We enjoy camping and Greenbrier State Park is one of our go-to spots, especially in the summer when it is hot and we want to cool down. Greenbrier, which is located in the Appalachian Mountains in Boonsboro, Maryland, has a lake, lots of shade and is close to the DC metro area – about 1.25 hours from downtown DC.
It’s perfect for a quick summer camping trip.
There are four camping loops which are all named after trees… Ash, Birch, Cedar and Dogwood. Ash is closest to the lake, then Birch, Cedar and finally Dogwood.
Ash loop is just a five minute walk to the lake via a wooded path, and a short walk to the visitor’s center. It’s where we usually stay. However, if you are bringing your dog camping, only the Cedar and Dogwood loops allow pets.
The Cedar loop is the only place with electric hookups for RV’s.
We have found the sites in the Ash loop be nicely shaded and not too close to other sites. The bathhouse is clean. The showers are usually hot even during the busy times.
The thing that brings us back to Greenbrier State Park year after year is their lake. The water is refreshing on a hot day and they have sandy beaches surrounded by pockets of shady grassy areas.
The lifeguards are on duty from 11 AM to 6 PM from Memorial Day until Labor Day. However, be prepared for the crowds as the lake attracts many visitors who come up just for the day. By the lake there is a small privately run concession that sells ice cream, hot dogs, chicken fingers, and cold beverages.
The store also sells a few beach supplies like blowup rafts and picnic items. Attached to this building is a small nature shack with puppets and nature related materials for pre-k children. They also have story time which is geared for youngsters and opened on the weekends in the summer.
If you go to the beach be prepared for periods when the beach will be shut down. We have come to Greenbrier for the last 5 years and each time the beach has been shut down for 15 minutes to several hours…for a floating diaper, distant thunder, routine safety checks or other reasons.
It’s a good time to visit the visitor’s center, buy ice cream at the concession stand, or head back to the campsite for a break.
There are bathrooms/changing areas by the beach, but they tend to be dirty due to the volume of guests.
I suggest making a trip back to the campground if possible to use the bathrooms there or head to the visitor’s center. The bathrooms in the visitor’s center which are just about 10 minute walk from the beach are clean.
The kids usually beg to go boating. Paddle boats and row boats can be rented for $14/hour or $10/half hour. This year we took a free ranger-led hike around the lake and learned about edible plants.
On most of our trips we partake in a few games of candy bingo. The games are usually held on Saturday afternoon in the visitor’s center.
The visitor’s center also has an exhibit of real stuffed animals and other activities of interest to children. We sought shelter this year at the visitor’s center when a fast but short lived moving thunder storm with lightening and heavy rain interrupted our afternoon for a half an hour.
Each week the park and the campground lists the upcoming week’s activities, most of which are free/low cost. In the past we have enjoyed family friendly movies under the stars in the amphitheater located in the Birch loop. This summer the campground also had campfire sing-alongs, and ice cream socials.
Other ranger lead activities included how to make useful knots used for fishing, boating, or camping, hikes around the lake, tree identification and more.
I am pleased that during our trips we have not encountered pesky mosquitos or gnats. I don’t even bother applying insect repellent as we have never needed it. This year we saw a skunk and a non-poisonous snake which was exciting. The campground staff is friendly and knowledgeable.
If you need any additional supplies there is a Sheets Convenience Gas station 5 minutes from the park which sells things like eggs, butter, bread, milk, drinks, and ice.
There is a Wise Market (big grocery store chain like a Giant/Safeway) about 12 minutes away from the campgrounds in Boonsboro. Also, about 10 minutes outside of the park are several fast food restaurants all close to one another. They include McDonalds, Popeye’s, KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut.
There is no alcohol allowed in any of the Maryland State Parks, either at the beach or in the campgrounds. Ice and firewood is available for purchase at the camp check-in station.
Photo courtesy of the Greenbrier State Park website.