Continuing my dearth of new blogs, I thought I’d reblog this, revised and with a few different photos – including one I just took on my visit to my childhood stomping grounds back east. It is one of my earliest posts, dating back almost three years. It has the most likes of any post I’ve done. If you don’t mind seeing the occasional nude, continue on.
The photo above was taken in Joshua Tree National Park, a great place for nude recreation. I’ve hiked, camped, and even climbed a few boulders au naturel out there. (I learned the hard way not to climb decomposing granite in bare feet.) I’ve even seen a bit of casual nudity in the public campgrounds, and it is a favorite location for photographers doing nudes against the rocks.
JTNP is a vast park with empty places, even on busy days. There is also BLM land next to it to recreate in, where there are no restrictions on nudity as long as you stay away from the main roads.
I love hiking naked. I enjoy the sensation of the sun and the wind on my full body. I love the freedom. Love the way it liberates my soul and brings me into direct contact with nature. My ancestors of a hundred thousand years ago had this as their birthright. Today’s world, in its perversity, would deny me this. (Just saw a poll in Backpacker Magazine that indicated 26% of respondents had hiked nude and another 17% would like to try.)
It would appear that nude hiking or “naking” or freehiking is not such an unusual hobby. (Per Wikipedia: Freehiking refers to naked hiking as well as a form of hiking in which the participants intentionally avoid trails and predetermined destinations. I often fit both definitions of the word!) Seeing a number of posts regarding it on various travel sites makes me feel less “out there” and less “involuntarily unique”.
If it was good enough for Colin Fletcher, it is good enough for me.
Not sure how I got started in such an unusual hobby. I grew up in the Northern lower peninsula of Michigan. My parents and the people of the area were pretty much fundamentalist Christians, anti-nude and anti-sexual, so it seems doubly odd. Long before puberty even thought of setting in, I liked being naked. It is among my earliest clear memories.
Perhaps it was my Asperger’s kicking in, making me “involuntarily unique.” Why did a child retain a desire for nakedness despite every influence around him indicating the contrary? Hmmm… Maybe I didn’t absorb those social values and had the freedom to indulge in them privately so they didn’t go extinct. (God knows there were plenty of other social customs I didn’t pick up on.) Maybe it became forbidden fruit – an act of private rebellion? I dunno. But it stuck.
Lots of semi-wilderness in that area and no natural hazards to speak of. We had an 80-acre parcel of forest and field and the north branch of the Tobacco River running through it. As a kid, I was pretty much ignored by my parents and very poorly socialized. Nearby were thousands of acres of national forest with streams and lakes, and as long as I made it home for dinner, nobody really cared. I imagine that in that way, it was a kind of “Tom Sawyer” life.
Today, many would call it free-range parenting. It was how we were all raised back then. Today, some might call it neglect. I’d wander through the woods and fields and up and down the river (perfectly normal) with no clothing (not so “normal”) despite the mosquitoes. (Mosquitoes have never bothered me much to this day.) Parents would have exploded if they knew.
As a young child, I did many things my parents never knew about! (Some of them were far more dangerous.)
From about age 10 through age 18, sexuality was in the mix. I would get aroused for obvious reasons, stressful reasons, or for no reason at all. That is one primary reason why teenage boys often drop out of social nudism. OTOH, I wandered alone with nobody to care. Eventually, the hormones began to settle down. I started modeling nude for art classes at 18, and social nudity quickly lost its erotic pressure. It was no longer exotic.
I have a little checklist I like to go through when hiking naked. I don’t like surprise encounters with the textile impaired. You don’t know who is cool and who will be mortally offended. I don’t care to have to deal with obnoxious people who think I’m the obnoxious one.
If you aren’t used to the sun, sunscreen is in order.
I try to time it when nobody else is out. That means midweek – and during the long summers out here – at night. (Be careful of rattlesnakes!) Weekends are not impossible but finding an empty trail on a lovely Saturday morning isn’t easy. (The exceptions to this are hikes around well-known clothing-optional backcountry locations like Deep Creek Hot Springs or Saline Hot Springs. Nobody there even blinks at a naked hiker.) Warm summer rains make for delicious hikes! Even short hikes in cold weather are great – just keep moving. Sunny & warm spring days with snow still on the ground are to die for.
