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As the weather cools and the promise of chilled evenings by the campfire lies right around the corner, it’s time to dust off the tents, rouse the family, leave summer behind and get outdoors.
Whether it’s rustic luxury and immersive entertainment you’re after, or a strong draught of isolated backcountry wilderness, your work is herewith a bit easier. Here are 10 exquisite campgrounds guaranteed to make for a family vacation you and yours won’t soon forget.
Shenandoah Valley Campground
Where: Located off of U.S. 11 just outside of Verona—less than 10 minutes from Interstate 81, and no more than a dozen miles from historic downtown Staunton.
What to Expect: This place caters to the quick weekend (or weeklong) getaway, and is all about convenience. Nestled into a 1.5-mile horseshoe bend in the Middle River, with a 20-plus-foot waterfall, tube rentals and a heated swimming pool, there’s ample opportunity for swimming. Then there’s the 18-hole mini-golf course, game room, billiard tables, dual playgrounds, giant bounce house, nightly DJ, on-site convenience store with a grill serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus free Wi-Fi and special events and activities to boot. With spots equipped for RVs, small cabins and primitive camping, Shenandoah Valley offers parents the chance to get the family outside without having to take on the additional stress of planning too far ahead or curating a minute-by-minute agenda.
Lay of the Land: 50 primitive campsites. 116 camper / RV sites. Six rental cabins. Eight rental campers. Hot-water bathhouse, laundry and camp store with a diner on-site.
Contact: 800-310-2580; campingisfun.com.
Loft Mountain Campground
Where: The campground lies in the heart of the Shenandoah National Park, at Milepost 80 of the beautiful Skyline Drive.
What to Expect: Here, it’s all about communing with nature. The drive through Blue-Ridge-cresting Skyline Drive is studded with overlooks offering dazzling views of the Shenandoah Valley. The campground is predominantly primitive (with some backcountry and RV sites thrown in), with many of the harder-to-get-to sites being cut into the Big Flat Mountain cliff-face, providing campers with the sublime pleasure of waking up to a glorious sunrise, watching from their picnic table a pristine sunset, and gazing up at a darkened sky full of stars. For entertainment, there’s an amphitheatre featuring nature talks put on by rangers, as well as miles upon miles of hiking trails, some of which culminate at waterfalls. While there is a camp store, it isn’t altogether too well stocked. So be sure to pack your rations and supplies beforehand.
Lay of the Land: 200 primitive campsites. While there is parking for RVs, be apprised: there are no hookups. There’s a camp store with restaurant, as well as a bathhouse and laundry facilities on-site.
Contact: 434-823-4675; nps.gov/shen.
Deep Creek Tube Center and Campground
Where: Rests on the southern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Cherokee, in Bryson City. An hour’s drive west of Asheville.
What to Expect: This campground is geared to providing maximum outdoor recreation and immersive activity. With campsites on the bank of the low-level whitewater laden, Deep Creek—a tributary of the nearby Tuckasegee River—the main attraction here is the tubing. With daylong access to two different runs including shuttle service for only $5, the value can’t be beat. Additionally, the camp offers educational gem mining, a playground and a petting zoo. Equipped with Wi-Fi, a well-stocked camp store, RV hookups, primitive camping sites, hot-water showers and horseshoe and volleyball pits, it offers something here for everyone.
Lay of the Land: 16 tent-only sites by the river. 10 creek-side camper, 16 RV, and three pull-through sites with electric and full hookups. 19 cabins ranging from log to modern. One 10-person lodge. Full-service bathhouse. Camp store and grill on-site.
Contact: 828-488-6055; deepcreekcamping.com
Hanging Rock State Park
Where: This 7,869-acre state park is located 30 miles north of Winston-Salem, about 2 miles from the small town of Danbury, in Stokes County.
What to Expect: Hanging Rock is great for families wanting to get a dose of the primitive experience without venturing too far into the wilderness. With miles upon miles of hiking and biking trails—including the mind-blowing view from Hanging Rock—a 12-acre lake, canoe rentals, great fishing and educational programs offered through the park service, there’s plenty to do to keep boredom at bay.
Lay of the Land: 73 tent and RV campsites with three group campsites as well; 10 rustic cabins. Hot-water bathhouse with showers.
Contact: 336-593-8480; ncparks.gov/hanging-rock-state-park.