Best Tent Camping: Virginia: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization

Best Tent Camping: Virginia: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization

by Randy Porter

Paperback(Third Edition)

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Perfect Camping for You in Virginia!

Best Tent Camping: Virginia, by Randy Porter, takes outdoor enthusiasts to the most beautiful, yet lesser known, of the state's campsites, guaranteeing a peaceful retreat. Each entry provides the latest maps of the grounds and alerts readers to the best sites within the facility to ensure a rewarding and relaxing visit. Campsite ratings for beauty, privacy, spaciousness, quietness, security, and cleanliness help campers pick the perfect campground for any trip. In addition, each site entry has complete contact and registration information, operating hours, and a list of restrictions. Directions to the site come complete with GPS coordinates to put travelers right at the main gate. For beginning adventurers and seasoned veterans alike, Best Tent Camping: Virginia makes any trip more gratifying and is the key to enjoying the great natural beauty of the Virginia landscape.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780897325066
Publisher: Menasha Ridge Press
Publication date: 04/15/2014
Series: Best Tent Camping
Edition description: Third Edition
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 728,565
Product dimensions: 8.80(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Randy Porter has been tromping around Virginia's nooks and crannies for more than 40 years and is an avid cyclist, hiker, camper, and sea kayaker. The author of Mountain Bike! Virginia, he lives in Charlottesville, VA.

Read an Excerpt


You’re likely to see white-tailed deer, song sparrows, meadowlarks, grouse, foxes, and skunks.

Beauty – 4 stars
Site Privacy – 4 stars
Spaciousness – 4 stars
Quiet – 4 stars
Security – 4 stars
Cleanliness – 5 stars

Skyline Drive, milepost 51
OPERATED BY: National Park Service
CONTACT: 540-999-3500, ext. 3231;
OPEN: Weather dependent; spring-late autumn
SITES: 217
SITE AMENITIES: Picnic table, fire grill
ASSIGNMENT: On arrival by camper; assigned on busy weekends
REGISTRATION: By reservation at or on arrival
FACILITIES: Camp store, laundry, coin-operated showers, lodge with restaurant
PARKING: At campsites and at laundry and shower area
FEE: $20 per night, plus $15 park entrance; discounts for holders of Interagency Senior/Access passes and Golden Age/Access passes
ELEVATION: 3,600 feet
On 6-foot leash or shorter; clean up after pet
FIRES: Only in camp stoves and fireplaces
ALCOHOL: Permitted
VEHICLES: No limit
OTHER: Do not damage any trees; wash dishes at campsite only; discard gray water in service sinks at restrooms; maximum 6 people, 2 tents, 2 vehicles per site; quiet hours 10 p.m.-6 a.m.; noise limit for generators and use restricted to 8-10 a.m. and 4-7 p.m.

Big Meadows is Shenandoah National Park’s largest treeless area, encompassing a barren plateau that is approximately 640 acres. It’s believed that American Indians cleared the area to create favorable grazing conditions. European settlers overgrazed this site with beef cattle, especially during the Civil War. Park officials have waged an ongoing battle against the growth of black locust and blackberry that would, if left unchecked, take over the meadow. In the past, Park Service officials used combinations of burning and mowing to hold back the growth of invasive vegetation. New strategies have aided in the establishment of meadow grasses. Today, the dominant shrub growth in the meadow is blueberry, with swamp varieties, such as marsh marigold, swamp fern, and Canadian burnet, growing in wetter areas. Overall, the meadow supports some 270 species of vascular plants. In addition to the white-tailed deer that wander seemingly carefree through the meadow, you’re also likely to see song sparrows, meadowlarks, grouse, foxes, and skunks.

The park’s dedication was held at Big Meadows, the spiritual center of Skyline Drive, on July 3, 1936. President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself was on hand to formally open the facilities at Shenandoah National Park. The meadow is located across Skyline Drive from the Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center, which houses informative exhibits, a library, an auditorium, interpretive programs, and an array of literature about Shenandoah National Park that is on sale in the small gift shop. Be sure to pick up a copy of Explore Shenandoah, the park’s newsletter, for a great overview of where things are located in Shenandoah National Park as well as times and locations for ranger programs.