Second, I make sure I’m not in a hunting season. (!!!)
Third, I pick trails that normally get no traffic. Either they are not easily accessed from main roads, or there is a difficult stretch that hardly anyone goes beyond.
An example of the first is the Alder Creek Trail, which requires a 10-mile drive down a bumpy dirt road to get to (but I still only do it midweek). An example of the second is Piru Creek Trail going downstream from the trailhead. There is much rock climbing and creek fording en route, and eventually, the trail becomes just a suggestion. Almost nobody but idiots like me explore beyond the first two miles.
There’s also the Arroyo Seco for a remote hike/swim through rugged terrain.
Acquire some topographic maps of your hiking areas and look for trails that are out of the way. Learn how to use a map and compass; you will never get lost. I have some handy wilderness survival suggestions if you really plan on going deep.
Timing is important. Most hikers head out in the morning and are back by noon. I often head out to the trail late enough that they’ll be done before I start. It doesn’t mean I don’t do early morning hikes, but it does make trail selection very important. Sometimes I go out with a textile group, and when they turn back, I keep going au naturel.
A good freehike should be several miles. It takes me a mile to unwind and leave my civilized world behind. Further along, you forget you’re naked. That’s when the best begins. Your life refocuses on the sun, the breeze, the flora and fauna, the terrain, and the sky. All five senses reset. You rediscover how good it is to sweat and the rhythm of your legs. Now, you are a part of nature, not apart from nature.
That doesn’t happen if you have to worry about other people.
If the trail is flat and the weather is good, nighttime hiking is a pleasant way to spend an evening. You are far more likely to find an empty trail at that time. If there were someone else out there, they’d be using a flashlight. It makes it easy to spot people long before they get to you. Their night vision is fried and they can’t see anything beyond that light cone.
I have great night vision, and a full moon offers plenty of light for me on an open, smooth trail. If you use a light, use one that is red. It mucks less with your night vision. Out here, you must watch for snakes that come out at night, so total darkness is not advised.
The trailhead tells you a lot. Let’s say there is a car parked there ahead of you. Yup, somebody else is ahead of you on the trail. So you hike out textile until you meet the other party. Are you overtaking them, or are they on their way back? Ask about trail conditions and if anybody else is ahead. From there, you can determine whether to go on naked. Maybe you see five cars, a school bus, and horse trailers. This would not be a good place for a naked hike.
A trail with multiple trailheads, like the Fishbowl – Cedar Creek loop, would require additional investigation.
Some trails, like Piru Creek, have a parking area that services several different amenities.
Here is where a bit of bushcraft comes in handy. I check mud and sand bottlenecks for recent footprints. Every footprint going out should have a corresponding return print. Outbound tracks with no inbound tracks mean there are people out there.
While you are out there, walk softly. Lose the earbuds. Open up your senses to what nature has to offer. Look, listen, smell, and feel. You will see more wildlife – not to mention avoiding snakes and other hazards. You will learn more of nature’s way, and no textile wearer will ever surprise you.
If the textile impaired come my way, I step off-trail and use a strategically relocated hat. (I do it for politeness until I can gauge the other person’s reaction. Courtesy counts!) Other guys carry a small kilt with a velcro fastener. A woman needs to cover a bit more than a man but is much less likely to inspire anger if she doesn’t bother.
It appears from anecdotal evidence that a lone male is perceived as more threatening than a group, and a female or mixed-gender group is least threatening of all. Not surprising. Plenty of non-naturist males out there would use this as an exercise in getting aroused or to sexually harass. A woman on the trail is primed to see any unusual behavior by a male she might meet as a potential threat. The job of a nude hiker is to be unthreatening and innocuous.
OTOH, getting such a group together is a major undertaking with scheduling and logistics, and finding fellow freehikers may not be possible. It isn’t something you could do on the spur of the moment. You would be well served to join an existing group like the Siskiyou Hiking Bares or start your own.
I’ve freehiked and freecamped with groups. They are fine. I am not a social person by nature, and a group’s social dynamics are often beyond me. More people equals more noise and less wildlife seen. Not everyone is enraptured by silence like I am. I prefer to be alone.
You take with you exactly what you would on a clothed hike. Shoes/boots, daypack/fanny pack with food and water, hat, emergency gear, and big enough to hold your clothes. If there is a back-country emergency, you may regret not having them.
