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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.


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

Executive Director,
Crater Lake Institute
Robert Mutch Photography


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.


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 :)

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