Big Meadows, with its visitor center, lodge, restaurant, and campground, is located in the central section of the park at mile 51.2. After pulling off Skyline Drive near the Byrd Visitor Center, follow the signs to the registration station for Big Meadows Campground. Its 217 sites are situated on two large loops, the front one containing loops P–T, and the rear section containing U–Y. Except for sites 1–53, which are tents only, all are designated RV sites, despite the lack of hookups.

The sites are spacious and separated by considerable foliage. Park officials did a good job of placing a large number of sites close to each other without sacrificing seclusion. This is, of course, relative; those of you who relish your solitude will accept the slight inconvenience of walking 10–100 yards and opt for one of the walk-to sites.

The walk-to sites are set off in the wooded edge of Big Meadows Campground and are very private. Sites 1–8 are set between the main entrance road and the camp road and tend to be noisier than the others, but appealing sites 29–34 and 44–53 are set off by themselves in the woods. Sites 12–21 and 24–34 are in grassy and less wooded areas but are still highly desirable if you don’t mind carrying your gear a short distance to your site. There are no sites 25 and 26. Big Meadows Campground is a popular stopover for campers in Shenandoah National Park, especially in the fall, and it is the only one that accepts reservations. If you can plan your stay during the week, you’ll find considerably fewer neighbors, but calling ahead is a good idea at any time.

As in the rest of this nearly 300-square- mile park through which 101 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail passes, there is no shortage of hiking trails. However, the Big Meadows area is especially blessed with trails for hikers of varied ages and ability levels. The 1.8-mile Story of the Forest Nature Trail is a relatively easy walk starting from the Byrd Visitor Center. Interpretive signs explain various aspects of the surrounding forest. The 3.3-mile Lewis Falls Trail pro- vides more of a challenge in terms of length and change in elevation after it exits the amphitheater parking lot. The hike to the 81-foot falls is worth the effort.

Camp Hoover (aka Rapidan Camp), located across from Big Meadows 6.3 miles down the Rapidan Fire Road, was a favorite getaway for President Herbert Hoover. The walk to Camp Hoover can be shortened to a 4-mile out-and-back by taking the Mill Prong Trail. Camp Hoover is a beautiful spot where 3 of the original 13 cabins remain at the confluence of Mill Prong, Laurel Prong, and the Rapidan River. In the summer, three-hour van tours are available several days a week. Sign up in advance at the Byrd Visitor Center. While many campers make their pilgrimage to Shenandoah National Park in the fall when colors are at their most varied and brightest, May represents the peak time for wildflowers in the meadow.

Getting There
From the Swift Run Gap Entrance Station at mile 65.7, drive north on Skyline Drive to Big Meadows at mile 51.2 .
GPS COORDINATES N38° 31.709 W78° 26.334

Table of Contents

Virginia Overview Map
Overview Map Key
Best Campgrounds

Belle Isle State Park
Chippokes Plantation State Park
First Landing State Park
Kiptopeke State Park
Newport News Park
Northwest River Park
Westmoreland State Park

Bear Creek Lake State Park
Fairy Stone State Park
Holliday Lake State Park
James River State Park
Lake Anna State Park
Occoneechee State Park
Pocahontas State Park
Smith Mountain Lake State Park
Staunton River State Park
Twin Lakes State Park

Bull Run Regional Park
Burke Lake Park
Lake Fairfax Park
Pohick Bay Regional Park
Prince William Forest Park

Big Meadows Campground
Camp Roosevelt Recreation Park
Cave Mountain Lake Campground
Douthat State Park
Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area
Hidden Valley Campground
Hone Quarry Recreation Area
Lake Robertson Campground
Lewis Mountain Campground
Loft Mountain Campground
Mathews Arm Campground
Morris Hill Campground
North Creek Campground
Otter Creek Campground
Peaks of Otter Campground
Shenandoah River State Park
Sherando Lake Recreation Area
Todd Lake Recreation Area

Breaks Interstate Park
Cave Springs Recreation Area
Claytor Lake State Park
Comers Rock Campground
Grayson Highlands State Park
High Knob Recreation Area
Hungry Mother State Park
Hurricane Campground
Natural Tunnel State Park
Raven Cliff Campground

Appendix A: Camping Equipment Checklist
Appendix B: Sources of Information
Appendix C: Suggested Reading and Reference
About the Author
Map Legend

Customer Reviews