Dear PoPville – Camping options for for drinking, cooking on a bonfire, with pets

Photo by PoPville flickr user Gosia_K

“Dear PoP,

I’m wondering if any of your readers have any camping/cabining ideas, for drinking, cooking on a bonfire, with pets. We’re looking for a place within a two hour radius of DC. It seems impossible to find, I’ve always had to drive longer than two hours. Eats up a lot of “fun” time. Any suggestions would be great!”

We once looked at general camping recommendations back in Sept. ’10 but does anyone have specific recommendations for places where you can have a bonfire and take pets?

46 Comment

  • Cunningham Falls State Park – Thurmont MD

    You can drink, have fires, and your pets…

    Very cool park and very close. I recommend the Manor Area if you are looking for less children.

    • Unfortunately, the website says you can no longer drink there. It’s probably fine if you’re discrete.

    • Alcohol Policy

      Effective November 1, 2009 alcoholic beverages are prohibited in all State Park areas, including campgrounds. The only exception at Cunningham Falls State Park will be the Manor Area Shelter if you purchase an alcohol permit, upon making a reservation.

  • I HIGHLY recommend Lydia Mountain cabins. They’re 2 hours from here (a little less if I remember correctly), in the beautiful mountains, moderately priced, each cabin has a fireplace and hot tub, PLUS they allow pets. We loved our time there and hope to go back again soon.


  • What a timely question! My friends and I have been discussing new places to go. We frequent Bentonville, VA for some canoe, kayak, fishing, and camping through Downriver Canoe company. The site we usually use is right on the river and hosts larger camp sites that are perfect for groups.

    Last year we also discovered the Greenridge State Forest, which was beautiful and had wonderful campsites that were not close together and large enough for several tents.

    All pet friendly!

  • Prince William Forest Park. Just don’t let your dog off the leash.

  • Assateague Island National Seashore. More like a 2.5 hour drive. Get a few friends and rent one of the 5 group sites for $30.00 night – more room to play and more privacy on the beach.

  • Little Bennett State Park. A little past Gaithersburg on 270. I don’t know what the official policy is, but I’ve never had a problem with drinking there. They have tent sites and cabins.

    Also check out Treehouse camp near Antietam ( It’s camping in treehouses, what more do you need?!

    • have you been to treehouse camp? we’ve considered it, but the $250 ‘nuisance’ fee scared us off.

      • claire

        I went back in the fall and had a great time there! We were chatting and drinking at night fireside with no issues. To be fair, it was a smaller group (four people), but the people I went with had gone with a larger group last spring and also had a really good time then. You’re definitely camping but the cabins give you the benefit of having an actual bed to sleep on as well as a wood stove in case you’re going at a time when it’ll be cold at night. It’s close to Harper’s Ferry so that makes a good day trip while you’re there.

        Actually, I’m even going there once more, with a larger group this time, in a month or so!

  • you can drink at the Shenandoah but its 2.5 to 3 hours from DC. But its going to be closed if the government shuts down.

  • Not to hijack your post, but in the absence of Adams Mill, I have been meaning to ask Pop-ville where there are patios where one can drink beer in the company of one’s (friendly) dog?

    • Uh, Wonderland?

    • We’ve never been turned away from a restaurant with outdoor seating and we have a large dog (but extremely well trained), and we have been to dozens of resturants in DC. You’re usually better off getting places early if you bring your dogs, it is harder to fit into some corners when places get full. A few places make the dog sit on the other side of the “fence”, but that isn’t a problem if you are there early and get a seat on the rim of the patio.

    • Tunicliffs or anywhere else on the hill.

  • GW National forest. more like 3 hrs, but there are numerous places to camp. You can either camp near the main roads at several sites, or if you have a 4×4, you can go deeper and camp there. Just be responsible and dont tear the trails up or go off the trail. Also, if you camp with pets, PLEASE check on the hunting season thats in and I recommend not letting them wander far.

    • Do this. Find a spot and pitch a tent. I don’t know about a bonfire, but campfires are okay. There are good areas both in Virginia and in West Virginia.

  • Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware. Small sites, close together, but it’s on the beach and the atmosphere is very relaxed. Drinking is not officially allowed, but it was prevalent when we went and no one said anything. Pets allowed on campsite, though not at the beach. Of course when we went, there were lots of dogs on the beach so I guess the rules aren’t strictly enforced.

