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How to be a Happy Camper in Shenandoah

by Patressa Kearns

Camping popularity has gone through the roof, and not just here at Shenandoah, but everywhere! Here are some things to know to help you increase your chances of getting a campsite in Shenandoah.

  • There are four campgrounds: Mathews Arm (mile 22 on Skyline Drive), Big Meadows (mile 51), Lewis Mountain (mile 57.2), and Loft Mountain (mile 79.5). Except for the very small Lewis Mountain, campgrounds have both reservable sites and walk-up sites. (Lewis Mountain has no reservable campsites; every site there is first come, first served.) All four campgrounds have tent sites and RV/camper sites.
  • All camping reservations are made through Recreation.gov (877-444-6777). The earliest you can reserve a campsite is six months ahead of your arrival date; the latest you can reserve is 48 hours before your arrival.
  • To get a “first come, first served” or “walk-up” campsite—a site that is not reservable—you must check in person at the office of the campground at which you wish to stay. In other words, you have to “walk up” to the campground office to get your site; the first to physically arrive at the campground office to claim a site is the first served with a site. There is no calling ahead and reserving on the phone the day of or day before your arrival. Yes, we understand that this can make it tough to get a site. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, once you get a first come, first served campsite, you can keep it for up to 14 consecutive nights, as long as you continue to pay for it by checkout time (12:00 noon) each day. So, if you can plan to arrive on a weeknight (Sunday-Thursday), you can increase your chances of getting a first come, first campsite to keep through the weekend!
  • Campsite availability is posted at Park entrances. But it can take an hour or longer to drive from Park entrances to the various campgrounds; on busy nights, the campground that had available sites when you entered may very well be full by the time you actually arrive at the campground. So, if you don’t have a camping reservation, it’s smart to have a plan B. Before you leave home, as part of your trip planning, check the Virginia tourism website for private and other government campgrounds and lodging options in the Shenandoah area. Remember: Camping is really popular these days, and all four of the Park’s campgrounds fill up fairly often, especially on weekends and holidays.
  • When a campground is completely full, Park Staff will usually post a notice saying so on Shenandoah National Park’s official social media channels—Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Happy camping!