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9 Places to Go Free Camping in Virginia

Virginia has some of the most beautiful forests, bodies of water, hiking trails, and other natural sights. With diverse terrain and wildlife, there is so much to experience when camping in the Old Dominion state.

If you’re an avid camper or you’ve spent time researching your next trip, you may have learned that camping isn’t always a budget-friendly activity. Thankfully, Virginia offers many places to set up camp that your wallet will thank you for.

So how do you know where to begin? Lucky for you, we’ve outlined nine places to go free camping in Virginia to help you get started on your next adventure.

9 Places to Go Free Camping in Virginia 1
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

Best Free Boondocking Areas in Virginia

Boondocking, or dispersed camping on public land, can be a great way to explore lesser trafficked areas.

For safety and conservation reasons, it isn’t allowed everywhere, but here are some of the best places to go free camping in Virginia where you can go boondocking:

1. Mount Rogers National Recreation Area

Southwest Virginia is home to Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, which is an ideal place for you to have a top-rated experience while free camping in Virginia.

This spot has over 200,000 acres of national forest land along with four designated wilderness areas just waiting to be explored. From the Virginia Creeper Trail to the Mount Rogers Scenic Byway, there are many gorgeous sights to enjoy and plenty of activities to keep you busy.

Some of the activities you can do while camping for free in this Virginia national recreation area include camping, hiking, biking, swimming, cross-country skiing, hunting, and more. 60 miles of the Appalachian trail runs through Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, adding to its list of “must-do” attractions.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing free camping trip in Virginia, or you’re eager to sight-see, explore the terrain, and stay active, Mount Rogers National Recreation area has something for everyone.

2. Chopawamsic Backcountry Area

Another place to check out when exploring places to go free camping in Virginia is Chopawasmic Backcountry Area. The word Compawamsic means “river flats” or “divided streams”, which is an accurate description of the layout of eight designated campsites along a river bed.

This area features about 1,500 acres of land and its campsites can be accessed from the 2.2-mile trail onsite. A single-day visit here will allow you to hike the backcountry trails, sightsee, and go fishing along the park’s river.

Although you need a permit to camp here, the permit itself is free. If you’re looking to camp overnight, however, there is a $7 reservation fee. So, if you’re looking for a completely free option, make sure to limit your time here to a day trip.

The campsite also has a list of rules and regulations that can be found on the website to help maintain the land and keep you safe. Make sure you read these over before beginning your trip, so you and others can enjoy this space and all it has to offer, for years to come.

Free Camping in Virginia’s National Forests

Virginia’s natural forests are home to exquisite wildlife, sights, hiking trails, and so much more. Free camping in these national forests provides you access to not only the wonders of nature but also some once-in-a-lifetime activities and adventures.

A tent campsite in Jefferson National Forest, a place for free camping in Virginia.
Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.

3. George Washington National Forest

George Washington National Forest is another destination for anyone looking for the best places to camp for free in Virginia. With an abundance of lush forests and mountain streams, this area is a must-see. Not to mention, it’s home to over a thousand miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Free camping in this Virginia national forest is just one of its many appeals. The national forest has numerous recreation areas that you can explore and each one has its own unique features and seasonal activities for your enjoyment.

Not only will you experience the picturesque sights of the Appalachian mountains, but you’ll also have the option to play in the sand throughout the forest’s many beaches and dunes. In addition to hiking and sand play, George Washington National Forest also offers areas for hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and water sports, to name a few.

With so much to see and do, your free Virginia camping trip plans need to include George Washington National Park.

4. Jefferson National Forest

Jefferson National Forest shares land with George Washington National Forest (listed above), so it offers similar sights, attractions, and experiences. That being said, it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for an unforgettable free camping trip in Virginia.

Like George Washington National Forest, Jefferson National Forest is also home to hundreds of thousands of acres of the Appalachian Trail. This means no matter where you set up camp, you’ll get to enjoy the stunning sights of these spectacular mountains throughout your whole trip.

This national forest also offers endless recreational activities and adventures including hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, winter sports, etc.

If you’re looking to camp here for a specific experience, make sure to check the national forest’s website to see what’s available – and when – so you can ensure a free Virginia camping trip is everything you’ve dreamed of and more.

Free Campgrounds in Virginia

Official campgrounds are an ideal place to go camping, as they often provide certain amenities to help lighten your load and make sure you have everything you need while on your trip. Below you’ll find some of our favorite campgrounds in Virginia that won’t break the bank.

how to set up a tent in 6 easy steps

5. Walnut Flats

Walnut Flats is a great place to go free camping in Virginia if you’re looking for a small and quiet getaway. This campground is perfect for either tent camping or you can bring small recreational vehicles.

