Naked Hikers Let It All Hang Out On the Summer Solstice

The Appalachian Trail in Maine’s Grafton Notch State Park. If there’s a naked hiker up ahead, he’d damn sure better be wearing industrial-strength insect repellent. Photo by J. Stephen Conn via Flickr.

The Northern Hemisphere summer solstice arrived at 5:46 UT this morning (1:46 a.m. EDT). Now we’ll experience the longest day, the shortest night, and perhaps a spate of naked hikers.

Hiking au naturel is not legal in our national parks. That’s not to say it doesn’t occur on the park trails and elsewhere on the many thousands of miles of trails in this fine country. If you’ve spent a good deal of time hiking the more remote trails, the chances are that you’re already aware of this phenomenon. No doubt some of you reading this have …. ahem … participated.

I recall a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail a few years back that was enlivened when our little hiking party encountered Naked Guy, which is what we call that particular hiker in our recountings of the event. Naked Guy was German, and as you may know, there is a lot of naked hiking going on over there in Europe (though it is discouraged in many places).

Whatever. Today is a day when the odds of spotting unclad hikers on trails right here in the U.S. are significantly higher than normal. That’s because people who like to hike in the buff have informally declared the summer solstice to be Naked Hiking Day.

On Naked Hiking Day, they say, we should just go ahead and let it all hang out. Just say to hell with the insects, thorns, and sunburn. But be considerate and pick remote places. Don’t be crude or lewd.

That part about being discrete is very good advice. The vast majority of hikers believe that nude hiking is inconsiderate or rude. Law enforcement officials are not amused, either. In the national parks, rangers stand ready to cite naked hikers for indecent exposure. That doesn’t happen a lot, because nude hiking is apparently still rare on national park trails.

But then again, if nude hikers are doing their thing in places where other people don’t see them, how are we supposed to know for sure how much of this is going on? Hmmmmm. Looks like we might need a government grant to study this. About three hundred thousand bucks should do it. Be sure to let us know if you spot an RFP. A couple of old college professors of my acquaintance might be willing to come out of retirement for this one.

Postscript: If you are going to declare a Naked Hiking Day, it makes a certain amount of sense to choose the summer solstice. Since time immemorial, nudity has been a feature of pagan festivals and other rituals marking the arrival of the summer solstice.

Comments

Come on, live and let live.

Blessed be and may you always walk in the Light.

What is hurt, but, our sensibilities. I have yet to come across naked hikers in my many photo forays...just at hot springs.

"So it is not nakedness that gives the sense of immodesty, the modifying the nakedness is what does it."
- A Tramp Abroad, Mark Twain's Notebooks & Journals, Vol. 2

rob
--
Executive Director,
Crater Lake Institute
www.craterlakeinstitute.com
Robert Mutch Photography

umm....................gross!

I think there might be some sort of loophole in NPS bylaws about nudity. Certain areas of the GGNRA - Baker Beach and Black Sands Beach - are almost always filled with nudists. The park rangers don't do a think to try to stop or prevent it, and nobody seems to mind in the least. This may be something particular to the fact that it's San Francisco, of course, but I think the whole reason the nudists decided to set up shop where they did was because of the fact that they could strip down on federal land.

either way, we shouldn't be so afraid of the human body. there are times when nudity is inappropriate, yes, but let's take a lesson from the Europeans - a culture that has a couple hundred years head start on ours - and not demonize ro shun that which is most natural.

Naked is how we 'naturally' arrived in this world and I applaud those who choose to observe such a fun loving tradition. Especially, if it gets more people to go out and hike!

