Take a look inside Camp David, where presidents host world leaders and escape Washington

George W. Bush Lee Myung Bak Camp David
Then-US President George W. Bush, right, and then-South Korean President Lee Myung Bak laugh as they leave their joint news conference after their meeting at Camp David on April 19, 2008.Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images
  • Camp David has been a destination for presidential rest and relaxation since it opened.

  • The camp has also been the site of meetings and summits with various world leaders over the years.

  • Camp David has been the site of some big national and foreign policy decisions.

Nestled in the countryside of Maryland, in the Catoctin Mountain Park, is the presidential country retreat known as Camp David.

The first parts of the complex were built by the Works Progress Administration in 1935, and Franklin D. Roosevelt made it the presidential retreat. FDR originally named the property "Shangri-La," a name it kept until the Eisenhower administration, who named it Camp David after his grandson.

The compound has expanded over the years, with new cabins being built and even a pool. It has also been the site of diplomatic events like the Camp David Accords in 1978 and the G8 summit in 2012.

Here's a look inside Camp David, where presidents go to escape Washington.

The original name of Camp David was Shangri-La, the name of a fictional Himalayan paradise in the 1933 novel "Lost Horizon."

Shangri La_sign
The original sign to Camp David during President Franklin D. Roosevelt's term.National Park Service

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower took office, he renamed the property "Camp David," after his father and grandson who had the same name.

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David Eisenhower, the grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, poses with a sign named in his honor in 1960.White House

By the end of the Eisenhower administration, Camp David looked like this. The president's cabin — Aspen Lodge — was originally called the Bear's Den by FDR.

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Camp David's Aspen Lodge in April 1961.Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

From the beginning, Camp David gave presidents a chance to enjoy the countryside.

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FDR and Winston Churchill are pictured fishing at Shangri-La in 1943.FDR Presidential Library & Museum/Flickr

Here, FDR and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill fish in the woods around "Shangri La." The two men reportedly planned the D-Day invasion from a porch on one of the cabins.

Since Camp David is in the Catoctin Mountain Park, it has a number of trails around it that presidents and their families can enjoy.

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President Jimmy Carter, holding the hand of his grandson Jason, leads members of the Carter family and others on a holiday outing to Cunningham Falls State Park near Camp David on November 25, 1978.Associated Press

Horseback riding is also a common activity for the trails, as seen here with President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush.

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President Ronald Reagan, left, and Vice President George Bush go horseback riding at Camp David in July 1981.Associated Press

Originally, the pool at Camp David was far from Aspen Lodge. President Lyndon B. Johnson can be seen enjoying the pool with family, friends, and staff.

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Here's another shot of Johnson at the Camp David pool.

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President Richard Nixon added a pool behind the Aspen Lodge in the 1970s. President Barack Obama apparently still enjoyed it decades later.

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President Barack Obama and his daughter Sasha play at the Camp David pool in 2011.White House

Obama White House photographer Pete Souza snapped a number of great behind-the-scenes shots of life at Camp David, which also has tennis and basketball courts.

President Barack Obama plays basketball with senior staff and their family members during a retreat at Camp David on July 18, 2009.Obama White House/Flickr

As well as a pool table.

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Following the conclusion of the G8 Summit, President Barack Obama plays a game of pool in the Holly Cabin at Camp David on May 19, 2012.Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Camp David can provide a relaxing setting for presidents to do their work, away from the chaos of Washington.

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President Barack Obama reads briefing material while meeting with advisors inside his cabin at Camp David on October 21, 2012.Obama White House/Flickr

Many presidents have spent Christmas at Camp David.

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Lauren Bush shows her grandfather President Bush, her Rudolph costume for the grandchildren's Christmas play as he works in his office at the presidential retreat in Camp David on December 24, 1992.Associated Press

It's pretty nice in winter too.

Camp David Aspen Lodge Snow Sledding
Three unidentified children sled down the hill outside Aspen Lodge, the Presidential residence at Camp David, on February 10, 1962.Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

President Jimmy Carter turned Camp David into a place where diplomacy was conducted, like the landmark Camp David Accords in 1978.

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Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat, President Jimmy Carter, and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, meet for the first time at Camp David on September 6, 1978.Associated Press

Like Carter, President Bill Clinton used Camp David as a location for talks between Israel and Palestine.

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President Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, left, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, right, walk on the grounds of Camp David on July 11, 2000.Associated Press

Obama also used Camp David as a place for diplomatic events.

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President Barack Obama waves to cameras before greeting world leaders for the G8 Summit Friday on May 18, 2012.Associated Press

In 2012, he hosted the leaders of the G8 nations at Camp David.

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It's not all work, though. European leaders took a break during the 2012 G8 to watch the overtime shootout of the Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich Champions League final.

Barack Obama David Cameron Angela Merkel

President Donald Trump visited Camp David five times in his first year in office, calling it "a very special place" in one tweet.

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President Donald Trump walks towards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House to travel to Camp David on January 5, 2018.Associated Press

In January 2018, Trump brought senior Republicans to Camp David for a leadership retreat.

Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Mike Pompeo Mike Pence Kevin McCarthy Steve Scalise Rex Tillerson

During his presidency, Trump frequented his properties more than Camp David.

U.S. President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida.
Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida.Alex Wong/Getty Images

Before taking office, Trump once told a German journalist in an interview, "Camp David is very rustic, it's nice, you'd like it. You know how long you'd like it? For about 30 minutes."

By August 2020, Trump had made 500 visits to his properties. Of those 500, Trump had visited Mar-A-Lago 134 times.

Comparatively, Trump visited Camp David five times in his first year in office, according to USA Today. He visited his golf clubs 150 times in his first year.

Sources: Washington Post, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, USA Today

President Joe Biden made his first trip to Camp David three weeks into his presidency for Valentine's Day weekend in 2021.

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden disembark Marine One at Fort McNair in Washington, DC,
US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden disembark Marine One at Fort McNair in Washington.STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Reuters

Biden was at Camp David during the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (on screen) hold a video conference with the national security team to discuss the ongoing efforts to draw down our civilian footprint in Afghanistan
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (on-screen) hold a video conference with the national security team to discuss the ongoing efforts to draw down our civilian footprint in Afghanistan.White House via Getty Images

He spent 72 hours at Camp David and cut his trip short to return to the White House and address the nation.

Source: Washington Post

In February 2023, Biden and his team prepared for his State of the Union address from Camp David.

President Joe Biden prepares for his State of the Union address in February 2023.
President Joe Biden prepares for his upcoming State of the Union address.Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Source: CBS News

Biden and his family spent the Fourth of July weekend at Camp David in 2023.

President Joe Biden arrives at Fort Lesley J. McNair after spending the weekend at Camp David.
President Joe Biden arrives at Fort Lesley J. McNair after spending a weekend at Camp David.ASSOCIATED PRESS

Source: Washington Examiner

Biden gathered with close family members at Camp David in June 2024.

President Joe Biden exits Air Force One en route to Camp David.AP Photo/Susan Walsh

President Joe Biden leaned on his family during a difficult stretch of his campaign following his first debate with former President Donald Trump. (In July 2024, Biden stepped aside as the Democratic nominee.)

Editor's note: This story was first published in February 2018 and has been updated with recent information.

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