Washington DC paddlers - help!

I’m looking for a good spot to take the family camping this summer. Ideally, a campground less than a day’s drive from the Beltway - tent camping with bathrooms (ie not “primitive”), either next to or with easy access to a canoeable body of water. We’re not ready for full on tripping, so base camping with some day trips in the canoe and some hiking trails is what I’m after. My internet research points to Andy Guest Shennendoah River State Park as the best option. Anybody been there? Is it a good spot? Too crowded in the summer or not bad? Is there somewhere else I should consider - any “best kept secret” kind of places I should know about? Thanks.

Andy Guest
Never camped there myself but I imagine it should suit your needs, the Shenandoah (actually the South Fork Shen is what runs by there) is a beautiful and fun canoeing river. Doesn’t lend itself well to up-and-back paddling though at summer levels, due to its many scrapey ledges. If you have a bike or pair up with someone you could self-shuttle to the low water bridge on Indian Hollow Rd and enjoy about a 4-mile downriver float back to the park. A few outfitters run trips on the South Fork so you could look them up for other trip & shuttle possibilities, I think they mostly work the river-left side though; less put-in options exist on the Hwy. 340 side where Andy Guest is.

Another trip you could do near there is on the North Fork Shen from Strasburg to Riverton. description here:


in Front Royal the two Forks merge to form the main Shenandoah, one of my favorite trips is described here:


you could paddle the first half to Hwy. 50 as a day trip if you could arrange a shuttle.

For some great hiking you can go just north of Andy Guest on the other side of the North Massanutten ridge to the Elizabeth Furnace recreation area. If it were me I would camp there instead of at the state park; not sure if the flushing toilet facilities are back in order at E.F. but they do have a clean water source, attractive drive-in campsites and modern vault toilets. There are trails there along scenic Passage Creek, as well as up the ridge to a great formation called Buzzard Rocks that overlooks the entrance to Fort Valley. across Fort Valley Rd from there, are more challenging trails that lead to Meneka Peak and Signal Knob with a vista of the Shenandoah Valley. If you’ve got some money to spend drive down to Fort Valley Stables and enjoy a trail ride.


Another suggestion to check out is Tuckahoe State Park in MD. it’s across the Bay Bridge from DC and a beautifully maintained park hidden in Eastern Shore farmlands. Plenty of excellent campsites, and you can paddle the little lake/marsh and explore the mysterious creek upstream, and/or you can take a short drive to Hillsboro and use the launch ramp there to paddle upstream as far as you want then float back. Really lovely creek which in many places is shaded by a canopy of trees. For a real adventure you could run a shuttle to Hillsboro then paddle one-way downstream from just below the dam of the lake. Though it’s rural there are some restaurants nearby in the town of Denton, my favorite being the Market St. Public House where you can get a refreshing pint and a hugely portioned Irish pub-style meal :slight_smile:

Just the info I was looking for.

you’re welcome
forgot to mention, if you do go into Fort Valley, take a little side trip up Woodstock Tower Rd – there’s an old fire tower you can climb at the top of the ridge with a super view of the Seven Bends area of the North Fork Shenandoah, and sometimes hang gliders are launching from there to the valley below.

if you need descriptions & maps of hiking in that area, go to http://www.hikingupward.com

Try the Coast
There are several places along the Eastern Shore of MD, VA Beach and the Outer Banks, NC within 4-6 hrs drive that have excellent camping, and kayaking in the protected backwaters. Go to google maps and type in camping near “VA Beach”, “Kiptopeake, VA”, “Chincoteague Bay”, and then scan for all the red dots up and down the coast. You can then use the Launch Site feature in the “Go Paddling” section of this web site to identify places to put in.

Try this one
Im pretty fond of Rappahannock river canoe camp. It about 1 1/2 hour from DC, cheap, has clean porta potties and hot showers. They have camp sights on and off the river and run shuttles for canoe trips. Here is a link. http://canoecamp.com/

canoe trip

Here’s another choice for a weekend trip out of dc for something different.

Eastern Shore
Trap Pond State Park, in Deleware. Decent campground and right on a pond where you can paddle in and out of the same spot. Nearby, small but enchanting Trussom Pond worth exploring, too.

Shad Landing (Pocomoke River State Park), near Snow Hill, Md. This is a very nice camping park located on the water. You can paddle from the Park or take day trips downriver (see the peep at Pocomoke River Canoe Company for more info on narrow upriver sections) and to tribs such as Dividing Creek or Nasawango Creek.

Close by, on the western shore, Governor Smallwood State Park, on Maryland’s side of the tidal Potomac. Nice camping park, nice trails, on the water, and check out the nearby ghost fleet of Mallows Bay (cartop it down there, it’s a several miles on the big open river).


If there happens to be enough water,
and it’s not too hot, Antietam Creek is a good easy run, and an outfitter there can help with shuttle. As I recall, there was NPS parking down near the Antietam mouth on the Potomac.

I find it hard to settle in advance on any particular campground because of weather and water level issues. This uncertainty until the last minute drives my wife crazy, and of course makes it hard to reserve campgrounds in advance. But watchfulness has made for some great trips when most of the nation had little to offer by way of summer river paddling.

Thanks for the suggestions
Really appreciate the feedback. Mallow Bay and Antietam Creek were already on my “to do” list for day trips. I never thought to camp, but I can see that’d be a good option. Especially since it seems so hard to break out for a day or an afternoon or whatever. I just need to take a week off and go somewhere. Thanks everyone!