Camping, BBQ, and Burgers in the Shenandoah Valley
June 24, 2021
June is National Great Outdoors Month and the Valley is packed with outdoor adventures. But what do you do after your hike, bike ride, kayaking trip or hot air balloon ride? The Valley has all kinds of places to set up home base, including great campgrounds for families, rustic camps that are off the grid, and even a few places that will appeal to the most exacting glampers. Grab the tent and the s’mores. Here’s where to camp, where to buy gear, and how to fill your belly with summer’s in-season food: burgers and barbeque.
Snag one of the 53 campsites at Lake Robertson and enjoy a natural retreat surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in Rockbridge County. Hike the trail around the fishing lake, play tennis, softball, or volleyball, and take a dip in the pool. Another nice place is the Natural Bridge KOA. It’s close to Natural Bridge State Park, Lexington, and thousands of acres of national forest. Finally, campers who love campgrounds with lots of activities should check out Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Natural Bridge. Not only is it close to the state park, but there’s a swimming lake, river access with tube and canoe rentals, miniature golf, a game room, and more. Get camping gear like tents, sleeping bags, and activewear at Walkabout Outfitter in Lexington.
Lexington favorite Pure Eats serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is known for doughnuts, burgers, and beer. The burgers are made from 100% locally sourced meat from Buffalo Creek Beef. Order a side of fries cooked the old-school way in beef tallow, and finish up with a milkshake made with Homestead Creamery ice cream.
Looking for fun and nostalgia along with classic diner food? Have a meal at the charmingly kitschy, Elvis-themed Pink Cadillac Diner, order the “shut yo mouth” cheeseburger that’s topped with pulled pork, and pick from 24 flavors of ice cream for dessert.
If you’re lucky, you’ll stop in at Todd’s Barbeque Bar & Grill when there’s a band playing, but the food is yummy even if there’s not. Try the fresh hickory smoked barbeque and the ribeyes. You can get burgers, pulled pork, and smoked ribs at Foothill Momma’s BBQ.
Waynesboro doesn’t have any campgrounds within city limits, but it’s long been an Appalachian Trail Community, full of businesses and citizens dedicated to supporting the trail and its visitors. Long-distance hikers can find support, lodging, rides, showers, and more.
A great place for barbeque or fried catfish is The Fishin’ Pig, where kids eat free on Wednesdays. Make sure you plan to come for live music in the outdoor “Pig Pen” every weekend. Barbeque lovers will also like Smoking Roosters BBQ, and Roll’n’Smoke BBQ, a food truck that parks behind Kline’s Ice Cream and is known for hickory smoked meats and handmade sides.
The River Burger Bar opened only a year ago, but has made a name for itself as the place to go in Waynesboro for 100% Angus burgers topped with delicious and interesting flavors like applewood bacon, pimento cheese, onions, and arugula There are menu options for vegan and gluten-free diners as well as a full bar. Hungry after a day out hiking? Order a burger and fries at the Tailgate Grill. The menu of burgers, cheesesteaks, hotdogs, and chicken sandwiches is simple, but delicious.
Stock up for your time in the outdoors with clothing and gear from Wilderness Adventure, where they carry all your favorite brands and encourage you to “touch before you buy.” Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery sells provisions like natural and organic food and snacks. You’ll also find natural body care products designed to treat your skin right and cause little or no impact to the natural world.
Places to score barbeque include Big Red Barbeque, which posts its daily options on Facebook and often includes jerk chicken, pork barbeque, fried chicken sandwiches, and shrimp and grits for dining in or carrying out. Mill Street Grill, Shredder’s BBQ, Hog Wild BBQ, and Valley Smokehouse are all good options, too.
If you’re looking for a classic burger experience, Wright’s Dairy-Rite is the way to go. Think neon signs, a classic drive in setup where the waitstaff comes out to you, and yummy burgers with no frills. Kids meals come in boxes shaped like classic cars. Oh, and there’s lots and lots of ice cream for dessert. Byers Street Bistro, Table 44, and Clocktower Eats & Sweets all serve burgers, too, with more gourmet touches.
The towering limestone towers at Natural Chimneys Park & Campground were formed when an ancient inland sea receded from the area. Now, these 120-foot natural wonders rise over the Valley like the battlements of a ruined castle. It’s a cool place to camp and has 165 sites with areas for both RVs and tents. There are hiking trails, a swimming pool, playgrounds, and the park is bordered by a slow-flowing section of the North River. Another fun family campground is Shenandoah Valley Campground, which is packed with amenities like a pool, hot tubs, playgrounds, fishing ponds, a camp store, events like karaoke and movie nights, and sites that back up to the Middle River with a view of a waterfall.
Other area campgrounds include Shenandoah Acres Family Campground, Sherando Lake, Stokesville Campground, Walnut Hills Campground, Stoney Creek Campground, Todd Lake Recreation Area, and Waynesboro North 340 Campground.
