Fall camping is hands down my favorite. You’ve got beautiful colors, toasty marshmallows and relatively warm weather in the evenings. We’ve been fortunate to always have friends here who love camping as much as we do, and we try to go as often as possible. Sometimes this is difficult with some of the worst traffic in the country and for those working long work weeks. We always manage to squeeze a couple of fall camping trips into our autumn bucket list.
There are also plenty of places to camp relatively close, which used to surprise me for how vast the DC metro area can seem.
If you find fall camping is in your near future, here are some tips. Plan ahead of time — campsites can fill quickly at some of the well known, larger campgrounds. Pack a couple extra layers just in case– you can always peel a layer off, but you can’t always put one on. If you forget something, it’s OK, most campsites here in the metro area aren’t far from civilization of some sort. Make it fun, there are so many great ideas for camping games, food, and packing. Go apple picking or pumpkin patching on the way there (or the way home).
Fall Camping in Virginia
- Shenandoah River State Park- If I had to choose, this really is my favorite place to camp. Partly for the memories, but I also love the drive through some of the most beautiful countrysides I’ve ever seen. On the drive here, I really feel like we’ve left the city (and our cares) behind. Nestled in the valley below Shenandoah National Park, this is a great alternative to Shenandoah National Park (no bears in my experience), but still close enough to visit during the day. My husband and his buddies will usually fish for an hour or two, while a few of us take the kids on a nature walk. Open for camping year-round.
- Lake Anna– Lake Anna is beautiful, and super convenient just west of Fredericksburg. Being able to camp so close to the lake is great. It provides a completely different atmosphere to the woodsy feeling at any of the others, and gives an opportunity to explore outdoor activities beyond hiking. Open for camping year-round.
- Prince William Forest Park– Fall camping doesn’t really come much closer to home than Prince William Forest Park. Thirty-three miles south of DC, it’s super close (albeit a bit of a long drive if you decide to camp Friday-Saturday with I-95 SB traffic). With 37 miles of hiking trails, it’s the most extensive hiking trails network in Northern Virginia. Open for camping year-round.
- Burke Lake Park– Although I’ve never camped here, I love the place. Camping is only open until October 26 this year, and first-come-first-served for families. There is so much to do at the park, and it’s in the DC area– who wouldn’t want to camp here?
Fall Camping in Maryland
- Tuckahoe State Park– Hands down, probably one of the nicest parks I’ve ever camped out. We went as an overnight trip, and I would have loved to stay longer. Nature trails, a recycled tire playground and waterfront made it a great place for us to stay. Approximately 35 miles east of the Bay Bridge, Tuckahoe State Park is open for family camping until Dec. 2.
- Cunningham Falls State Park– I have so many fond memories of camping and hiking at Cunningham Falls State Park. I would recommend it to any family. Open until October 27 for family camping.
I’m sure there are many other great camping places that I’ve yet to check out. If you have any other fall camping suggestions, I’m all ears!
More Fall Fun
- Watch the leaves change close to home at Theodore Roosevelt Island
- Enjoy some fall hiking at Great Falls Park and get some wiggles out at Clemyjontri afterward
- Had a summer bucket list? Make an autumn one!
- Try out a cherry tomato recipe with all of the leftovers from your garden!
- Make my favorite fall treat: Gooey Caramel Popcorn