How To Find Free Camping On Blm Land
Dispersed camping in Meadow Creek Reservoir, Colorado
When driving through the Western States, I did quite a bit of dispersed camping. Youll often find small roads off the main road. Just follow them and set up camp off the road. Sometimes youll even find flat area and fire rings where other people have camped before.
If you want to stay at a campsite for longer than one night, then you can scout one out in advance. The BLM has a really great interactive map. All of the yellow areas on the map are BLM land.
You dont have to limit yourself to the primitive campground sites listed on the map. Other BLM land could be a great camping spot. Just remember to check beforehand to see if you need a permit or if there are any special restrictions.
If you want to find a developed site on BLM, go to and click on the state you want to visit.
Jones Run Falls Trailhead
To get to the trailhead, you take US 211 and turn onto Route 662. You will see the South River Picnic Area on the right, where you can park your car. It is a grand residence to stop and use the restroom or buy snacks and water if you need them before starting your hike.
This is another great hike for those looking for a temperate to the muggy trail with plenty of scenery. The Jones Run Falls Trailhead is located in the northern part of Shenandoah National Park, and its definitely worth the trip.
The trailhead is behind the picnic area, and there is plenty of parking. The hike up Jones Run starts out with an easy path to the falls, but it quickly becomes more difficult. The falls are definitely worth the trek, though, and youll be able to enjoy them from a few different angles.
The hike should take between 2-4 hours, depending on how difficult you want it to be. It is about 7 miles round trip, so its not too bad, but it can be challenging at times. Be prepared for a few steep rises and descents! All in all, this is definitely one of the best trails to hike at Shenandoah National Park!
There are definitely plenty of great trails to choose from when hiking at Shenandoah National Park. These are pretty a few of our favorites, but be sure to do your research before heading out and pick the trail thats right for you! The hikes are definitely worth it!
Length: 4.5 mi
Dogs on leash, Kid friendly, Hiking, Walking, River, Views, Waterfall, Wildlife, Fee
Everything You Need To Know About Camping In Shenandoah National Park
Theres just something magical about gathering up your crew around a glowing campfire, getting tucked into sleeping bags under the stars and leaving your cares behind on a camping adventure in Virginia. Shenandoah National Park is just the place to go too, thanks in large part to four well-spaced family campgrounds along Skyline Drive.
All four campgrounds operate from spring to fall. Some spots can book up to six months in advance. However, the majority of sites are only available on a first-come, first-serve basis. As they say, the early bird gets the worm and thats especially true at Shenandoah National Park.
For large groups , Dundo Group Campground can be reserved up to one-year in advance. There is backcountry camping, too. To catch some zzzs out in the wild, youll need a free permit, but its a cinch to get one on the parks website.
Every campground at Shenandoah National Park has its own appeal. For example, Lewis Mountain is small and intimate, while Big Meadows is large and packed with amenities, like a large picnic area and one of the parks two visitor centers.
Photo Credit: Gordon Lau,
All of the campgrounds allow visitors to experience nature, including black bears, which are known to wander across each of the campgrounds from time to time. That noted, store your food in an on-site storage canister or in your vehicle to keep the bears from patrolling the campground.
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Shenandoah National Park Boondocking
At the Shenandoah National Park you dont have to pay for a campsite if you are willing to brave the elements. We spent three nights camping in Shenandoah National Park at one of the designated backcountry campsites without having to pay a cent.
Our reasoning was simple its free, whats the worst that could happen?
Before camping in the backcountry, you must attend a mandatory safety briefing. Rangers go over things like building a fire properly and what kind of wildlife you may encounter. The briefing is also a superb opportunity to ask any questions you may have about camping in the park.
Once we had our briefing, we were set free to find our own campsite. Call or email the park ahead of time and request an outfitter permit, which will cost you $10 per trip. Then just choose your campsite once you arrive at the park. We picked one that was approximately 4 miles from the road. All we had to do now was choose our favorite Shenandoah National Park camping spots.
We were definitely not the only ones camping in the park there were people all around us. I think one of the best things about camping in Shenandoah National Park is that you are never really too far from civilization. If you need something, all you have to do is walk a few miles, and you will find a road, trail, or visitor center.
If you are looking for a more primeval camping experience, I recommend camping in the backcountry. Just be prepared for the possibility of bears wandering through your campsite.
