Blue Ridge Mountain Camping

Photo: George Washington & Jefferson National Forests

Launch your next adventure from Sherando Lake Recreation Area.

There’s a reason that locals refer to western Virginia’s Sherando Lake as the “jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Pitching a tent there will put you in the middle of some of the George Washington National Forest’s most sought-after diversions. The campground itself sits between two small man-made lakes: the 25-acre Lower Sherando and the 7-acre Upper Sherando Lake. The larger lake has a swimming beach and both are open to fishing and paddling. Hiking and mountain biking trails begin at the campground, and even the Blue Ridge Parkway is just a hike away. Stake your spot at one of the Shenandoah Valley’s best camping hubs for launching any outdoor adventure. 


The campground is inside George Washington National Forest, 45 minutes west of Charlottesville. It’s surrounded on all sides by national forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the ridgeline to the east. The two lakes within the Sherando Lake Recreation Area were built in the ’30s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, but the land is the historic territory of the Monacan Indian Nation.

Best Campsites 

Sherando Lake Campground is divided into three loops. If you have an RV, look for a site in the Meadow Loop or River Bend Loops, which have hookups. If you’re tent camping, White Oak Loop (Loop A) is the best, as the sites don’t have electrical hookups and aren’t suitable for large RVs. None of the sites have views of the lake, but Site A6 has the most privacy. Most of the sites on Loop A are tucked into the woods with plenty of tree cover, though. 

When To Go 

The trails are popular year-round, but the campground and lake are open from April 1 to October 31. Because of the lake, camping at Sherando is extremely popular in the summer months; try to book your reservations in advance. In October, the hardwood forest is vibrant with fall color. 


The visitor’s center is stocked with vending machines and ice, but Country Store, a convenience store a few miles from the recreation area, has more options. And the town of Waynesboro (20 minutes north) has grocery stores and outfitter shops if you need to pick up anything you’ve forgotten for the trail or campsite. 

Things To Do 

Hike the forest

The Lakeside Trail is an easy 1.2-mile loop around the larger Lower Sherando Lake that’s incredibly scenic if you like views of tranquil lakes. The 2.5-mile White Rock Gap Trail will meander past the smaller Upper Lake before it climbs to the Blue Ridge Parkway where you can pick up other trails, like the White Rock Falls Trail, which leads to a cascading waterfall. 

Pedal singletrack

Mountain bikers should definitely bring their whips. The majority of trails in the Sherando area open to bikes and offer rocky climbs and descents that are quintessential of the George Washington National Forest. Advanced riders can put together a 19-mile loop starting with the Blue Loop Trail right out of the campground and connecting with the Torry Ridge Trail, a rolling ridgeline piece of singletrack that has as many views as it does rocks, and Mill Creek Trail, a fast and technical descent with a number of creek crossings. Remember: There’s no shame in walking the steep climbs. 

Cast a line

Anglers can fish the larger Lower Sherando for smallmouth bass and catfish, while both the lower and smaller Upper Sherando have good stocks of trout. You can fish both lakes from the shore or by boat, and the larger lake has a fishing pier. 


A sandy beach at Lower Sherando beckons children. There’s also an island in the lake that serves as a destination for paddlers, though there’s no developed picnic site (or permitted camping) on the spit of land. 


Sherando Lake has 65 campsites, 34 of which don’t have electrical hookups and are more suited to tent camping. Each site has a gravel tent pad, picnic table, fire ring and lantern post. There’s also a locker to safekeep your food at night. Showers, flush toilets and drinking water are on each loop. There’s also a group camp with five sites that can accommodate up to 15 people each ($50 per night). Standard non-electric sites are $25 a night. More Info: 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.