Can You Camp for Free in George Washington National Forest?

Camping for free in George Washington National Forest is possible but not always easy. The national forest covers 1.1 million acres of land from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Appalachian Mountains and Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and West Virginia. While some areas may be more accessible than others, it’s important to understand the rules and regulations of camping in a National Forest before setting up camp.

When camping for free in George Washington National Forest, you must obtain a free permit from a ranger station or download one online. This permit is required as it provides information about camping regulations and restrictions for the area you are visiting. You should also research the area you plan to camp in so you know what kind of terrain to expect, as well as any potential hazards or dangers that may be present.

Campers should always practice Leave No Trace principles when camping in any public land area, including George Washington National Forest.

This means packing out all trash and leaving the campsite cleaner than when you found it. Campfires should only be made in designated areas and extinguished properly after use. This helps protect the fragile environment of the forest.

In addition, there are some restrictions on where you can camp within the national forest boundaries. Camping is not allowed within designated Wilderness Areas or along popular backcountry trails such as Appalachian Trail and Virginia Highlands Horse Trail due to their sensitive nature. Additionally, camping is only allowed in designated campsites located throughout the forest.


Yes, it is possible to camp for free in George Washington National Forest but it requires first obtaining a permit from a ranger station or downloading one online and then following all rules and regulations associated with camping on public lands such as practicing Leave No Trace principles, avoiding Wilderness Areas and popular trails, and only setting up camp at designated campsites.

Photo of author

Jennifer Watson