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Explore options for free camping at New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia for a quiet escape into the great outdoors!
By: Elizabeth Johnson
This past summer we discovered a gem!
West Virginia now has its very own national park: the New River Gorge. Living so close, we hold this place near and dear to our hearts. It is where we find solace in nature when the rest of the world is a little too crazy.
But one of the best parts is: we discovered places to go camping for free in New River Gorge!
Planning a trip to New River Gorge? Check out our favorite hiking trails, the Endless Wall Trail, the Long Point Trail, and the Grandview Rim Trail.
Camping in New River Gorge
We don’t always have a lot of time to escape so we wanted somewhere close. Being local, we were able to find free campgrounds by searching on Google Maps for camping near us.
There are several free campgrounds near New River Gorge that we are now aware of. We have stayed at three of them, and while they all are great, we do have our favorite!
The three we stayed at were Meadow Creek, Glade Creek, and Army Camp. These campgrounds are operated by the National Park Service, so they do maintain the grounds nicely.
The camp sites are first-come, first-served, so you won’t be able to make reservations in advance. They’re open year-round.
What we love the most is being able to just be outside. These places aren’t for tourists who want to be entertained. They’re for people who want to take a break from the world and remember what matters.
Most of these places have spotty cell service, so you really do feel like you’re in the middle of the wilderness.
Of course, when we’re camping for free, we know there will be no hook-ups. But if you just want a place where you can feel submerged in nature with water access, pit toilets, and a dumpster, then this is your place!
Looking for more camping or hiking spots in West Virginia? Try Summit Lake, Kanawha State Forest, the Gray Flats South Trail, or Pinnacle Rock State Park.
Meadow Creek Campground
Our favorite of the three we have stayed at so far is Meadow Creek Campground.
Note that, as of 2022, Meadow Creek Campground is restricted to tent camping only!
It’s located right next to the New River, just a few minutes from Interstate 64 and the Sandstone Visitor Center, which is the southern entrance to the national park.
To find it, search for Meadow Creek Campground, Meadow Bridge, WV, on Google Maps.
Be sure to navigate using the map, since it isn’t well marked at all. The first campground you will reach (Riverchase) is not Meadow Creek. Keep going just a little bit down the road and you will run right into it.
It is wedged in the river valley between two mountains that will put on a mesmerizing show for you all hours of the day and night.
Our favorite time to go is early spring. The morning bird song there is like no other sound we have ever heard. They sing a song that makes you happy to wake up and experience the new day.
At night we witnessed the most beautiful light show I have ever seen. The sky is truly dark, which isn’t something we get to see very often. The stars twinkle and shine, but below in the mountains the fireflies really glisten.
The combination of the shining stars and twinkling fireflies makes it hard not to be moved with emotion and filled with awe.
Not only is this place beautiful, our experience has been that it is almost always empty! We stayed there all through the year, even on the fourth of July weekend and there were only a few people. There are 26 camp sites total.
The campground right above Meadow Creek (Riverchase, the one you pass on the way) appears to have full hook-ups and seems to be much more popular.
Meadow Creek is interesting: construction started with the apparent intention of making it full-service as well. For reasons we do not know, it was never completed.
It’s easy to access the New River from the campground if you’re interested in getting out on the water to do some fishing or boating.
Check out our guide to kayaking gear for beginners if you’re just getting started! It will help you out with ideas for waterproof dry bags, water shoes, and (if the water’s cold) a wetsuit top or shorty wetsuit!
Army Camp and Glade Creek
The other free campgrounds we stayed at, Army Camp and Glade Creek, are located west of Meadow Creek, towards Prince, West Virginia.
Both Army Camp and Glade Creek have 11 primitive camp sites. Just like Meadow Creek, they are next to the New River.
The Glade Creek Trail, which is popular for its picturesque little waterfalls, has a trailhead very close to the campground.
If you’re looking to explore “Wild & Wonderful West Virginia,” these free camping spots in New River Gorge are perfect to get a taste of what that really is.
About Elizabeth + Garrett Johnson
Hi! We are Garrett & Elizabeth from Beckley, WV. To pay the bills we are a firefighter and a nurse. We are also full-time volunteers. We also love backpacking, trail running, camping and hiking. We have 2 dogs who almost always drag us along on the trails. Follow Elizabeth at @smutko.girl.
Beautiful , Thanks for sharing
Hope it helps!
–Alisha at Champagne Tastes
We’re looking at Meadow Brook to stay. You mentioned water access. But online it says no water. Is there water access there?
There should be access to the New River from the campground, as the post author says. “No water” on a campground info page usually means no potable drinking water available, so that could be what you’re seeing.
-Alisha at Champagne Tastes
May I ask why meadow creek was your favorite over glade creek? I will be here in a few weeks and am trying to decide where to camp. Also, I have seen posts on other sites saying to watch out for “rowdy” and “sketchy” locals. Has this been your experience? I’m from Kentucky so I know people are often stereotyped but thought I’d ask just in case.
We love it for the easy access! We feel it offers “big vista” views. It’s in a field so it isn’t wooded. (Army Camp is similar). We have heard about “rowdy locals” but mainly around the Grandview Sandbar area. We have never stayed there, it isn’t our kinda place. However we’ve never had any bad experiences at the others. 🙂🙂 Have an awesome trip!!
***A side note if you’re planning on bringing a RV Meadow Creek recently put a restriction on them. Only tent camping is allowed now. 😒
Thank you so much for your reply and information! It is much appreciated 😊