As the leaves change from the vibrant greens of summer to warm tones of fall, The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the prettiest ways you can experience the season. This 469 mile-long parkway runs through North Carolina and Virginia’s Appalachian region, connecting spots like Asheville and Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park.
If you want to explore the parkway to the fullest, camping is one of the best way to do it. Starting from western Virginia going south, here’s a guide to the parkway’s eight campgrounds:
Otter Creek Campground
About the Campground: Otter Creek campground is the northernmost of the parkway’s campgrounds. It’s located near Lynchburg, Virginia, by the James River. Since the Parkway is numbered from north to south, you’ll find Otter Creek on milepost 60.8.
The campground is currently closed due to COVID-19, but it is normally open from mid-May until the end of October. Click here for a map layout of the Otter Creek Campground. There are 42 tent sites and 26 trailer sites available for visitors. Of these, 39 sites can be reserved in advance. Campsites here cost $20 a night.
Things to do: Otter Creek is near James River, which is both Virginia’s longest river and the Blue Ridge’s Parkway’s lowest point. There are several trails to explore here, too.
Peaks of Otter Campground
About the Campground: The Peaks of Otter Campground is located in Virginia’s Jefferson National Forest, on milepost 85.6.
The campground is open from mid-May until the end of October. Peaks of Otter campground has 139 campsites, 60 of which can be reserved ahead of time. Click here for a map of the campground’s layout. Like the Otter Creek Campground, camping here costs $20 a night.
Things to do: People who visit Peaks of Otter like to fish on the area’s 24-acre lake, as well as walk its different trails.
Rocky Knob Campground
About the Campground: The Rocky Knob Campground is located at Virginia’s Rock Castle Gorge. The campground is on milepost 167.1.
The campground is open from mid-May until the end of October. 44 of its sites can be reserved ahead of time, including some group sites. However, if you decide to camp here without reserving, that’s fine too: 62 campsites that are first-come, first-served, so there are usually spots available for on-the-whim adventures. If you decide to up the ante, there’s Backcountry Camping here at Rock Castle Gorge. Make sure to get a free permit from the campground office beforehand though. Click here for a map of the campground.
Things to do: There’s plenty of hiking to do on more than 4,000 acres of recreation area around this campground, the most famous region of which is Rock Castle Gorge. Be sure to check out the National Park Service’s website for in-depth information about Rocky Knob’s trails. Though this campground was one of the first-developed parts of the whole parkway, Rocky Knob is far enough from other big cities to make a fantastic stargazing spot.
Doughton Park Campground
About the Campground: The Doughton Park Campground is in the northern part of North Carolina, on milepost 239.2. The campground is an 84-acre slice of Doughton Park’s 6,300 acres, with big, open meadows all around.
Unfortunately, this campsite is currently closed due to COVID-19. However, there are 24 sites usually available for reservation and 97 that aren’t. If you want to do Backcountry camping here, you can do so at Basin Cove, but don’t forget the free permit! Click here for a map of the campground.
Things to do: The area is home to a variety of wildlife, as well as plenty of biodiversity; there are also around 30 miles’ worth of hiking trails from which to see it! Some of the most popular trails for wildlife viewing include the Fodder Stack Trail, Bluff Ridge Trail, and Flat Rock Ridge Trail. If you’re up for an hour-long drive, you can also visit Mount Airy.
Julian Price Campground
Like all of the other campgrounds, Julian Price is open from mid-May until the end of October. There are only individual campsites here, of which 75 can be reserved beforehand; the remaining 115 don’t need a reservation. You’ll find flush toilets, grills, and even showers if you camp here. If you want to backcountry camp at Johns River Road, be sure to obtain a permit from the campground’s office. Click here for a map of the campground.
Things to do: The campground is right beside Price Lake, so water activities like canoeing and fishing are popular here. There are also waterfalls to visit, like The Cascades and Hebron Falls. Trails like the Price Lake Trail, Boone Fork, and Tanawha Trails are accessible from this campground, as well. Blowing Rock is a famous cliff and looking point of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it is only about a 15-minute drive from the site.
Linville Falls Campground
About the Campground: Linville Falls campground is a little south of Julian Price, on milepost 316.4.
Like all other campgrounds along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville Falls is open from mid-May until the end of October. There are both individual and group sites available here, 39 of which can be reserved while 25 are on a first-come, first-served basis. Click here for a map of the campground.
Things to do: The biggest point of interest here is Linville Gorge, which was actually the country’s first officially designated wilderness area. The gorge creates a canyon nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of North Carolina.” Hiking is the main attraction here –– several trails lead to Linville River, and there are different falls to visit, as well.
Crabtree Falls Campground
About the Campground: The Crabtree Falls Campground is on North Carolina’s northwestern side, on milepost 339.5. The campground is about 40 miles north of Asheville.
Unfortunately, the campground is currently closed due to COVID-19. There are 70 tent sites here and 22 RV sites, totaling 92 sites throughout the campground. Click here for a map of the campground’s layout.
Things to do: As you can guess from the campground’s namesake, the Crabtree Falls are a popular spot to visit here. You can get there by hiking the Crabtree Falls Hiking Trail. Even though there’s no visitor center here, you can visit the North Carolina Museum of Minerals, eight miles away. The campground is also a half-hour drive from Mount Mitchell State Park, where you can summit the country’s highest point east of the Mississippi!
Mount Pisgah Campground
About the Campground: The Mount Pisgah Campground is the southernmost of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s campgrounds, found on milepost 408.8. It is located about 20 miles south of Asheville.
Like all of the other campgrounds, Mount Pisgah is open from mid-May until the end of October. The campground offers 53 sites which can be reserved in advance, while 71 sites don’t require a reservation. Note, though, that booking a stay here in advance involves a two-night minimum. Luckily, Mount Pisgah is one of the two campgrounds that offer showers! Click here for a map of the campground.
Things to do: If you want some semblance of civilization during your trip, Asheville is a 40-minute drive away. From the campground you also have access to a number of hikes that range from relatively easy to difficult. Some of the popular trails here include the Frying Pan Trail, the Buck Skin Trail, and the Mountains to Sea Trail.
Throughout these campgrounds, make sure to leave no trace and to keep the Parkway the way you found it! For updated hours on the campgrounds, visitor centers, and areas of interest, be sure to check the National Park Service’s webpage for the most up-to-date information.
Are you concerned about safely hiking alone? Are you a first-time camper? Yes, being a solo female camper can seem intimidating, but don’t be afraid! As long as you’re smart and conscious of your surroundings, solo travel can be incredibly beneficial, both for the sake of your adventures and for your mental health, too.
Be sure to read up (BMTM offers plenty of resources, like the Ultimate Camping Alone Guide for Solo Female Campers and 8 Clever Camping Hacks for Beginners posts), as well as plan ahead before any adventure. Trust me –– after spending a night in the Blue Ridge Mountains, freezing my butt off because I was unprepared, I make sure to have all the clothes I need before I hit the mountains.
With all of these tips in mind, finding the right campground will be the first step towards your next big adventure. Is there a place on the Blue Ridge Parkway you’d like to see? Let me know!