Best Camping Within an Hour of D.C.
Best: Oak Ridge Campground
Prince William Forest National Park, Prince William County, Va.
2nd Best: Burke Lake Park
Fairfax, Fairfax County
The greater metro region of the District of Columbia is not what you would call friendly to people who prefer campfires over cosmopolitans. But it has its charms. Within a couple of hours’ drive, you can set up inside Shenandoah National Park, on the beach at Assateague, or at a sweet spot in West Virginia. None of these however, is fun to get to after work on a Friday night. For the D.C. camper who is also the D.C. worker, there are fewer options. The best by far is the Oak Ridge Campground in Prince William Forest National Park. Located about 35 miles outside of D.C., near the Marine Corps base at Quantico, the park has more than 1,500 acres of forest and 37 miles of hiking trails. The campground is deep in, away from any traffic noise (although you may hear Marines at target practice). Despite it being first-come-first-served, it’s rarely, if ever, full. Campsites are large, shaded, and secluded and have a few (but not too many) amenities: a fire pit, a water spigot nearby, and bathrooms—one even has with a shower—a short walk from any of the 100 sites. Some of the area’s nicest hiking can be accessed right from the campground. Also, it’s cheap: $15 a night. If, however, you’re afraid of Marines and prefer even more amenities (a camp store, boat rentals, a shorter drive to a Target), then the campground at Burke Lake Park in Fairfax County is where to take your tent. Sites are wooded and on the edge of a gorgeous lake somehow sheltered from the sprawl. Unlike a lot of Maryland’s campgrounds, Virginia’s don’t require residency, nor do they give a discount if you’re from there. Burke Lake camping for Virginians and everyone else is $25 a night, a bit dear for a patch of ground. However, when you consider that for that price you’d get maybe two cosmopolitans in the city, spending 20-and-change to get away from all that seems like a pretty good deal.