"Filled with nudists" is a bit of an exaggeration, dt, on two counts. The two beaches you mention are not that crowded with unclad bathers, and few of the unclad bathers are actually nudists. Nudism is a lifestyle choice, whereas nude sunbathing on public or private beaches is a recreational option practiced by lots of day-tripping and weekending people who are most emphatically not nudists. Baker Beach, which lies below big cliffs just west of the Presidio, is mainly used for sunbathing, picnicking, and surf fishing. (Swimming is dangerous there because of very cold water, deep drop offs, and strong riptides.) Although Baker is a mile long, only the northern end -- the end nearest the Golden Gate Bridge -- is used for clothing optional sunbathing. Black Sands Beach (aka Bonita Beach) in Marin County is mainly used by first-timers and diehards because it's a major pain to access it (a ten-minute hike in from Conzelman Road, then a steep return climb -- quite strenuous if toting a cooler), and the place can be windy and uncomfortable for nude sunbathing. As you've noted, Bay Area residents are generally tolerant of the clothing optional sunbathing that takes place in certain well defined areas, such as Black Sands and the northern end of Baker. The Park Service has adopted what seems to be a practical policy of looking the other way as long as nobody gets hurt.

Indeed!

We went hiking in Zion's National Park through the "Subway" canyon, and encountered a group of nude hikers. It was really uncomfortable for me, but more uncomfortable for my friend's 8-year old son who was with us. It was unavoidable to see them and run in to them throughout the hike. We first encountered them at one of the first pools you need to cross. They were hangin-out there, pardon the expression, figuring out how to cross.

Just remember that kids are sometimes hiking in National Parks, too....and be prepared to cover up if you HAVE to hike in the buff. Sheesh :)

Bob. There are times to "look the other way". Then again...........

One thing that I'm trying to get a solid handle on is what the current status is regarding ramifications or legal trends against anyone caught hiking naked on federal lands that are in the proximity (within a mile or two) of residential areas? How has Megan's Law affected the policy of looking the other way? Are more hikers being arrested for lewd conduct/indecent exposure which are felonies rather than the prior occasional misdemeanor or admonishments to "putyer pants back on"?

Perhaps it is time for the NPS to designate just a few trails as "clothing optional" and cite anyone who appears nekkid in other areas of the park. This would give both of the naturalists and the nervous each a separately designated area and allow those of us who neither care if you are prude or nude the ability to go anywhere on the trails with the understanding we may or may not encounter nudity. Mostly I think people are concerned about junior or his sis seeing something the parents have not yet discussed with their children, no problem and I understand completely. But then again mom and pop should not freak out when seeing a naked body enjoying the full outdoors if they venture onto a clothing optional trail, I doubt mom or dad was clothed when the offspring were conceived.

Nude is how we arrived in this world and when you die a stranger will strip you nude and dissect and/or bathe your body in preparation for burial or creamation. People should be less uptight about nudity and accpet the fact that nudity in and of it self is not obscene but only natural. It is clothing that makes people "class segregated" and conscious of their appearance. How does someone explain nipples on a man are OK to show in public but nipples on a woman are not? Why is it OK for a young woman to wear a thong to the beach but anyone else is considered gross or perverted? Plain discrimination I see.

This was attempted at Assateague Island for awhile. A section of the beach was set aside for nudist, but they wouldn't stay in their designated spot and would wander on down the beach. The people who prefered suits knew there were nekkid people up north and wouldn't go there, but the nudist would ignore the boundaries and would wander on down, showing it all. I have no problem with nudity, but many people do and that needs to be respected. I'm not saying that all nudists are like this, but a good majority at the beach felt they had the right to go where they pleased.

Also in Shenandoah, there's "Naked Creek" and it's called that for a reason!

Nekkid is a wonderfully useful term, don't you think? It puts me in mind of a standup routine that the late comedian/author Lewis Grizzard used to do. He would say: "There's a difference between naked and nekkid. If we say that Darlene is naked, we mean that she has no clothes on. If we say that Darlene is nekkid, we mean that she has no clothes on and is up to something."

Of all the really important things that face on a daily bases how on earth can people get themselves on there ear over whether people are celebrating Naked Hiker day!!! Perspective People!!! It's just one more way for people to enjoy themselves without hurting anyone.

I suspect that people who walk down trails nude are often 'in it' for something besides the simple 'naturalism'. They are going to encounter clothed hikers who are not prepared for nudity, and will thereby create a socially & psychologically challenging scene. This activity seems pretty closely related to 'flashing' people by opening a trenchcoat, or unzipping the fly.

Nude or clothing-optional *locations* are a whole different thing.

