12 Tranquil Camping Sites in the DC Area

From cabins with 360-degree stargazing views to quaint campsites by the water, the DC area has tons of great camping getaways.

Now that many of us are working from home and tied to our laptops 24/7, reconnecting with Mother Nature is more vital than ever—and camping is the perfect way to go off the grid.

While you might think of the DMV region as all traffic and suburban sprawl, there are some slices of nature with excellent camping sites, even one spot by the Beltway, where you can disconnect and unwind to a zen-like state. And if you venture to some campsites further east or west in Maryland and Virginia, it’s possible to spot the Milky Way or make a bonfire on the beach during your outdoor getaway. So power off your laptop, put away your phone, and explore our list of 12 campgrounds in the mid-Atlantic region worth checking out.

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 in 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, plus upscale glamping pods and premium, rustic cabins. Newer amenities include express check-in and free on-demand deliveries from the camp’s store and cafe.

Lake Fairfax, Virginia
Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Just outside the Beltway and close to the Metro’s silver line sits a 476-acre park with leafy campsites available to book online for rates as low as $30 per campsite. You’ll find an oversized lake that’s perfect for fishing or hiking around. This campsite is also made for the kid at heart with an old-time carousel on site, plus the Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole is a popular water park nearby with water slides, flumes and an interactive water playground.

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 for those seeking a bit more comfort.

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 if you truly want a secluded getaway.

Leesylvania State Park
Leesylvania State Park | Jennifer Slack Photography

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.

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. By land, the campground has playground space and a zipline course. Did we mention there’s an on-site brewery with stunning views of the Potomac River? Plus, it’s just a short drive to historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia with plenty of restaurants that specialize in Appalachian-style and farm-to-table cooking.

Wilderness Presidential Resort
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.

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 local eating and a few 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 Elizabeth Furnace is full.

Bear, Delaware
Distance from DC: 2 hours
This Delaware state park boasts 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

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, and the campsite also features an on-site beach volleyball, croquet, horseshoe games, and live music. A trip to the area isn’t complete without paying a visit to a quintessential Maryland crab house nearby. The Red Roost was once a chicken farm and now serves up fried chickens and well-seasoned crabs by the dozen.

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 make a bonfire on the beach with the stars as your guide. Both backcountry and beachside campsites are available for online reservations, but better act quickly, these coveted spots are known to book up months in advance of the spring and summer season.

West Virginia State Parks
West Virginia State Parks

Dunmore, West Virginia
Distance from DC: 4 hours, 15 minutes
In 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, a cabin perched high above the forest with 360-degree panoramas for your overnight stay.

Sign up here for our daily DC email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

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.