Often, I’ll set up a remote base, leave the gear behind, and just explore for a bit. A pack interferes with pure freedom. Sometimes, even the hat and shoes interfere. They detract from the pure nakedness of it all, but you do need them for protection
An ideal destination has water you can filter to drink and for recreation. Whether or not there is water in my itinerary, I always bring 2-3 liters depending on the trip and the weather. Always be prepared for the bad things that might happen, but also understand you were at greater risk while getting to the trail than you are on it. Solo is good, couples are good, and groups are all good. (I must admit I prefer solo, though. People crowd me unless they are close friends.)
One piece of gear I always take is my SPOT communicator. It is a satellite-based text message system. All you need is some open sky, and you can get a rescue chopper out anywhere within a few hours. I’ll do another blog, eventually, on deep wilderness hiking. I am assuming in this blog, the reader isn’t going more than a couple of hours into the bush.
I don’t necessarily worry about law enforcement because of the nature of where I take my nude hikes. California has no statewide law against nudity (only one against lewd conduct, and simple nudity is not legally lewd), and there is no Federal law either. It is left up to state agencies and local jurisdictions to pass such regulations. I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Do your own research.
In Los Angeles County,, a letter from the LA Sheriff’s Department indicates that the county parks’ anti-nudity law does not apply to National Forest land. The county ordinance only applies to county parks and beaches, and NF land doesn’t fall under Parks and Rec jurisdiction. (They will still be more than happy to enforce all applicable county laws.)
The Angeles National Forest doesn’t have any regulations against nudity, either. This won’t prevent the police from harassing you if you are unfortunate enough that someone calls you on it, but it will protect you from a citation. I just prefer to avoid people entirely.
The City of LA policy is identical. That’s why the World Naked Bike Ride can occur yearly as long as it stays out of city parks.
Just because something is legal does not prevent harassment from those who don’t like it. I don’t push it onto unprepared people. I am uninterested in shock, and there is nothing about me to inspire awe. Even though there’s no cell service where I go, there is nothing to stop an irate person from getting my license plate at the trailhead, and the next day I could get a call from a suspicious sheriff’s deputy. (Has happened to other people.) So I avoid other people.
If nobody sees you, who cares? If someone really deep in the backcountry sees you, they probably won’t care. That’s just how wilderness goers are.
I strongly suggest you query your own local government and the administration of any government land you may use for their policies. This isn’t as easy as it might sound. The people you contact may not know the policy and give you erroneous information. That’s why the letter from the sheriff was so important. Deputies didn’t have a clue and were busting people even though it was against their own policy.
Some of this information can be accessed through the Naturists’ Action Committee, while some you’ll just have to Google your local county ordinances for. Search for “nudity” and variations on the word.
Failing this, there are a few nude beaches around the country and many private naturist resorts with enough land to make hiking enjoyable.
Sounds like a lot of work, but once you are familiar with an area, it becomes second nature. True freedom in the wilderness is yours. And don’t miss World Naked Hiking Day, unofficially and defiantly celebrated on the Summer Solstice every year.
So, in summary:
- Check your local laws.
- Hike very early before anyone else starts or later after everyone has returned. Midweek is your best opportunity. Or maybe a night hike.
- Check the trailhead for fellow hikers.
- Use trails that are less popular or not well known and not prone to Boy or Girl Scouts or church groups.
- Bring some gear anyhow in a pack. Food, water, first aid, and some minimal clothing. More if the weather could change. Shoes are not optional on the trail; a hat is highly recommended.
- Or hike in clothed and set up a base camp to leave your clothes behind and do short hikes.
- Skills like a map, compass, or GPS keep you from getting lost.
- Have gear to start a fire in an emergency. Make your fire safe.
- Satcom device to call for help.
- Sunscreen is your friend. Some places might call for bug-repellent
- Watch for thistles, briars, poison oak/sumac/ivy, poodle dog bush, or whatever the local bete noir plants are. I’ve gotten so I do this without thinking. You may need to think.
- There are creams specifically for chafing between the thighs. Most people won’t need them.
- Single men are assumed to be predators. They must exercise greater courtesy and double down on checking for people ahead on the trail.