    • It’s obscenely hard to get a site there on a summer weekend. I booked mine two months ago, then went to see if I could change the date, and basically every weekend from now till the end of august is booked.


    Had a really fun time here in November. Big bonfire pit and you’re right on a river! Just bring your own water because it must come from a well and smells horribly of sulfur…..

  • Straddle the line, dischord and rhyme . . .

    Oh sorry. Thought the pic was for this week’s caption contest.

  • Potomac Appalachian Trail Club is awesome! It has a bunch of inexpensive cabins with outdoor firepits and great hikes.

    • The PATC cabins are nice – but black bears tend to like them too so be extra cautious with a dog. Leash at all times! (I’m not saying you should be afraid – bears are generally shy, but they have learned that cabins = people = food, so they do sometimes investigate.)

  • Green Ridge State Forest; just over 2hrs away.

    – Take the Off Road Vehicle trail to access the primitive campsites and you can find secluded ares for most of the year. The trail can be done in a stock 4X4, but any type of freezing precip can make it fairly challenging.
    – Hiking and fishing in the forest.
    – We had our dog off leash the entire time.
    – As for boozing, on our last trip we actually had State Forest Rangers stop by while we had beers in hand. They told us about the new ‘no drinking’ policy and commiserated with us about the stupidity of the law. All they asked us to do was drink out of cups and keep empties out of sight.

    • Green Ridge +1

      We’ve gone tubing down the Potomac from here in August/September before and loved it.

  • The Cove in Winchester, VA … fishing, boating, hiking, shooting range, adult beverage/pet friendly. We had a blast there a few years ago.

  • First, yay, that’s my picture! And, second, I took it during a trip to one of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club cabins in SNP (Corbin Cabin in this case). PATC is a great organization and their cabins are just fantastic. Not all of them are dog-friendly, but many of them are (my dog always comes along). You can see more cabin photos in my flickr photostream and check out PATC here:

  • Kampgrounds of America! Aka the KOA. It gets pretty crowded in the summer, but they have a variety of options from tent areas to RVs to a variety of sizes of cabins (or Kabins). Every area has its own fire pit, and it’s pet friendly. Also, they have $2 all you can eat pancake breakfast.

    The closest KOA is in Harpers Ferry.

  • if you’re into camping with backpacking, you should check out george washington national forest. there are quite a few trails that are about 2 hours or so from dc. most are in the 5-15 mile range which is perfect for an overnight.

  • For mountains, check out Elizabeth Furnace campground in the George Washington National Furnace near Front Royal, VA. A bit under 2 hours. Beautiful drive-in campsites, a rushing river and mountain hikes nearby.

    For beaches, swimming, boating and fishing, cookouts and hammocks, try Point Lookout State Park in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. It’s where the Potomac meets the Chesapeake, a beautiful spot with clear water and white sand that’s not known by most DC residents. Also a bit under 2 hours.

  • A bit off-topic, but does anyone know if Shenandoah National Park will be open this weekend if the federal government shuts down?

    I understand that certain entities that charge a fee (such as the post office) will remain open. SNP charges a entrance fee, but I’ve also heard that all national parks will be closed. Neither the park’s website nor its hotline addresses this issue at all.

  • Lake Anna in Virginia! Its only about an hour away, has tent and cabin sites with fire pits, pets allowed, and you can drink on your site. They have a nice swimming lake and some cool hiking/biking trails.

  • I really like Green Ridge in NW Maryland.. Good times.

  • Abram’s Creek Retreat in WVA is closer to 3 hours, but you can certainly drink anywhere, and off leash was fine for us and our energetic pup. When we were there they had a huge nightly bonfire for everyone, complete with drum circle and marshmallows (not sure of personal bonfire policy).

  • Drive out to Front Royal (about 90 minutes away), and head to Shanendoah National Park (alcohol permitted You can bring (and camp with – your dog in large parts of the park. I’ve checked in right at Front Royal and gotten my permit, parked just inside the park and hiked from there and set up camp away from the road. It’s lovely (but watch for the thunderstorms – they come fast and you don’t want to be on high ground).

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