5 Reasons Elk Neck State Park (Maryland) Is Perfect For 1st Camping Experience (and 3 Reasons it isn’t)

My boyfriend wanted to go camping.

I was sceptical.

We were both a little scared.

We talked a lot, made sure a more experienced friend joined us, raided REI and Amazon, borrowed a tent… now where do we go?

Our choice fell on Elk Neck State Park (Google maps here), and here is why I think it was the perfect choice:

1. Two hours drive from DC.

There are campsites very close to home (check out Little Bennet Campground), but that would have felt like we didn’t do it “for real”.

Two hours still felt close enough, but it was a road trip.

2. Sites are reservable.

You can reserve a tent site through https://parkreservations.maryland.gov/ for $22.5/night. It’s up to 6 people and 2 cars.

There are lots of first come- first serve campsites, and I’m getting more confident about using them, but if we’d arrived to our very first camping site and wouldn’t find a spot, I would have cried.

Each campsite has a picnic table, a fire ring with a grill, and a big space for tents. We could fit a 4 person and a 3 person tents easily. you’re only allowed to put tents onto the camping platform (and not on the grass around), so having a lot of space was helpful.

A big camping space!

3. It has free showers and a camp store,

“Roughing it” is fun but for our very first experience, we wanted almost glamping.

Elk Neck campground is organized in “loops”, each of which has its own bathroom with free hot showers. Later we learned that such luxury is rare!

There’s also a great store which sells things from firewood to aluminium foil and marshmallow sticks.

Each loop has its own bathroom

4. There is “civilization” nearby.

15 mins drive from the park is a town with stores, bars and restaurants. There’s even a vineyard, but we didn’t go. We did go to a town bar to grab a drink (such an authentic Maryland experience!). When we decided to stay the second night, we also drove to a Walmart nearby to replenish our food supplies and purchase water shoes which are needed for the beach.

5. There’s stuff to do.

There’s an easy hike to the lighthouse and some more challenging hikes.

The hiking path opening to the lighthouse

There’s a small beach. The beach was windy but I still did get into the water. There are lots of birds, and my boyfriend enjoyed birdwatching quite a bit.

We didn’t get the perfect beach weather, but it was still fun

Of course, simply making our own food on fire for the very first time and figuring out the tents were fun… but having more things to do was a plus.


Now here are some drawbacks of Elk Neck:

1. No cell service.

I personally *love* not having cell service on camping trips because that’s how I really disconnect. However, being able to Google stuff on our very first trip would have been helpful.

2. They only take cash for wood.

We did know about that in advance and we came prepared, however, it’s not obvious.

3. You have to drive everywhere in the park.

Campsite to camp store, campsite to hiking trails, campsite to beach, you have to drive. Maybe it’s my European habits speaking, but it was a little odd to me.


What was your very first park where you camped? How did it go?

One response to “5 Reasons Elk Neck State Park (Maryland) Is Perfect For 1st Camping Experience (and 3 Reasons it isn’t)”

  1. […] had a busy summer and camped in Shenandoah once again, in a State park, and in a private campground (seriously, check it out if you’re in […]


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