your nights enjoying the peace and the dark sky.

Powhatan Primitive Camping
Primitive Campsite Along River at James River State Park

Powhatan State Park has canoe-in sites that can be accessed by the James River. The eight spots have fire pits and picnic tables, so making a campfire meal is easy. With no electricity, you can take in the night skies in all their brilliance. You will be surrounded by the sounds of nature, so plan on getting some great sleep.

Sky Meadows

At the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains you will find Sky Meadows State Park’s unique hike-in tent camping. You must hike Hadow Trail for about a mile with your gear to access these campsites. You can reach the campsites by bike as well, but no vehicles are allowed near the sites. Just 27 miles down the road from Sky Meadows is more primitive camping at the Cottonwood Primitive Group Camp at Shenandoah River State Park.

Belle Isle State Park Primitive Camping Sites

Belle Isle State Park has seven miles of shoreline on the Northern Neck’s Rappahannock River and offers year-round camping at Brewer’s Point Hike-in or Boat-in Primitive Campground. There is no motor vehicle access permitted to these sites.

False Cape Beachfront Primitive

Nestled between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, False Cape State Park is one of the last remaining undeveloped areas along the Atlantic coast. The primitive camping at False Cape is not for everyone and is not recommended for young children or inexperienced campers. There is beach camping at the park, but it is subject to tides.

Sunset View from Boyd’s Hole at Caledon

Paddle or hike to Caledon State Park’s camping sites. The park has 10 hiking trails and four multi-use trails, including the 2-mile Boyd’s Hole Trail leading to the Potomac River.

New River Trail Primitive Camping

New River Trail State Park is a 57-mile park that follows a rail trail and parallels the New River for 39 miles. The park has three primitive campgrounds, none of which have vehicular access. There are sites that overlook the New River, while others are trailside near Chestnut Creek.

Ready for the adventure? Make your reservations today and start planning your next Virginia State Park camping trip. Find out more about primitive camping, campground facilities and reservations.

All photos courtesy of Virginia State Parks

in case you missed it