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The 14 Best Spots for Primitive Camping in Virginia

Primitive camping in Virginia is all about finding the right campsite. That perfect spot beside a babbling stream or looking out onto an unforgettable view.

Whether you’re new to camping or an expert backpacker, the vast Virginian wilderness has the perfect primitive campsites for you!

Read on for descriptions of what makes each site worth a visit and all the resources you need to plan your trip!

Waterfalls in White Oak Canyon in Shenandoah National Park. Primitive camping in Virginia.
Waterfalls in White Oak Canyon.

Beginner Trips

1. James River State Park


A beautiful, winding river through Buckingham County and rolling green hills make James River State Park the perfect primitive camping destination in Virginia.

Within the park, you’ll find over 10 primitive campsites throughout three different campgrounds. But the Canoe Landing Campground definitely has the best spots.

Nestled into the trees by the river you’ll find soft, grassy lawns. Perfect for pitching tents and hanging hammocks. Picnic tables and a large firepit are also offered at these sites. One of which is even big enough to host 42 people!

Being at a campground means there are amenities that might not be offered at other primitive camping spots in Virginia. So this is perfect for people who are just starting to let their wild side out.

2. New River Trail State Park

Max Meadows

Pack your floaties and get ready for an amazingly lazy afternoon at one of the New River Trail State Park’s primitive camping sites in Virginia!

Three primitive campgrounds and lots of fun activities, like horseback riding, make it easy to enjoy your beautiful surroundings.

At the Cliffview and Millrace campgrounds, you’ll find a lantern post, picnic table, non-flush toilet, and drinking water. They also offer a universally accessible site for disabled campers. Ensuring that everyone gets to enjoy the great outdoors!

For a more backcountry, primitive camping experience in Virginia, the Double Shoals campground is the one you want. Its two private campsites run on a self-pay honor system and are first-come, first-serve. Providing a more secluded experience.

3. Powhatan State Park


Next on this list of the best primitive camping spots in Virginia are the nine canoe-in or hike-in campsites offered in Powhatan State Park.

Centered around a 12 by 12 and a 16 by 16 tent pad, these sites make sleeping on the ground easy. Immerse yourself in nature without sacrificing a good night’s sleep or comfort!

What really makes Powhatan so special is the scenery. During your trip, explore the rich ecosystems along the trails and in the ponds. Various types of forest habitats throughout this park give your stroll a magical feel like no other!

4. Sky Meadows State Park


Sky Meadows State Park is the perfect camping experience for beginners who are ready to dip their toes into a more intermediate-style primitive camping trip in Virginia.

At the end of a one-mile hike along Hadow Trail, you’ll find 18 solo, buddy, or group primitive campsites overlooking the lush, green pastures that make the park so charming.

Without direct access to water, primitive camping in this Virginia state park will be a bit more challenging. But great views and beautiful campsites with tent pads, lantern hooks, fire pits, and bear lockers make it all worth it! Some even have hammock posts to help you make the most of the views.

5. Caledon State Park

King George

Take in Virginia’s rich history at a paddle-in campground that hugs the sandy shores of the Potomac River and joins with the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail in Caledon State Park!

As you paddle five miles into Jones Pond, you’ll be following in the footsteps of one of America’s first European explorers! Seeing all the amazing scenery that made him fall in love with the land.

When you arrive, set up camp on the site’s big, sand-filled pad that comes equipped with a picnic table, fire ring, and lantern post. And be sure to explore the natural reserve on the other side of the pond to get the most out of your stay!

Intermediate Trips

6. Rose River Loop


Start the Rose River Loop with a two-mile hike downhill that brings you to some of the coziest spots for primitive camping in Virginia. Settle down between two trickling streams and enjoy the sounds of nature for a beautiful night in the forest!

To find the trailhead, park in the lot at mile marker 49.4 on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. Then look for the trail marked by a large cement post across the road and follow the river as it rushes downstream and over small waterfalls.

Since this is a backcountry primitive camping experience in Virginia, you can camp wherever you’d like along the trail. But the best spot is just before you cross the bridge.

With 900ft of elevation, the two miles up the fire road to your car will be a little harder. But you won’t find another hike with lush nature quite like this in Shenandoah!

7. Greenwood Point Campground

Hot Springs

Wide, sandy inlets and beautiful, teal water fill your journey and destination at this amazing primitive camping area in the far west of Virginia.

After a 3.3-mile hike from Bolar Mountain Recreational Area’s Third Campground or a five-mile canoe from the Fortney Branch Boat Ramp, you’ll find yourself at the secluded beach of Greenwood Point Campground by Lake Moomaw, surrounded by forested hills.

The cove that holds your campsite keeps the water nice and calm. Perfect for spending sunny days floating on the water. Plus, the large lawn that all the campsites look out on provides the perfect common area for activities!

8. Mount Pleasant Loop


A six-mile hike through the Mount Pleasant Scenic Area provides amazing east and west-facing mountain views for a magical sunset and sunrise camping trip!

