Last updated: November 7, 2021
Take a Virtual Tour
Nestled deep in a hollow at the headwaters of the Rapidan River is a little piece of history: Rapidan Camp. This National Historic Landmark was the beautiful, rustic getaway of President Herbert Hoover and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover during their time in the White House. This restful spot provided the couple respite and rejuvenation throughout a tumultuous presidency and was the backdrop for historic meetings during one of our nation's most difficult times: the Great Depression. A visit to the exhibits at Rapidan Camp will reveal a different perspective of the First Couple and provide you with the same respite and rejuvenation prompted by the beauty and serenity of this special place.
A National Historical Landmark
Rapidan Camp earned the distinction of being named a National Historic Landmark in 1988 as "Camp Hoover," the common name of the camp during the years it operated as a government retreat. The camp was deemed nationally significant because of its association with the Hoovers and their presidential administration. In addition to providing the president and his family respite during tumultuous times, the camp is also significant because of the important meetings, conversations, and decisions made here. Hoover said, "I have discovered that even the work of government can be improved by leisurely discussions of its problems out under the trees where no bells or callers jar one's thoughts."
Rapidan Road, which lies across from Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51.2) and leads several miles down to Rapidan Camp, is closed to all private vehicles. There are still several options for visiting the camp, however:
- Ranger-led Tour
Starting with a shuttle ride from Byrd Visitor Center, Ranger-guided tours of Rapidan Camp include time inside both the Brown House and the Prime Minister's Cabin, as well as time exploring the grounds and gardens within this historic landmark. Tours are available by reservation only and are typically offered during the spring, summer, and fall. Visitors may book a reservation up to 6 months in advance and up to 4 hours before the tour.
We recommend the 4-mile Rapidan Camp hike from the Milam Gap parking area, although you may also choose to do the longer Mill Prong - Laurel Prong Loop hike, or the Mill Prong Horse Trail that is down Rapidan Road and to the right.
- Horseback Riding
Rapidan Camp is also accessible with a horse, by riding down Rapidan Road from the Rapidan parking area (mile 51.3) and returning the same way. Please take the time to review our horseback riding rules and best practices before taking this trip.
Within Rapidan Camp, each building, existing and obliterated, is marked with a sign, and most of them are on the main path. You can peruse the exterior interpretive panels year-round. When caretakers are here, (typically during the spring, summer, and fall) you can visit the exhibits in the Brown House and Prime Minister's Cabin.
The Brown House is historically refurnished to reflect the Hoover era. The Prime Minister's Cabin houses an interpretive exhibit about the Hoover's and their life at Rapidan. If you're up for a walk, follow the trail up to the site of Five Tents and/or take the President's Walk, a beautiful stroll along the creek to the sluice built to divert the natural Laurel Prong to feed the Marine-built Hemlock Run.