Camping can seem daunting for parents of young kids, but I’m here to tell you that you can do it. It’s an inexpensive getaway full of screen-free fun. There’s no better way to get your kids to sleep soundly than a day in the woods. We’re lucky to have lots of beautiful campgrounds near the Route One area, including several that are mere minutes away.
Here’s a rundown of some of our family’s favorite campgrounds, in order of distance from the Hyattsville area. There are lots of other cool campgrounds, but I’ve included the ones we have visited and found to be especially family-friendly. Be sure to scroll to the bottom where I’ve shared some tips for camping with kids.
Watkins Regional Park (20 minutes from Hyattsville)
This is the only campground on my list where my family has not actually camped. But, we’ve visited this park many times and it’s so close to home, so I feel it deserves a mention. If you’re new to camping, somewhere close to home is ideal. Watkins Regional Park offers tent camping sites for small or large groups from March through November. When you’re not busy make s’mores, the park has plenty to keep the family busy, including a Wizard of Oz themed playground, a farm, carousel, mini golf course, nature center, and hiking trails. Campsites for six people are $12.
Cunningham Falls State Park (75 minutes from Hyattsville)
Cunningham Falls State Park holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first place we camped with our kids. It’s located in the picturesque Catoctin Mountain Park, not far from Frederick. The camping area loop is nice for kids to ride bikes, and the bathrooms have always been clean and well-maintained when we’ve visited. From the camping area, you can drive a short distance within the park to a small lake perfect for the tots to cool off. You can also rent a canoe or paddleboat or explore the hiking trails and the falls. Campsites and camper cabins are available from April until October. Tent sites costs $22.50.
Greenbrier State Park (75 minutes from Hyattsville)
Like Cunningham Falls, Greenbrier State Park is far enough from home to feel like you’ve gone somewhere, but close enough to drive back if it all goes pear-shaped. Located in the Appalachian Mountains, this state park has a man-made freshwater lake with a large, pretty beach for swimming and boating, plus hiking trails through a variety of wildlife habitats. Last year, our family befriended a spectacular green Luna Moth on a tree near our tent, plus some gorgeous birds to add to our life list. Tent sites cost $21.50.
Assateague Island State Park (3.5 hours from Hyattsville)
Assateague is amazing, if you plan it right. The multi-colored wild ponies that roam freely through the park are spectacular, and the beach is windswept and wild. But, you have to book well in advance to get a reservation here. There are mosquitoes and biting flies during certain parts of the summer. And the wild ponies will steal the quesadillas right off your hot camp stove (true story). Despite all of that, it’s an amazing place that is well worth a visit for more experienced campers. The bugs are more manageable in the spring, and that’s when you’re most likely to get a reservation anyway. It’s about 30 minutes from Assateague to Ocean City, so there’s plenty to do if you get bored of beach time and pony watching. Tent sites costs $27.50.
Pocomoke River State Park (3.5 hours from Hyattsville)
Tucked away on Maryland’s lower eastern shore, this park is well known for cypress swamps that border the Pocomoke River. The river originates in the Great Cypress Swamp in Delaware and flows to the Chesapeake Bay. You can rent canoes, kayaks, and even pontoon boats at this park, and I highly recommend doing that to check out the swamp and its inhabitants. My kids were delighted to spot turtles, frogs, and birds from our kayaks during our last trip. If getting out on the water or seeing lots of wildlife are on your camping bucket list, this is the place to go. Tent sites costs $27.50.
Pro tips for camping with kids (from a non-pro):
- There’s no shame in sleeping on an air mattress. Nothing ruins a camping trip faster than a tired, cranky parent who is just too old to sleep on the ground. I know because I’ve been that parent. Be sure to pack a pump!
- Make it a big tent. Trust me on this one: a four-person tent is not going to be comfortable for your family of four (plus the giant stuffed elephant and full cast of My Little Pony figurines your kid insists on bringing). Our family of five (and a dog) has a two-room, eight-person tent that works pretty well for us. Assume that each squirmy child counts for two people when picking a tent size.
- Don’t overthink the food. There’s a whole Pinterest universe of creative camping food, but all you really need is love and some things to cook over the fire (hotdogs, marshmallows). Throw in some non-perishable basics (bananas, bagels, granola bars) for breakfast and lunch. Remember bottled water and other beverages of choice.
- Your kids are going to get dirty. Lean into that. Baby wipes are your friend. Also, grab some of this great lotion called Technu that you can scrub down with if you suspect someone has touched poison ivy. Or face-planted into it, as my then one-year-old did on our first family camping trip.
- Pay attention to the weather. I try to reschedule our camping trips if the forecast is calling for heavy rain or wind or especially cold temperatures. And if it has been raining a lot in the days before your trip, your camping experience might get pretty muddy. Be mindful of that when you pack.
- Keep it simple. Stay close to home, especially if your kids are really young. Go for one night or two at most. There’s no need to plan a bunch of activities; enjoy sitting around the fire or exploring the woods around your campsite with no schedule to maintain.
Wesrmoreland State Park on the Potomac River in VA is A+. Small beach for swimming, lots of picnic tables by the water and shark teeth can be found at Fossil Beach. Also has boat and SUP rentals too. Def a fun time for kids of all ages. Only down side is that the hike to the beach is steep, but driving from camping loops to beach parking area is easy.
This is so exciting and helpful, thanks for the great ideas!