After parking at the Mount Pleasant parking area, which can be found by following the instructions on the official website linked above, head to the end of the access road and start your hike following the blue blazes of the Pompey Trail.

This secluded trail has some of the best bird-watching and wildlife out of all the hiking trails in Virginia. Catch sight of peregrine falcons, woodpeckers, and over 10 other types of birds as you make your way to the summit.

Sunny meadows of wildflowers and butterflies also pepper the mountainside. Every step will bring you further into this seemingly untouched wilderness, perfect for a primitive camping trip in Virginia!

9. Riprap Wildcat


Explore cascades, streams, and a beautiful turquoise swimming hole on the amazing Riprap Wildcat trail through Shenandoah National Park!

The 10-mile trek can be broken up however you like with the multitude of amazing spots to set up camp along this trail. Just start by heading north on the Appalachian Trailhead off the Riprap parking lot at mile marker 90 on Skyline Drive and see where the day takes you!

If you want an early first day, set up by the water on Riprap Trail. Or you can break the two days in half and stop in the woods of Wildcat Ridge Trail. You can also make the first day longer and camp by the stream further along Wildcat Ridge.

Keep in mind that this primitive camping trip in Virginia is pretty popular on the weekends, so it’s best to go on a weekday.

Expert Trips

10. Overall Run and Beecher Ridge


Hike alongside two of the highest waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park before arriving at primitive camping sites large enough to fit groups of 10 people on this unique trip through Overall Run and Beecher Ridge Trail!

Your journey begins on the south side of the Overall Run Trailhead parking lot at mile marker 21.1 of Skyline Drive. There, you’ll follow the Appalachian Trail before turning right at the first intersection to get onto the Tuscarora and Overall Run Trails.

Shortly after passing where the Tuscarora Trail veers right, you’ll find a tiny side trail that brings you to the perfect little swimming hole for a mid-hike cooldown. After getting your fill, start your search for a campsite.

A total of 10 to 14 miles makes for long days. But with very little elevation, this hike is an awesome way to introduce yourself to more experienced backcountry camping trips!

11. False Cape State Park

Virginia Beach

Six to nine miles of coastal sights and breezy weather stand between you and the astonishing seaside campsites at False Cape State Park!

For experienced campers who are up to the challenge of unpredictable weather and quick tides, these sites can be some of the most beautiful and unique spots you’ll ever spend a night.

The white dunes and tall grass offer the perfect backdrop for the delightful wildlife. If you’re lucky, you could see anything from whales and turtles to foxes and wild horses!

12. Three Ridges Loop


The 14.2-mile loop in the Three Ridges Wilderness of Nelson County offers fantastic primitive camping sites in Virginia filled with astonishing views and valleys!

Start from the Three Ridges parking area off the Blue Ridge Parkway and head south on the Appalachian Trail. As you go up and down the many ridges you’ll find lots of different places to camp.

If you’re looking for dry campsites with amazing views, there’s an unmarked spot at the top of the second knoll near the beginning of the trail and one at the Chimney Rock Overlook closer to the end.

Or keep following the trail until you get to the second intersection with Mau-Har Trail. Here you’ll head right, following Mau-Har’s blue markers before arriving at a large camping area at Campbell Creek surrounded by waterfalls for you to explore!

13. Whiteoak Canyon and Nicholson Hollow


On your trip to Whiteoak Canyon and Nicholson Hollow, hike along some of Shenandoah National Park’s original trails, beside a beautiful canyon filled with rushing waterfalls during this primitive camping trip in Virginia.

Start your day with an uphill climb out of Whiteoak Canyon parking at mile marker 42.6 on Skyline Drive. From here you’ll jump from trail to trail as you make your way down the canyon. Once you’ve made it to Nicholson Hollow Trail you can start looking for places to camp.

Throughout your hike, you’ll be crisscrossing the stream, using bridges or rocks, and finding picturesque swimming holes everywhere you go! A total of 16.1 miles makes this the longest trip on this list.

14. Rocky Mount Trail Loop


If you’re looking for a unique primitive camping destination in Virginia that is truly remote, look no further!

The official Rocky Mount Trail Backcountry camping guide has you picking a spot on the Gap Run trail to set up camp. But the best place to camp is an unofficial spot overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River.

Just park on the grass in front of the Rocky Mount Trail Head at mile marker 76.1 on Skyline Drive, and start your ten-mile journey uphill. Once you’re 3.3 miles into the trek there will be a small trail to your left that leads to a secluded spot big enough for your tent.

Sleeping at this spot feels like camping alone at the edge of the world!

Wrapping Up the Best Spots for Primitive Camping in Virginia

Sign for the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.
Sign pointing along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.

Enjoy only the best America has to offer with one of these primitive camping sites in Virginia! From beginner campgrounds to experience backcountry sites, this list has it all.

For more information on preparing for your trip, check out these 7 Essential Skills for a Successful Primitive Camping Trip!