If you’re planning on camping in the summer, Walnut Flats has plenty of shaded campsites that surround a grassy opening within the forest. Here you’ll also find access to the Flat Top Mountain Trail System, Dismal Creek, Appalachian Trail, and the Falls of Dismal. Here, you can spend your free time hiking, swimming, fishing, and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature.

One of the benefits of free camping in Virginia at an official campsite is the amenities. At Walnut Flats they provide trash cans, drinking water, picnic tables, toilets, and firepits to help enhance your experience.

For campers looking for a low-key adventure within Virginia’s abundant land, Walnut Flats is the perfect place to be.

6. Little Fort Campground

Similar to Walnut Flats, Little Fort Campground is a quiet place to relax and unwind. This free campsite in Virginia is a minimally developed area that was once a stagecoach rest stop, but now offers access to the largest off-highway vehicle system in all of Virginia.

With no fees for campers, you can enjoy this campground and all it has to offer year-round. In addition to camping, Little Fort Campground is a great place to go mountain biking, fishing, hiking, and of course, OHV trail riding.

Little Fort Campground is also near the local towns of Woodstock and Detrick. Woodstock, specifically, has a rich history. It’s known for being home to the first working courthouse west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

In Detrick, Virginia, you’ll find local restaurants, dedicated hang-gliding areas, and much more. So, if you’re looking to explore more than just Virginia’s campgrounds, adventuring at Little Fort Campground allows you to do it all.

7. Scotch Town Draft

Scotch Town Draft, a free campsite in Virginia, can be found in Bath County. It’s known for its location alongside a long valley and its elevation of about 1,500 feet.

Scotch Town Draft is open year-round and consists of five campsites that are suitable for tent or RV camping. It’s found on national forest land and is right near the Cowpasture River, allowing for various outdoor activities.

Whether you’re into fishing, hiking, swimming in natural waters, or simply enjoying the sights of local wildlife, Scotch Town Draft has it all. This free Virginia Campsite is known to be quiet, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the sounds of nature.

It’s accessible by road, but it’s recommended that you take the paved road in, as the gravel route can be challenging to navigate.

Some of the reviews from past campers highlight this Virginia campsite’s beauty. From river islands to pinewood forests, there are plenty of natural features to explore.

Because it’s a lesser-known area, Scotch Town Draft makes for the perfect camping trip for anyone looking for a secluded and peaceful hideaway.

Best Free Waterside Camping in Virginia

When camping, sometimes it’s important to have access to water areas to cool down from hot summer days. Listed below are some of the best free Virginia campsites located along a body of water.

9 Places to Go Free Camping in Virginia 2

8. Rapidan Wildlife Management Area

Rapidian Wildlife Management Area is one of the most unique places to go free camping in Virginia. If you camp here, you’ll have access to over 10,000 acres of land along the slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Although much of the area was harvested for timber in the area’s early days, the forest is still full of mixed hardwood, chestnut oak, and tulip poplar trees. The Rapidian and Conway Rivers are also in this area, allowing you to experience both land and water adventures during your stay.

If you’re looking for activities to do on your free Virginia camping trip, Rapidian Wildlife Management Areas has excellent hunting, fishing, and wildlife view opportunities. There are rules and regulations when it comes to these activities, so make sure you take a look at those before starting.

With eight separate tracts, there is plenty of land for you to choose your ideal spot to set up camp. If you’ve been looking to find somewhere to camp for free in Virginia, Rapidian Wildlife Management Area is the place to be.

9. Lake Moomaw Recreation

Lake Moomaw Recreation, found within George Washington National Forest, is a popular area for those who enjoy free camping in Virginia. It’s home to numerous campgrounds, swimming beaches, fishing piers, and walking trails.

Lake Moomaw is also a unique camping area that’s popular with boaters and anglers. The 2,500 acres of the lake also sit by the Jackson River, where you’ll have access to over 40 miles of shoreline.

You can choose to base your camping trip at either the north or south end of the shore, but be mindful that many of the campsites are first come, first served. At this free Virginia campsite, you’ll find beaches and dunes, like Bolar Mountain and Coles Point, and plenty of designated areas for fishing and hiking.

With gorgeous lake-side views and lots of natural terrain to explore, Lake Moomaw Recreation area is an unforgettable destination for anyone looking for a waterside camping trip.

Time to Start Packing for Free Camping in Virginia!

9 Places to Go Free Camping in Virginia 3

Now that you know some of the best places to go free camping in Virginia, it’s time to start packing and planning your adventure. From hiking and sightseeing to swimming and fishing, Virginia’s free campgrounds truly offer something for everyone.

Whether you’re a first-time camper or an avid outdoorsman, it’s important to make sure you’ve done your research and are prepared for your trip. To learn more about what to bring, you can take a look at our post on the Ultimate Camping Checklist for all you need to know!