Elizabeth Furnace Family Campground

Elizabeth Furnace campground is a small no-frills camping area located a little over an hour outside of Washington DC, down Rt. 66 in the Strasburg, Virginia area. The campground is in a great location with endless hiking opportunities, multiple swimming holes, stocked fishing waters, and all the beauty that the George Washington National Forest has to offer. We went down to Elizabeth Furnace campground and found out everything you need to know before you take your next trip.

  • About One Hour 15 Minutes From The DC Area
  • Costs $14 Per Site Per Night ($10 from Oct-Apr)
  • Cash only, Exact change, Honor system to pay
  • No reservations, first come first serve, arrive early
  • You must bring your own firewood (from nearby)
  • Campsites have fire ring & picnic table
  • You get locked out/in between 9pm and 8am
  • No employees to help you with anything in offseason.
  • There are no showers (and only outhouses) from Oct-Apr
  • The showers are closed from 9pm-6am
  • Bring a mallet to pound in tent stakes (and ground pads to sleep comfortably)
  • Alcohol will get you a ticket (easily avoidable)

Before You Arrive:

Note that the campground does not accept reservations and is first come first serve. That means if you arrive and all the sites are reserved, you are out of luck. Try to arrive as early as possible. I don't know if it ever fills up, but since it is so cheap it may on a Saturday in the summer for example. May-September is the busy season. Also remember that there is no firewood, and no employees working there in the offseason. Be sure to bring firewood and bring exact change to pay. 

Beyond Secret: You can get both exact change AND good firewood at Henry's Grocery, a small country store on Route 55 only a few miles from the campground and on the way there.

How To Get There:

It is a pretty simple drive that takes an hour and 15 minutes from the DC area. You take 66 west until you hit exit 6 where you turn left and take 522/340 south for a mile to 55 west. You stay on 55 west for about 5 miles and you make a left on Fort Valley Rd (678) at the Fish Hatchery sign. You stay on that road (don't follow fish signs anymore) for about 4 miles where you will arrive at the campground on your left. This is right down the road from the Elizabeth Furnace Day Area. See the map for more:

Beyond Secret: Get off early at Exit 13 in Linden and turn on 55 to immediately see the Apple House. Do not keep driving. Stop immediately and get 1 dozen Apple Cinnamon Donuts.

You can also get a better idea about the area but looking at our area map:

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Picking A Campsite:

As you enter the campground your first task is to choose your site (Click on the map below to see the large map). You have 30-something sites to choose from and while none of them seemed awful, some are more desirable to others.  The good thing is that you can drive around and pick out the spot that suits you the best (if someone isn't already in it). The earlier you arrive the better choices you will have. Be conscious of the site's proximity to water, bathrooms, and showers. Check out the map for an idea of what to expect. The numbers are found in the front of each site on a rusty looking pole.

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  • Site 1 & 2 are too close to the entrance/camp overseer
  • Sites 13 & 15 are cool because you can walk right down to the creek
  • Site 16 is also just across from a path that leads to a beach-like area of the creek
  • Site 4 is the best spot if you plan to use the open field in the center
  • Site 9, 10, & 11 are pretty private and also close to the day-use area
  • Site 18 has good space and backs to the woods/mountain

Beyond Secret: Unlucky 13 has a nice secret path down to the creek where you won't be bothered by the other campers, who will be a little farther upstream.

Registering & Paying:

Once you have chosen your campsite it is always best to register ASAP. Keep in mind that you will need exact change to pay (nobody works there, at least in the offseason, it is the honor system). Right where you entered the campground is a large board with 32 slots representing the 32 campsites. You fill out a notecard with your name and address on it, # of days staying, and then you slide it in the empty slot to reserve. You then fill out an envelope with the same information, put the proper amount of cash in it, remove a parking tag, then slide it in the pay slot. You are all set.

Your Campsite:

Each campsite is a large level gravel tent pad big enough to crowd in 2 cars and 2 tents, and ideal for 1 car. You get a picnic table as well as a fire ring with foldable grilltop. Each site also has a small bear pole to hang your trash so animals don't get it. (Don't bring food or toiletries into your tent and it is probably best to leave them in the car just in case animals are around) The ground is hard too so bring a rubber mallet to pound your tent stakes into the ground. It is also good to have a sleeping mat or air mattress to get off the hard ground. Don't forget to bring lots of firewood too.

