Top Places For

Camping in the Winter

For some, a true outdoor adventure means escaping the crowds and connecting with nature. What better activity to fit the bill than camping in the winter?

Cold winter weather makes for crisp nights by the campfire at places like Green Ridge State Forest, Shenandoah River State Park, and the Appalachian Trail. Away from the heat of summer, you can discover clear winter skies full of stars, beautiful winter wildlife, and fun outdoor activities like hiking, cross-country skiing, and more.

Remember, services like drinking water, showers, and toilets are often unavailable when camping in winter. Be prepared by packing all necessary food, water, and cold-weather gear so you’re safe and comfortable.

  • For a rustic winter camping adventure, head to the mountains. At state forests like Savage River and Tiadaghton, you can explore the remote backcountry that fringes the edges of the Chesapeake region. If you prefer a more traditional campground but still want to get away, try Rocky Gap State Park or Douthat State Park.
  • Closer to home, there are plenty of places where your family can go camping this winter. Just within the Capital Beltway lies Greenbelt Park, which offers campsites under the trees just minutes from the city. In Virginia, head to Sky Meadows State Park or Caledon State Park, where you’ll embark on a hike to reach primitive campsites that are open all year.
  • Winter doesn’t mean you have to stay away from the Bay! Pitch a tent by the water at Elk Neck State Park, Belle Isle State Park, or Pocomoke River State Park, where you can watch for wintering ducks when you rise early in the morning. If you have an RV, head to Point Lookout, where full hook-ups make camping by the Bay comfortable no matter the season.

Load up your tent, boots, and bag and make a reservation at one of the top places for camping in the winter.

Trail marker on the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. The Trail goes through fourteen states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from Georgia to Maine.

Harper's Ferry, WV

Bald Eagle State Park

Bald Eagle State Park

The 5,900-acre Bald Eagle State Park is in the broad Bald Eagle Valley of northcentral Pennsylvania. The 1,730-acre lake laps the flanks of Bald Eagle Mountain, surrounded by forests, fields and wetlands.

Howard, PA

Bel Air State Park water view

Belle Isle State Park

With seven miles of waterfront on the north shore of the Rappahannock, Belle Isle State Park features diverse tidal and nontidal wetlands, lowland marshes, tidal coves and upland forests.

Lancaster, VA

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal NHP

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park lets visitors explore history and the Potomac River along the 184 mile canal from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD.

Potomac, MD

Cowans Gap State Park

Cowans Gap State Park

A 42-acre lake, large campground, rustic cabins and many hiking trails are prime attractions at Cowans Gap State Park, which is surrounded by state forest land.

Fort Loudon, PA

Douthat State Park

Douthat State Park

Douthat State park is nestled in the Allegheny Mountains and features some of Virginia’s most outstanding scenery. In addition, a 50-acre lake offers swimming, boating and seasonal trout fishing.

Millboro, VA

Hikers at Elk Neck State Park

Elk Neck State Park

Elk Neck State Park boasts 2,188 acres of sandy beaches, marshlands, and heavily wooded bluffs within the peninsula formed by the North East River, Elk River, and the Chesapeake Bay.

North East, MD

Green Ridge State Forest

Green Ridge State Forest

Green Ridge State Forest is the second largest of Maryland's State Forests consisting of a 46,000-acre oak-hickory forest. It is located in eastern Allegany County, approximately eight miles east of Flintstone off I-68 at Exit 64.

Flintstone, MD

Trees in Autumn at Greenbelt National Park

Greenbelt National Park

Just twelve miles from Washington, D.C., Greenbelt Park is located in suburban Greenbelt, Maryland. The park features a 174 site campground, nine miles of trails, and three picnic areas.

Greenbelt, MD

Hyner Run State Park

Hyner Run State Park

The stream Hyner Run carves a small valley from the surrounding steep mountains, creating a cozy, quiet place for an outdoor adventure. The park is entirely surrounded by Sproul State Forest, Pennsylvania’s largest state forest.

North Bend, PA

James River State Park

James River State Park

The park offers more than 1,500 acres of rolling farm meadows and three miles of river frontage. The park offers opportunities to see wildlife and explore habitat native to the foothills of the Blue Ridge.

Gladstone, VA

Martinak State Park

Martinak State Park

Enjoy a spot along the upper Choptank River, the largest of the Bay's Eastern Shore tributaries. Martinak is a haven for bird watchers, who must choose to walk the park's abundant hiking trails or paddle the waterways.

Denton, MD

Pocomoke River State Park

Pocomoke River State Park

Located within the 15,000 wooded acres of Pocomoke State Forest in the Southwestern section of Worcester County, Pocomoke River State Park provides a base for a vast array of outdoor and tourist activities.

Pocomoke City, MD

Point Lookout State Park

Point Lookout State Park

Once a prison camp for 52,000 confederate soldiers during the Civil War, Point Lookout State Park now serves as a peaceful place to enjoy recreational outings.

Scotland, MD

Powhatan State Park

Powhatan State Park

Powhatan State Park, in the northwest corner of Powhatan County on the historic James River, has diverse wildlife habitat from open fields to upland hardwood forests.

Powhatan, VA

Rocky Gap State Park

Rocky Gap State Park

Rocky Gap State Park is encompasses over 3,000 acres of public land for visitors to enjoy. Rugged mountains surround the park, featuring 243-acre Lake Habeeb.

Flintstone, MD

Savage River State Forest

Savage River State Forest

Savage River State Forest's more than 54,000 acres of rugged terrain challenges hikers, hunter, anglers and mountain bikers alike. The secluded forest provides shade during warm months and a cool place to camp at night.

Barton, MD

Scenic Overlook of Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is your escape to recreation and re-creation. Cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, quiet wooded hollows—plan a hike, a meander along Skyline Drive, or a picnic with the family.

Front Royal, VA

Shenandoah River State Park

Shenandoah River State Park

Located just down stream from Bentonville, the park boasts over five miles of frontage on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. The park consists of pastures, forests and vistas of the mountains and the river.

Bentonville, VA

Sky Meadows State Park

Sky Meadows State Park

Just an hour’s drive from Washington, D.C., Sky Meadows State Park in Clarke and Fauquier counties, offers a peaceful getaway on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Delaplane, VA

Sproul State Forest

Sproul State Forest

The park features steep and rugged hillsides cut by the West Branch of the Susquehanna and its tributaries. The area provides hunting, fishing, picnicking, camping, and trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and ATVs.

Renovo, PA

Tiadaghton State Forest

Tiadaghton State Forest

Tiadaghton's forest features high-country flats bisected by clean, fast-moving mountain streams. The area offers hunting, fishing, boating and trials for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and ATVs.

Waterville, PA

December 21, 2015

Main image: Load up your tent, boots, and bag and make a reservation at one of the top places for camping in the winter. (Image courtesy: Rambling Dream / Flickr)
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