RangerLady is right: most people - WAY most people - accept the nudity taboo ... and the facts of childbirth are bogus.

amen!

Hmm, I don't think you are correct that WAY most people - accept the nudity taboo.

Society's response to public nudity varies on the culture, time, location and context of the activities. There are exceptions and particular circumstances in which nudity is tolerated, accepted or even encouraged in public spaces. Such examples would include sex segregated showers and saunas, clothing optional or nude beaches. The reason nudity in public can considered be considered indecent exposure is because in general and across cultures, more restrictions are found for exposure of those parts of the human body that display evidence of sexual arousal. Sex organs and often women's breasts are covered, even when other parts of the body may be freely uncovered. But there are also clear signs that the existence of a taboo is because many people don't like being in public without their clothes the position and authority in society that it gives them - we are all equal when we are naked and some people find that scary.

To accuse nude hikers of being flashers seems completely over the top and frankly quite narrow minded. If they were flashers would it be fair to assume they would pick areas with more people than remote trails in natural parks?

Another point that seems to escape this conversation is that there is nothing illegal in being nude in public. It is offending other people that can be an offense. This is the legal details on the matter:
In 1992 New York State’s highest court ruled that it was legal for a woman to go into public without covering her breasts. Case in point: Two years ago, a 27-year old New Yorker, Jill Coccaro took a walk without covering her breasts. She was arrested, taken for a psychiatric exam, and thrown in jail for 12 hours. Finally, after someone in the District Attorney’s office realized what had happened, she was released and told no charges would be pressed. In turn, Jill sued the city and, just recently, received a $29,000 settlement.

California State Parks policy dictates nudity on public lands is not, per se, illegal. State Park rangers have operated for decades under a policy known as the "Cahill" policy, named after former Parks Director Russ Cahill:
"it shall be the policy of the Department that enforcement of nude sunbathing regulations within the State Park System shall be made only upon the valid complaint of a private citizen. Citations or arrests shall be made only after attempts are made to elicit voluntary compliance with the regulations."

You might be interested to know that many of our Founding Fathers, including Benjamin Franklin and John Quincy Adams, were fond of outdoor nudity. Indeed, one reporter tracked down Mr. Adams as he was bathing naked in the Potomac!

I don't mean to offend anyone, but YOU may be the one with the problem and if you teach your children that they should be ashamed of their body you’re passing that problem on to the next generation. That is up to you, but don't pass it on to everyone else.

Have a nice day :-)

Christian,

Nude trail-walkers are engaged in an activity that is offensive - suddenly 'inflicting' their exposure upon unaware, unprepared "victims". It is appropriate and accurate to compare this activity to that of flashers and other exposure-perverts. I personally enjoy nudist venues, but I don't kid myself that dropping my trousers in the midst of a clothed social setting would be Ok. Unless a trail is recognized as a nude trail, it is offensive - and perverted - to traipse down it naked. Yes, it is reasonable to be suspicious of the internal motives of such 'ambush-nudists': some of them are simply exercising poor judgement, are just being inconsiderate & rude, but others may very well be more worrisome individuals. This sort of thing is 'perfect' for the "real wackos".

At a very low incidence, nude trail hikers are more a bizarre anomaly, but at higher rates I will predict a fairly stiff enforcement-policy against them. Like steakers & flashers, the context of trail-nudity shows that the intent is to shock (that's plainly what will happen), and that's what makes it an offense.

The case of the topless female city-walker you mention did not set a precedent. The problem with her arrest, incarceration, psychiatric examination etc is not that nudity was legal in her jurisdiction, but that those who intervened overreacted to her offense. It's against the law to jay-walk, too, and though we may agree that it's pretty crazy to do so on many streets & highways, there is no need or call for us to get hysterical about it ('hysteria' is the word for the reaction we saw in the topless case). The authorities are lucky she only got $29,000 - but she got it not because it was Ok for her to be exposed, but due to the excesses of her apprehension.