The Facilities:

This is a very very low frills campground but the facilities are not bad. The bathrooms and showers (only open May-Sept) are located by the entrance and are extremely clean and nice. The bathrooms (1 men, 1 women) have multiple sinks and stalls.  In the same building on the backside are 4 shower stalls with large dressing areas. The showers get locked at 9pm, so keep that in mind. In the offseason (Oct-Apr) you are stuck with no showers and only vault toilets (outhouses). They aren't ideal, but for a campground outhouse they are very clean and comfortable...for an outhouse.

While there are several water pumps and water fountains throughout, they do not work, so your only access to drinking water is at the entrance via a large water pump (no room to fill a jug). There also may or may not be a dump station, I'd go with not (map says there is one).

The Grounds:

The campground has a paved narrow road throughout, and like most campsites you just follow the arrows.  In the center of the campground there is a fairly large open field with plenty of room to run around. It has 2 horseshoe pits and lots of open grass. (Campsite #4 is the best one to enjoy this area.

You can also walk down to the creek near site #16 and you can wade in or bring a chair down to the sandy beach shore. The camp road also leads you to the Elizabeth Furnace Day Use Area where you can check out the suspension bridge, have a picnic, swim in some deeper water, or go hiking.

Things To Do: Activities like hiking, picnicking, and fishing don't require a car. There are a few swimming holes about 1/2 mile down the road to drive to. You can even branch out up to 30 minutes away and enjoy restaurants, a drive-in movie, shopping, zip lining, caverns, tubing, and other activities. Check out Beyond The Capital for more ideas.


There is no alcohol allowed on the campground. For those who don't know, that means don't be a dumbass and leave out bottles/cases/handles in open view. Don't drink out of bottles/cans. Just get a damn cup. I'd even keep the cooler in the trunk and the trash separate from your other trash. The rangers will write you a ticket, I've seen it happen. Easily avoidable. Remember i told you, no alcohol, so don't blame me! Also, if you have a large group of people, hang out during the day, don't be loud at night. There are other "party" campgrounds besides this one.

This is black bear country, so be sure to not keep any food or toiletries inside your tent. Each site has a hook where you can tie up trash or food, but we just make sure to put everything back into the car before bed or when we go somewhere. Last time I was down there I saw a black bear roaming around the outskirts of the campground during the day when the campground was completely full.

The campsite also has trash cans (in season) around, as well as a few other dumpsters (off season) where you can throw all your trash. It says there are no trash cans, but every time I've been there has been somewhere to throw my trash before leaving. If there are none, bring your trash home, don't leave it!

Before You Leave:

Make sure your fire is out and doused, even if it doesn't look like it is it may be hot still. Bag all trash and find a trash can or bring it with you. This place is pretty cool and very cheap, so don't be the a-hole that ruins it for everyone.

If you would like more official information about this campground contact the Lee District Ranger Station at 540-984-4101. You can also visit the website, but that is super weak.

1 comment:

  1. Great review; I wish I had read it before we visited this past weekend! A couple of quick notes:

    - There were a number of downed trees within the campground (similar to the downed tree in the background of some of your pictures). We just brought a bowsaw and cut our own wood (again, only off a dead tree lying on the ground). I asked a local employee emptying the trash cans and he said they appreciate it because a lot of the down trees are ash trees killed by beetles (and they want to get rid of it).

    - The hooks you describe are meant for lanterns; I don't think they are nearly tall enough to keep anything out of reach of bears.

    - The large, level, pea gravel pads were fantastic.

    - The sites located on the west side of the campground are pretty close to the road, and will get a fair amount of noise and even headlights into your tent.

    - One of the major differences between the sites was the size / quality of the fire pits. Since all the eastern camp sites were taken, we chose site #6, which had a fantastic, very large oval fire pit. Many of the other sites' pits were maybe 25% of the size (just the small fire ring surrounded by stones. For other visitors to this page, know that they vary considerably.