Augusta County has a number of tasty barbeque restaurants. Triple T BBQ in Verona offers individual sandwich combos like smoked beef brisket and smoked cheeseburgers. They also sell beef and pork family meals for four. You’ll also find your favorite spicy meat and tasty sides at Peck’s BBQ, Rack’em Smack’em Ribs, Sooner BBQ, Valley Pike BBQ, and Rock’s Money Pit BBQ.
NoBos Kitchen deals in a lot more than burgers, but its burgers really shine. Try the Heat Seeker, which doesn’t disappoint with fresh jalapeno, roasted red peppers, and a sauce containing Carolina Reaper. You’ll want to wash that down with plenty of onsite Seven Arrows Brewing beer. Other places to get tasty burgers are Old School Burgers, DAP’s Ice Cream, Burgers & More, and Sarah’s Burgers & Shakes.
Harrisonburg and Rockingham County
Rockingham County campers will love staying close to nature in Shenandoah National Park. Loft Mountain Campground, Dundo Group Campground, and nearby Lewis Mountain Campground all provide varying seasonal amenities. Swift Run Campground, which is outside the park at the base of the mountain, allows easy access to hiking trails and the Skyline Drive. There are also hookups for RVs and a swimming pool. Hone Quarry Campground in George Washington & Jefferson National Forest is another solid option for those in the western section of the county; it gives campers easy access to hiking and biking trails.
Get ready for your trip with gear and advice from Walkabout Outfitters. Friendly City Food Co-op can help you stock up on provisions. Either grab fresh ingredients for your campfire meals, or stock up on fresh prepared foods from the hot bar.
Cuban Burger’s explosion of Cuban flavors will excite your taste buds. The menu is full of must-tries, but Esquire Magazine calls the El Vaquero burger (crispy flank steak, rum caramelized onions, swiss, and spicy-smoked aioli) the “most over-the-top burger in Virginia.”
Photo by James Chung for The Breeze
If you want a farm-to-table dining experience and a burger made from 100% Wagyu beer, try Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint. Try a Cobra Kai (cream cheese, jalapeno jelly) or a Doctor Gonzo (mushrooms, Guinness fried onions, swiss, and applewood bacon.You can accompany your meal with a wide selection of craft beer.
If you’d rather gnosh on barbeque, try Valley favorite Log Cabin Barbeque (the restaurant is actually in a 200-year-old cabin). You can get sandwiches, dinner plates, meat by the pound, family meals with a selection of sides, and even enough food for a party. Another sure bet is family owned Bar-B-Q Ranch, which specializes in pork barbeque and country fried chicken.
Page County has a lot of great places to camp. #1 Rock Tavern River Kamp is perfect for glampers seeking comfort, style, and just a bit of nature. Book a yurt and get the comforts of home including heating and air conditioning, a queen-sized mattress, and an electric fireplace.
At the other end of the spectrum, Camp Outback suits tent-camping purists (although the restrooms come equipped with hot water and there’s a camp store and other amenities). Families will adore Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Campground. Sites come with access to free mini golf, water slides, and much more. Other Page County campgrounds include: Fort Valley Ranch Campground, Luray KOA, Outlanders River Camp, River Run Campground, and Riverside Camping.
You’ll want to bring a lot of gear to the campground with you, so stock up at Appalachian Trail Outfitters (Luray). Next, head to Heard’s Cedar Hill Farm Market for fresh fruit to share and meat to roast on the campfire. You can also pick up local meat and dairy products at Willow Grove Market, and Massanutten Country Corner is a good stop for syrup, special sauces, bakery items, coffee, ice cream and more.
Every local in the know will send you to Triple Crown BBQ for a vacation-worthy meal of pulled pork, pit beef, ribs, chickens and sausage cooked daily on the wood-fired smoker using traditional family recipes. Pick from a selection of sides and top your meat with sauces from the sauce bar.
If you’re near the town of Shenandoah, you need to stop at locally owned Rudy’s Diner for a burger. Rudy’s burgers are made with fresh ground beef and hand pressed to make them extra juicy. Rudy’s also serves fried chicken and catfish, homemade coleslaw and pot pies and more.You know your food will be fresh and delicious when you visit Rudy’s Diner.
Year-round accommodations at Shenandoah River State Park include campsites with and without water and electric hookups, cabins, bunkhouses, yurts, and a lodge. Visitors can fish and hike 24 miles of trails. Sometimes the Shenandoah Astronomical Society sets up telescopes and answers your questions about the night sky. Family-owned Low Water Bridge Campground has 57 large occupancy tent sites. The campground rents tubes and provides transportation upstream so visitors can spend the day floating back to their campsites. And if you don’t already own an RV, but want to try one out, you can rent a stationary one at Skyline Ranch Resort. There’s also mini golf, horses to ride, a petting zoo, an arcade, and much more. Other Warren County campgrounds include Gooney Creek Campground and JR Campground
Get your camping and technical gear, clothing, and footwear at Front Royal’s Mountain Trails. There’s a second site in Winchester. The stores stock everything you need for hiking, climbing, and outdoor travel.
