Backcountry Camping - Preparing for a Trip


Preparing for your Backcountry Camping Trip

Shenandoah National Park offers great freedom in planning your backpacking trip. While you do need a free permit, we do not have a reservation system or designated campsites (the exception being the AT huts and overflow campsites for long-distance AT hikers). You may plan your trip whenever and almost wherever you would like. But, with this freedom comes responsibility. While it is great to be allowed to camp where you like, in this steep terrain it will take time to find a good legal spot. We ask that you plan your trip well ahead of time, avoid overcrowded areas during weekends, and give yourself several hours each day to find a suitable campsite and set up before dark. Your responsible Leave No Trace actions will allow us to continue offering this freedom to explore the park as you desire.

The success of your trip depends on thinking ahead. There are a number of things to consider in planning your trip:

  1. Carefully design your trip to meet your (or your group's) outdoor skill levels and expectations.
  2. Know the park's regulations and have your trip itinerary planned BEFORE obtaining a backcountry camping permit. If you would like help with your itinerary, suggested trips for all levels of backcountry campers are available through our Planning Page. Be sure to leave your itinerary with someone at home.
  3. Bring proper equipment. Having the right equipment will help minimize your impact on resources and will help ensure you don't violate park regulations. For example: have an agency-approved bear-resistant food canister or an adequate amount of rope to properly hang food away from wildlife;carry a backpacking stove and proper fuel to cook food or to boil water (campfires are not permitted);carry a small trowel to dig a cathole to bury human waste;carry a water container and a good water filter, water purifier, or purification tablets to make water safe to drink;use pre-packaged foods or zip-lock bags.
  4. Obtain a good, recent map of the area (trail maps published by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club are updated regularly and are recommended).
  5. To order hiking maps contact: Shenandoah National Park Association or Potomac Appalachian Trail Club

Things to Know Before You Go

Backcountry camping at SNP isn't for everyone. You must be physically and mentally prepared to hike yourself and all of your gear at least ½ mile. The campgrounds have nice tent sites if this sounds difficult. There are also various camping options in the nearby George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. The National Forests, unlike SNP, also allow roadside camping.

Last updated: August 10, 2016

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Mailing Address:

Shenandoah National Park
3655 U.S. Highway 211 East

Luray, VA 22835


(540) 999-3500

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