Backcountry Camping Permit Costs
Each of the 61 national parks in the USA has its own fee system. To visit the park and stay overnight, you will probably need to pay:
- A vehicle entrance fee or a per-person fee
- About $4 to $10 per night for the camping fee
- Another small fee for the permit itself
Here are some examples:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
A permit for the Smoky Mountain National Park costs $4 per person, per night, with a maximum charge of $20. The permit is only good for 7 days though, so you are limited to how long you can stay.
There is no fee to enter the Smoky Mountain though. So, you could go camping for 7 days for just $20. By contrast, most campgrounds in the Smoky Mountains cost around $17-$25 per day.
Olympic National Park in Washington
Olympic National Park in Washington costs $8 per person, per night plus a $6 permit fee. Camping for 4 nights would cost $38. Camping for 10 nights would cost you $86. On top of this, you have to pay entrance into the park. If arriving by vehicle, its a $30 fee. If arriving by foot, its a $10 entrance fee.
Free National Parks
There are a handful of National Parks which give free permits, which means you get to camp for free.
For example, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia doesnt require a permit at all.
Yosemite requires a permit, but it is free . However, permits for Yosemite are notoriously difficult to get since the park is so popular.
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Shenandoah National Park Boondocking Blue Ridge Pkwy North Entrance
There is an abandoned restaurant that will work as a Shenandoah National Park boondocking, it has an orange tile roof, parking around it is free, no signs, often used by hikers and bikers.
I have stayed overnight here a number of times in the last 4 years. It is on hwy. 76, the entrance to Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Pkwy. There is a visitors center 1/4 mile away, up on a hill above here, with maps, restroom, and free WiFi. The freeway is also nearby so there is that noise.
Beautiful Spots To Go Camping In Shenandoah National Park
Want to do more than just a drive-through or day trip to Shenandoah National Park? Plan a trip and spend more than a day driving the Skyline Drive, so you can spend a night camping in Shenandoah National Park at one of the many campgrounds.
Enjoy a night, weekend or even a week experiencing all the park and surrounding area has to offer by camping at one of the five campgrounds within the park, pitch your tent doing some backcountry camping, or pull your RV into one of the campgrounds just outside one of the parks four entrance gates.
Within the park, the campgrounds feature various options, including tenting and RV campsites, cabins and backcountry huts. Some of the campgrounds also offer group sites for up to 20 people.
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Places And 10 Things To Do And See In Shenandoah National Park
In Shenandoah National Park, there is so much to see and do that you could spend a week exploring the park.
Luckily for those who have not had a week off of work or school recently, we managed to fit in 10 of our favorite places and activities into only three days. Below we will tell you about these places and activities and encourage you to visit and experience these Shenandoah National Park gems for yourself!
If youre looking for a place with wild natural scenery and plenty of things to do, Shenandoah National Park is the perfect destination. There are countless hiking trails to explore, miles of biking trails, beautiful waterfalls, and so much more. Here are 10 things we enjoyed during our visit to Shenandoah National Park:
Backcountry Campsites In Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is a backcountry campers dream. The park features over 500 miles of trails that wind their way throughout this stunning landscape and provide countless options for your perfect backpacking trip. However, there are some rules and regulations youll need to keep in mind as you plan your backcountry camping trip in Shenandoah National Park, outlined below.
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Yogi Bears Jellystone Park Luray
Yogi Bears Jellystone Park in Luray is the ultimate vacation spot for kids. This 70+ acre park is chock full of adventure, and its just down the road from Shenandoah National Park! Theres a seemingly endless amount of things to do for people of all ages, making it the perfect place to create unforgettable memories! Plus, the modern facilities make staying here easy, accessible, and comfortable.
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Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp
- Address:2250 US Highway 211 E, Luray, VA 22835
- Distance from Washington D.C.: 90 miles / 1 hour 50 minutes
- Open: Mar 20-Nov 20
On the Shenandoah River banks, this 100-acre campground offers a variety of sites from full hook-ups to primitive tent sites along with four cabins. There are hot shower bathhouses, shaded pavilions, a camp store and a tube float within the campground.
Along their ¾-mile of river frontage, there are various spots where you can access the river to enjoy a paddle.
Hike Shenandoah National Park
Additionally, Shenandoah is home to the well-known Skyline Drive, a picturesque road that veers through the park while ascending and falling along the way. A lot of people travel to Skyline Drive to see the traditional Shenandoah fall foliage. The scene of oak, maple, birch, and ash trees is depicted in vivid yellows, reds, and oranges as though it were a canvas for an artist.
