Travel

The Most Secluded Camping Spots Near DC

Because sometimes you just want to pack up and head for the woods.

Seneca State Forest
Seneca State Forest

Are your summer travel plans going nowhere fast? Did a recent trip get canceled because of COVID-19? Join the club -- 84 percent of Americans said they either do not have any immediate travel plans or decided to cancel a trip because of the pandemic. When it comes to your health and personal safety, this summer staying at home is the safest bet, but there is some travel, including outdoor camping, that allows you to travel and embrace the socially distanced beauty of Mother Nature. 
 
And while you might think the DC region is all traffic and suburban sprawl, there are some slices of nature, even one spot near the Beltway, where you can disconnect. Meanwhile, if you venture to some campsites further east or west of the DMV, it’s possible to spot the Milky Way or do a bonfire on the beach. Here are a few of our favorite campgrounds for those in need of spontaneous and safe travel this summer.

Cherry Hill Park
Cherry Hill Park

Cherry Hill Park

College Park, Maryland
Distance from DC: 20 minutes
This campsite is possible to reach by Metro bus, car, or bike, and believe it or not, this rustic wooded area is located near the interchange of I-95 and the Beltway in College Park. But you wouldn’t know it by the serene surroundings of this private campground, which has been family-owned and operated for five generations. Consider Cherry Hill your campsite for versatility, including options for tent and RV-campers, but also upscale glamping pods, plus premium, and rustic cabins. New amenities were added earlier this season for social distancing, including express check-in and free on-demand deliveries from the camp’s store and cafe.

Little Bennett Campground

Clarksburg, Maryland
Distance from DC: 40 minutes
Little Bennett in northern Montgomery County feels like a national or state park, but it’s actually a county-run park great for hikers and bikers who want to explore a 3,700-acre forest and meadowlands. It’s also a sure bet to score a camping reservation on short notice. There are 91 campsites, each with a picnic table, campfire ring, and lantern post. Plus there are three cabins and three yurt options.

Burke Lake Park

Springfield, Virginia
Distance from DC: 40 minutes
In the middle of suburban Virginia is a waterfront oasis that’s particularly easy for campers who love being near a lake. Campsite rentals are near the water and feature a grill, picnic table, and fire ring, with access to bathhouses and showers as well as a camp store. And for those who prefer to live off the land, Burke Lake Park also offers primitive, amenity-free wilderness camping.

Leesylvania State Park
Leesylvania State Park | Jennifer Slack Photography

Leesylvania State Park

Woodbridge, Virginia
Distance from DC: 45 minutes
Leesylvania State Park is a peninsula in Prince William County, known for great fishing, beaches with swimming areas, and hiking trails on the Potomac River. Consider this your campsite for the fun, fit, and active type. On land, the park has hiking trails and a 20-station fitness trail and there is a fishing pier. It’s also a quiet and spacious site for campers, with just five tent-only campsites, and four-individual campsites for visitors arriving by canoe or kayak. That’s in addition to picnic tables, pavilions, benches, running water, and a large fire pit -- pretty much all the comforts of home with bonus gorgeous sunsets.

Harpers Ferry Adventure Center

Hillsboro, Virginia
Distance from DC: 1 hour, 15 minutes
For a family-friendly campground in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Harpers Ferry Adventure Center offers both cabin and campground sites along the Potomac River. That makes it a top pick for river tubing, kayaking, and whitewater rafting. Plus, the campground has playground space and a zipline course. Best of all it’s just a short drive to historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia with plenty of options for safe socially distanced dining.

Wilderness Presidential Resort

Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia
Distance from DC: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Not all people are true campers, which is why this campground and resort is your best bet if you like the finer things in life, like a quaint-log cabin with a hot tub. Wilderness Presidential Resort is a family-oriented, private campsite that sits on 600 acres of forests and two lakes. The resort is open 365-days a year, and it’s a short drive from Lake Anna.

Elizabeth Furnace Campgrounds

Fort Valley, Virginia
Distance from DC: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Stargazers should head to the George Washington National Forest in Fort Valley, Virginia, otherwise known as the “valley within the valley.” This is a campsite for some serious R&R. Trails branch off and give you access to a creek for fishing or cooling off, and you’re a short drive to Shenandoah National Park, guided horseback riding at Fort Valley Ranch, and the town of Strasburg for socially distanced dining and breweries. Campsite pads are plentiful (33 spots) and each is first come, first serve, along with picnic tables, fire pits, showers, and vault toilets. The campground is also up the road from Camp Roosevelt, the nation’s very first Civilian Conservation Corp Camp, which also offers additional sites in case this site is full.

Lums Pond State Park

Bear, Delaware
Distance from DC: 2 hours
This Delaware state park is the largest freshwater pond in the state, and it’s a Fido-friendly campsite with a dog park, plus several other upgrades for animal lovers. An equestrian center offers visitors the option for trail rides and riding lessons, as well as a multi-use trail that welcomes horseback riders. This pond is also considered to be one of the state’s best fishing spots. The Summit Marina, which provides boat access to the Delaware Bay, is also minutes away, and there’s an onsite restaurant, Grain H20, with outdoor dining by the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal.

Roaring Point Waterfront Campground
Roaring Point Waterfront Campground | Kathyrn Gustafso

Roaring Point Waterfront Campground

Nanticoke, Maryland
Distance from DC: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Camping on the Eastern Shore is easy at this all-in-one campsite that sits on the Nanticoke River. It’s also a pet-friendly spot for seafood lovers who want to go fishing or crabbing, or simply pay a visit to a quintessential Maryland crab house nearby -- The Red Roost -- what was once a chicken farm. The campsite also features an on-site beach volleyball, croquet, horseshoe games, and live music.

Assateague Island National Seashore

Assateague Island, Maryland
Distance from DC: 3 hours
South of the hustle and bustle of Ocean City, Maryland is the quiet solitude of Assateague Island National Seashore, a national park with famed wild ponies and where it’s possible to bonfire on the beach with the stars as your guide. Both backcountry and beachside campsites are available for online reservation, but better act quick, these coveted spots are known to book up months in advance for the summer season.

Seneca State Forest
Zack Frank/Shutterstock

Seneca State Forest

Dunmore, West Virginia
Distance from DC: 4 hours, 15 minutes
In wild and wonderful West Virginia, you’ll find the oldest and largest state forest, Seneca State Forest, in rugged Pocahontas County, which has almost 13,000 acres of woodlands to explore, plus minimal light pollution to easily spot the Milky Way. One of the most breathtaking options to book for camping is the Thorny Mountain Fire Tower, with 360-degree panoramas for your overnight stay.

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Tim Ebner is a food and travel writer based in Washington DC who writes for Eater, Edible, Washington City Paper, and Forbes Travel, among others -- and now really wants to go camping. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram to find out if he does.