Yes, WAY most people support the nudity taboo 'as we know it'. A quick search does not uncover a definitive nudity-approval poll, but there are useful proxies we can look at (and perhaps more reliable than polls). There are nude beaches, hotsprings, and other free-access public settings where folks can register their disapproval of the nudity taboo and indulge their preference for exposure. These venues are an extremely minor component of the overall beach, hotspring and other public-access venues available. It is simply the case that way most people choose a clothed setting, over a nude alternative. If there was more demand, there would be more nude places.

Socially, private citizens assemble casually in private settings (house-parties) for their mutual benefit & pleasure in many ways & styles. It happens occasionally that such private gatherings incorporate nudity ... but it is really quite unusual, overall. When we say that WAY most people support the nudity taboo, we are actually giving the nudist-faction the benefit of the doubt.

These two proxy-indicators - low use of public nudity-venues, and the tiny incidence of private house-party nudity - are clear affirmations that WAY most people support the nudity taboo - not that they like it, or think nudity per se is inherently disagreeable - but that they accept the status quo as it exist. Yes, it's 'just' a taboo. Do we think that humans have evolved beyond taboos? Does the illusion that only 'primitive' cultures in the Darkest Heart of Hollywood Africa are subject to social taboos & fetishes still affect contemporary North Americans?

The National Parks Traveler website is overwhelmingly about 20th & 21st C. Parks of the United States, the citizenship that owns them, and the governments that control them. The condition of pre-European tribes, especially-liberal sections of other continents, etc, is immaterial to this post & thread. We're talking 'here & now' - and the nudity taboo is overwhelmingly-dominant reality, here & now.

Not only do way-most people support the nudity taboo, but most of those people are not religious, and what's driving our position is not shame, neurosis, etc. I have some sympathy for nudity-activists, and as mentioned I'm happy to join in appropriate nude venues when & where they arise, but the nudism-community (rather like the vegetarian/PETA-community) has a rather-dramatically skewed impression of their own status & significance in the greater community-web, and a baseless optimism in the ascendancy of their preferred outlook. Nudism & vegetarianism both represent noticeably-deluded, small, single-digit portions of the population with little prospect for growth in the foreseeable future.

For an alternative viewpoint, consult the website of the American Association for Nude Recreation. Yes, there is such an organization. In fact, the AANR recently sponsored what they hope will be a Guinness World record skinny dip. The event, staged at a pool in Granger, Indiana, drew 119 participants.

There's a beach in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore that is a de facto nude beach. From what I hear, the rangers look the other way unless a complaint comes in, and generally just do the, "please cover up" thing and go about their business. Kayaking past the beach is a good way to go nude-watching, should you care to do that.

I agree completely with Christian's comment in this string. I would not intentionally offend
any other hiker. I suit-up when others approach. Sometimes there is a surprise situation,
I attempt to suit up, and the other hiker says, it's fine, go on. No offense was taken, and
the attempt to suit up was appreciated for the politeness, I guess.

Paul

If humans hike naked deep in the forest, can anyone still be offended?

Sorry, but I will have to disagree with comparing most nude hikers to flashers. Flashers purposefully seek out victims and then flash their genitals for sexual gratification (often it is accompnied by sexual behaviour). Most nude hikers, my self included, purposefully seek out venues where they are unlikely to meet other people and they hike naked because they enjoy being naked in the great outdoors and because they find it more comfortable. So the motive and behaviours are quite different. There may be exceptions, but these are even rarer.

I usually bring along a sarong or wrap so I can cover myself in seconds. Most of the time when I've been caught off gard people will chuckle and smile. But then it helps to hike with others and be in a mixed group. I don't know how the article can state "The vast majority of hikers believe that nude hiking is inconsiderate or rude" - did he conduct a poll or study? Or was he just projecting?

In any case it seems like a harmless activity and with precautions like selecting secluded, little traveled trails that are not likely to be used by parents with little children and by bringing wraps much a the conflict can be avoided or minimized. To some one who has never tried it or does not like it this may seem odd, but to those who enjoy it - it seems natural and good. A little tolerance also goes a long way and can help us all enjoy life as we see fit with out inflicting harm on others or ourselves.

