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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.


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.

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

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.  

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-( .)

Anonymous (not verified),
We sure can.

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.

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!

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

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