Po Green’s Southern Food and BBQ sells sandwiches, meals, and pitmaster boxes stuffed with ribs, brisket, pork, chicken, and sides. If you’re looking for something a little different, you might enjoy the ultimate seafood platter, which includes crab cakes, fish, shrimp, and frog legs paired with sides and crispy hushpuppies. Another place to try when you’re hungry is Pavemint Smokin’ Taphouse, constructed in a reclaimed 1960s gas station along Front Royal’s new biking and hiking trail. The restaurant specializes in farm-to-table street food from different countries and you can also indulge in craft beer and boozy milkshakes. Soul Mountain Restaurant & Bar has a varied menu, but one thing they’re known for is barbeque. They prepare brisket, pulled pork, and ribs in a house made sauce.
There are a lot of places to camp in the Shenandoah County portion of George Washington National Forest. Shenandoah Valley Campground has a lot for the active family of campers including games like horseshoes, cornhole, basketball, and a dog run. Campers with horses will appreciate horse and mule camping at Fort Valley Ranch where you can take guided rides and turn your horse out into a corral at night. Glampers can take their choice between the luxury accommodations at Ballybrook Farm and Cottage on the Seven Bends. Click here for more campsites.
Barbeque aficionados can eat their fill of at Beans BBQ (Edinburg). Beans sells BBQ chicken on Wednesdays and beef brisket on Thursdays. Food is available in sandwiches, meals, and quantities for groups. Townes BBQ uses local ingredients for its slow-cooked sauce, and locally-raised chickens for marinated jumbo leg quarters and Jamaican jerk chicken. All their salads and homemade, and you shouldn’t go home without trying the fresh banana pudding. Strasburg’s Old Dominion Doggery and Burger Shoppe lets customers build their own kosher all-beef dogs or 100% local grass-fed beef burgers. The extensive list of toppings includes classics like chili and cheese as well as pork rinds, crushed pineapple, and more.
Sooner or later your RV or travel trailer will need servicing. Take it to Naked Bear RV Service and Repair (Woodstock). They can help with electrical,hot water, refrigeration, awning, and roof problems. They can even help you if you want to sell your current rig and buy something newer (or bigger)!
You’ll enjoy a pretty drive through the countryside to get to your campground. Plan to stop at a locally run Shenandoah County country store for food and other supplies. Options include Coffey’s Country Store & Gifts for coffee and bakery items or John Henry General Store for local cheeses, snacks, candy, and more.
Frederick County: Winchester, Stephens City, Middletown, Gore
Candy Hill Campground is named after a beloved dog of a former resident, and yes, dogs and other pets are allowed in the campground. It’s situated just outside Winchester, and visitors can easily access restaurants, shops, and cultural events like First Friday Art Walks.The Cove Campground has sites for tents as well as a few cabins for rent. Amenities include a lake with a sandy beach and bottom, a target range, and 30 miles of rv and motorcycle trails. (Gore)
Secluded Hawk Campground promises peace and silence in the national forest along with access to spectacular hiking.
Downtown Winchester’s Cork Street Tavern serves American pub-style food and claims to have the best ribs in the Valley. They also dish up steaks, seafood, pasta, and burgers, including a gluten and soy-free vegan burger. Jordan Springs Market BBQ & Catering sells a little of everything, including non-ethanol gas, local items, groceries, beer and wine, and has been lauded by Northern Virginia Magazine as having the best pork barbeque around.
OnlyinYourState.com names The Butcher Station on its best burgers and beers list, and this steakhouse aims to please by preparing local, hormone and antibiotic-free meat and sustainable seafood. There’s also a wide selection of craft beer and wine to choose from.
Clarke County campers will want to set up camp at Watermelon Park and Campground. Not only do you get to explore 27 family-friendly acres on the Shenandoah River, but you’ll also get a chance to play volleyball, soccer, fish, swim, and even tube and kayak in the river.
Stock up for your al fresco adventure at Locke Store, a modern country store that sells deli meals, pastry, and offers wine tastings. Whenever possible, the store stocks local items and uses local ingredients to ensure freshness and to add to area farming sustainability. Farmers Daughter is a one-stop shop for local produce as well as smoked ribs, pulled pork, and chicken. Customers can pick up sauces, jellies, chips, and more.
Sick of getting smoke in your eyes as you try to cook over a campfire? The Berryville Grill serves up delicious meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Grab some eggs or a breakfast sandwich in the morning, a chicken bacon ranch panini or angus burger for lunch, or a rack of barbecue ribs for dinner. There’s even a kids’ menu for picky eaters.
Lone Oak Tavern specializes in “creative comfort food” like Caribbean jerk wings and build-your-own burgers on brioche rolls. Standard toppings include cheeses, tomato, and the like, but you can also add jalapenos, sauerkraut, mozzarella sticks, tater tots, corned beef, and more. If you’re not feeling a burger, you can get beer-battered fish and chips, or a char-grilled steak.