"The first thing I did was take off my pants. Naturally."
~Edward Abbey~

Speaking for myself, and my wife feels much the same, if there were more places where we could be naked outside, we would take advantage of them. Unfortunately, we are not aware of any near enough our home (in eastern Pennsylvania) to be practical. I really want to be able to take a walk or bike ride on a regular basis without clothes. I just like to feel the air on my skin. To feel connected to nature in this way is a huge rush. I am not at all interested in being seen or offending anyone either. I would not be looking to quickly cover up if someone did see me though, as long as the place were accepted and posted as clothing optional. I don't know how to change our culture of shame at being seen naked outside of intimate or clinical settings, and disgust when seeing someone naked outside clinical or intimate settings. I just know that if all public areas were clothing optional, and our children were exposed to this from day one...nobody would have the hang-ups we have today. What a wonderful dream!

Well I can tell you that today I was hiking along a secluded trail here in the Bishkill, PA area. When I arrived I was the only car in the lot. I went hiking for a couple of miles and went down to one of the rocks by the river, stripped off, and went swimming. Since it was a lovely day and I was alone I decided to hike back down the trail shorts and towl in hand. I came accoross a mother and older teenage son walking my direction. I quickly placed the towl in front of me, politely said excuse me as I passed and quickly made my way back to the car. Since I was obviously no longer alone on that trail. I drove down the road on my way back to my hotel and pulled off for a short break. All of a sudden I have the park rangers there telling me someone called in a complaint about a naked hiker. Now first let me say to all of you out there that do not agree with the public nudity thing, I understand and accept your point of view. However I cannot understand how a quick 30 second encounter with a nude man in the woods is justification for calling the park ranger and complaining. I now have a wonderful 125.00 ticket for disorderly conduct to pay and a record with my name attached. I mean come on we have all seen naked people in our life. If the encounter is brief, startling as it may be, can we just let it go and move on with life.

Anonymous (not verified),
We sure can.
Sincerely,
RW

I have hiked many times in the Angeles Crest area above Glendale/LA. I have seen correspondence between the LA Sheriffs department, a naturist lawyer and the park ranger. They have agreed--sheriff and park ranger--not to arrest naked hikers in Angeles National Forest as long as they are not engaged in lewd conduct. I have met other naked hikers too and folks who wish they were naked. I carry a towel to cover up with if surprised and light shorts if I hear someone coming. I was told by the lawyer for the naturist community that it is not illegal to hike naked in national parks, nor is it legal. The park ranger can turn over someone to the sheriffs department if they violate community standards, but in Los Angeles county, they have said they will not. I simply love the sun and breeze on my body. I wear 5 fingers shoes by Vibram as well, so I feel connected to the earth. Tree hugs, rob (PS didn't hike on naked hiking day this year B-( .)

NPS has no specific nudity regulation and any charges would be under the NPS "disorderly conduct" charge, or by assimilating a State law specific to indecent exposure. At Golden Gate, NPS allows nudity because of a District Court ruling. Rangers charged some folks at the north end of Baker Beach under the discorderly conduct reg. on the premise that the nude people were creating and maintaining a physically offensive condition, an element of the regulation. The U.S. District Court ruled that in areas, such as the north end of Baker Beach and Black Sand Beach, where people had to walk some distance to access the area, that the the individuals who were offended by the nudity had gone out of their way to become offended. The Court indicated that if the nude individuals had been visible from a roadway, parking lot or sidewalk open to the general public that the charges would have been appropriate. Cape Canaveral has areas with nudes as well because of similar court rulings. At National Park units in North Carolina, the parks assimilate the very specific NC indecent exposure regulation.
Because of these wide differences it is wise not to assume, what ever side of the issue you are on, that nudity will be treated the same in all NPS areas. If you have a concern or question about the issue it is always best to ask the law enforcement staff at specific NPS units. Do not believe what you read on non-NPS web sites, blogs or hear from local citizens.

AMEN!!!!!! there is much more in life to worry about...

Where I come from, there are plentiful ticks with all sorts of fun things like ehrlichiosis and Lyme's disease and West Nile toting mosquitoes, not to mention poison ivy and poison oak. I wouldn't be caught naked or nekkid in my woods.