Frequently Asked Questions About Backcountry Camping

While I am backcountry camping, where can I park my vehicle?

You may park overnight in Shenandoah while camping in the Park's backcountry. Your backcountry itinerary dictates where you will park. For example, if you are entering the backcountry at Milam Gap, you will park at Milam Gap. You may park at trailheads where parking is provided, and at entrance stations if space permits. Visitor Centers, picnic areas, waysides, and overlooks also have parking space. Be sure you are not blocking Skyline Drive, administrative/fire roads, or overlooks.Lock your vehicle and put valuables in the trunk or take them with you. You will include parking and vehicle information on your backcountry camping permit. Your backcountry camping permit stays with you; do not leave your backcountry permit in your vehicle. For information on boundary parking, please see the Boundary Access Information.

Can I catch a shuttle in Shenandoah?

There are no authorized shuttle providers in Shenandoah National Park. You will need to make your own arrangements for transportation to, from, and within the Park. For information on transportation options along the A.T. go here.

Do I need a permit to camp in the backcountry?
Yes. If you are camping in the backcountry (not in one of the five campgrounds) you must have a properly completed backcountry permit. Permits are free. A permit is not required if you have rented and will staying in a Potomac Appalachian Trail Club cabin.

Do I need to reserve a backcountry permit in advance?
No. You can get your permit when you arrive at a self-registration kiosk. Self-registration kiosks are at the following locations:

  • A.T. North
  • Front Royal Entrance Station at mile 0 of Skyline Drive
  • Thornton Gap Entrance Station at mile 31.5
  • Swift Run Entrance Station at mile 65.5
  • Loft Mountain Wayside at mile 79.5
  • A.T. South
  • Rockfish Entrance Station at mile 105
  • Old Rag Trailhead parking area at Etlan, Va.

If you use self-registration, please be sure to fill out the permit completely!

I want to camp along the A.T., on Old Rag, or near Whiteoak Canyon. Will I be able to find a site?
It is extremely difficult to find a legal site in those areas because of the very high levels of visitor use combined with very limited camping opportunities. Days of the week and time of year can impact your chances of success. If you are considering a backcountry trip to any of these areas, please review the closure areas listed on the Backcountry Rules and Regulations page and target Monday through Thursday for your trip. If you must come on a weekend, look for an alternate location here.

Can I use my twip-burning stove in the park to prepare meals during my backpacking trip?
Maybe. In order to be legal for use in Shenandoah, twig burning stoves must meet the following definition: Self-contained and designed for backpacking use. This means that the stove must be small enough (usually ~6 cu. in. or less) to be packed and carried by an individual as part of a backpacking trip, and must burn short twigs no larger than the diameter of a common pencil. Twigs must be burned completely to ash, which must also be quenched with water to ensure fire is completely out before scattering ashes. Larger portable stoves and grills intended for group-use or heating purposes as well as cooking remain prohibited in the park’s backcountry.

Last updated: June 26, 2020

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Mailing Address:

Shenandoah National Park
3655 U.S. Highway 211 East

Luray, VA 22835


(540) 999-3500
Emergency Phone: 1-800-732-0911

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