Modification & Service:
Camping in the Washington DC Area
One of the most common questions I get is "I want to visit Washington, DC, where do I camp?" Well, living in the area causes me to avoid camping this close to home. But, there are several campgrounds in the area that get good reviews from most people i hear from. Selecting one may depend on how long you intend to stay and how you intend to travel to do the "touristy" kind of things.
I recommend using the DC Metro subway system if possible while touring as parking can be difficult and expensive downtown. Known as the Metro it runs within a few blocks of most attractions in DC (except maybe the Jefferson/Roosevelt memorials). The Metro terminates in the suburbs around DC at commuter parking lots. If you are planning on being out late, the metro runs until around midnight most week nights and later on the weekends. Just ask the stationmaster as you are exiting at your destination what time the last train leaves. For those not familiar with the area DC is situated between Virginia to the south - west and Maryland to the north - east. I-495, also know as the capitol beltway is the expressway which makes a complete circle around DC. I-95 runs north-south on the east side (it is actually part of I-495 in that area). Peak commuting times for Washington workers is from about 6:30AM to 9:30AM and 3:30PM to around 7:00PM. You want to avoid driving anywhere in the DC area at these times. Trust me on this, it's not fun.
Consider taking a "trolley" tour of DC. For one fee they bus you around town and you can get off and back onto the trolley all day.
I tend to camp in public parks as they tend to have larger
wooded sites. Two in the area are:
West of DC in Virginia is Lake Fairfax Park Campground Each site has a grill, picnic table, and a fire ring. There is a mix of shaded and sunny sites and each site provides space for at least one car or has parking nearby. There are 70 sites with electric, but 40 of them are 15a only. If you are there in the summer you want a 30a site to run the air conditioning. The campground provides water spigots bathhouse with sinks, hot showers and flushing toilets. There is a dump station with sanitary rinse-out. The closest Metro stop would be a little south east at the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU station which is the last stop (west) on the ORANGE line.
North of DC, the The Maryland-National Capital Park and
Planning Commission has a camping available at Little
Bennett Regional Park. We visited this park on our maiden voyage for
website boasts "Each of Little Bennett's 91 campsites offers a tranquil
setting with ample opportunities to enjoy the scenic splendor of the park.
Campsite amenities include a parking pad, a picnic table and barbecue grill.
Comfort stations with sinks, showers, toilet facilities, and drinking fountains
are located within walking distance. Water spigots are randomly located
throughout each camping loop. A limited number of campsites are available with
electrical hookups." The description is correct. Many of
the sites are very roomy. Only loop "D" has electric, so make
reservations. As the park is just north of DC on I-270
(a major commuting route) I would advise against planning any travel into DC
during rush hour times. As I say other places, drive to the nearest DC Metro subway
station and ride the train into the city. A sign at the welcome station
tells you to "Ask about the Metro". Follow their advise, ask. Little Bennett is about 15 miles
north of the last stop on the RED line of the Metro, the Shady Grove Station.
Close to DC, just outside the beltway on the north side. I find it funny that I had to move to Atlanta to discover this campground in the DC area.. I spent a week there in the summer of 2005, when I had to go back to DC for business. There is a large covered bus stop across from the camp office which is on several local bus routes. The buses run about every15 minutes, during daytime hours, and it is approximately a 12 minute bus ride to the nearest to the nearest DC Metro subway station. Figure on about an hour each way including wait times and the bus/rail ride.
Now, I have to tell you that if you are accustomed to public campgrounds with large wooded sites, Cherry Hill Park is not that. This is an RV park, not a wooded campground. The majority of sites are lined up shoulder to shoulder like rows of soldiers. Not my usual thought of camping, but if I were doing the tourist visit to DC this is the place to stay.
The positives: Water, electric, sewer and cable at every site. Two beautiful pools for relaxing after a long day of walking around DC. If you don't feel like cooking there is a diner on site with the normal fast food fare (breakfast lunch and dinner, figure 7AM to at least 10PM). A game room and places to hook up your laptop for high speed Internet. A wooded hiking trail around the park gives you more then two miles of walking, if DC didn't do you in. Pets are welcome and they have bag stations set up all around the campground. A large field is available if your dog needs to run.
The negatives: This campground is build right along side both I-95 and the Washington Beltway I-495. It is probably better to say that the roads are next to the campground since the family has owned the land from the 1930's. Traffic noise is constant and I'm sure it gets a little worse in the winter when the leaves are off the trees. The sites are a little close for my taste, but it is well worth it for a campground in this close.
Between DC and Baltimore on the eastern
(Maryland) side of DC. They advertise free shuttles to the DC transit
system. Verify that this is the Metro, not to the nearest DC bus stop!
Most people refer to this campground as a base camp for a DC visit. I
through this campground in early July 2003. It seems very clean
staff was helpful. In addition to the shuttle to the transit
have several package tours to points of interest in DC. While the
are a little smaller than I am accustomed to, they are still not that
The sites directly in front of the campground office (#1-31, 84-90) are
open with little tree cover. The sites past the office (to the N/W
115-137) are under a canopy of trees. The sites along the outside
north border are also tree covered but differ in size - ask before you
with one too small for your unit. This campground is east of the last
the ORANGE line of the Metro, New Carrollton.
South of DC along the I-95 corridor. Described
as a real nice campground with lots of shade trees, the campground has
advised me that they get many compliments on our very clean bathrooms, which which they feel is VERY important to pop-up and conversion van campers.
Just off I-95 at exit 143 A (as in a 1/4 mile off I-95). To
get to DC you would need to travel north on I-95. Avoid this trip
between 5:15AM and 8:30-9AM.
This campground is south of the last station on the BLUE line of the
metro, Franconia-Springfield. Another option is to take
into Washington, especially if you are a senior or kid (half price!!)
Additionally, you can drive to Arlington Cemetery and park, then
take the Tourmobile. Very popular in the area of Aquia Pines are the new Marine Corps Museum at Quantico and the remodeled visitors' center at Mt. Vernon.
Revised: May 08, 2009