Shenandoah is one of the only National Parks that genuinely welcomes all members of the family due to the hundreds of miles of hiking trails there, the majority of which are pet-friendly.
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America The Beautiful Annual Parks Pass
If you visit national parks frequently in one year, its worth it to get the Annual Parks Pass. The pass covers entrance fees to National Parks, day-use fees, and also gives some discounts on campgrounds.
The pass covers the owner plus up to 3 adults in the same vehicle . As Ontheluce calculates, entrance fees would add up to $185 for Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Zion, Mesa Verde, and the Grand Canyon.
The pass costs:
- Free US military pass
- Free for residents with permanent disabilities
The pass does NOT cover any backpacking fees or permit costs though. You still need to apply and pay for these, even with the Annual Pass. Read more about the prices and what the pass covers here.
Beautiful camping spot in Yosemite with a view of Vogelsang Peak. A permit is definitely required!
Elizabeth Furnace Family Campground
- Address:15618 Fort Valley Rd, Fort Valley, VA 22652
- Distance from Washington D.C.: 80 miles / 1½ hours
- Cost: $20 a night
In George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, the Elizabeth Furnace Family Campgrounds 32 sites sit along Passage Creek.
The campground is first-come, first-serve, and open year-round.
Each campsite comes with a fire ring and picnic table. The campgrounds has flush toilets and warm showers from Memorial Day weekend through September. During the remaining part of the year, there are vault toilets onsite.
Water is available year-round from a hand pump.
There are no hook-ups at any of the sites, but there is a dump station for campers.
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Shenandoah National Park Camping Guide
Holders of the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior or Access Pass, or the Golden Age or Access pass are eligible for a 50% discount on their campsite.
There are over 500 miles of hiking trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
All campgrounds are managed by the National Park Service.
All four front country campgrounds are centrally located off the park’s main feature, the Skyline Drive. The Skyline Drive is 105 miles long with numerous pullouts giving visitors epic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The road is mostly posted at 35mph and can easily take all day to explore.
Location: northern section of the Park, nearest campground to the Front Royal entrance. The campground is located right off of Milepost 22 on the famous Skyline Drive.
Number of sites: 165
Cost per night: $15
Reservations?: Yes, there is a combination of first come first serve and reservation sites within the campground.
Campground amenities: All sites include a place for a tent or RV, a fire ring, and picnic table.
GPS Coordinates: 38.7624° N, 78.2966° W
RVs allowed?: Yes
Generator Hours: Generators may be used from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
From October 15 through the end of the season, generator hours are extended to 9 p.m. for the purpose of generating heat.
What To Bring On Your Shenandoah National Park Camping Trip
Preparing for your Shenandoah National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear youll need to ensure a great trip.
- Coleman Camping Stove This camping classic is perfect for whipping up classic campsite dinners.
- Tick repellent Ticks are common throughout Shenandoah, and while it is always a good idea to wear long pants, this tick repellent from Bens is worth applying when out hiking or camping.
- Portable water container Save yourself the countless trips to the water tap and bring one of these.
- Cooler The hot summer temperatures make a good cooler essential. We cant recommend Yeti enough!
- Shenandoah National Park Map An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
- Shenandoah Guidebook A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Shenandoah. We like this hiking guide from Falcon Guides.
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History Of The Shenandoah National Park
It was fashioned in 1935 to enact the legislation that established the national park program near the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia. The creation of this national park was a decade-long effort coordinated by state politicians and conservationists. During this time, the proposal to establish a federal commission within the Department of the Interior to oversee the national parks gained widespread support.
This proposal was approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and on August 10th, 1937, just two months before the Shenandoah National Park would open its gates to visitors for the first time, it became part of the newly created National Park Service.Before being established as a national park, the Shenandoah National Parks land was primarily logged and farmed. The parks establishment has helped restore the area to a more natural state.
Today, over 500,000 people visit the Shenandoah National Park each year to enjoy its scenic beauty and outdoor activities. There are over 500 miles of One of the great things about the Shenandoah National Park is that it has free campsites. There are roughly 100 different campsites in the park, each with its own fire pit, picnic table and access to bathrooms.
Whats even better about these free campsites is you do not need a reservation simply arrive at your desired camp around dusk and pitch your tent. You also do not need to be disquiet about paying the campsite fee its free!