The summer solstice means three things: the longest day of the year, the beginning of summer, and most importantly, National Naked Hiking Day. Observed by a select but enthusiastic few, National Naked Hiking Day, or Nude Hiking Day, is a lesser-known holiday that urges participants to appreciate nature in its purest form, unburdened by restrictive clothing and judgment from one’s friends. If you’ve ever wanted to feel the wind between your thighs and go bushwhacking á la Adam and Eve, today is your day.
Is it Legal?
Up until a few hundred years ago, the entire continent of North America essentially consisted of people roaming around, picking up berries in the buff. We had a good thing going. Today, the laws surrounding nude hiking are a bit more ambiguous. Nudity is technically legal in all national parks, and neither the U.S. Forest Service nor federal BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land has any laws banning public nudity. However, local and county officials have the right to deal with “free hikers” on a case-by-case basis, and will only issue tickets if their nudity “presents a nuisance or hazard to public land users.” In sum: don’t be too brazen, consider calling your local jurisdiction in advance.
The Best Places to Roam Free
The Pacific Crest Trail
National Naked Hiking Day originally started as a tradition for thru-hikers attempting multi-month journeys across the country. One of the best spots to celebrate is on the Pacific Crest Trail, the 2,650-mile trail stretching from California’s southern border through Oregon, Washington, and eventually to the Canadian border. Although the trail winds through many densely populated national parks and recreation areas, the vast majority is removed from society, making it an optimal location to ditch your clothes.
The Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail is another famous thru-hike that’s known to condone nudists. Starting in Georgia and winding up through Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and eventually through Maine, the AT has plenty of backcountry sections perfect for hiking naked.
Cascade Mountains, Washington
A stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Seattle is one of the most impressive mountain ranges in the entire United States, and rangers have been known to be particularly lax when it comes to public nudity. Some gems of the region include Mt. Rainer, the North Cascades, and the Scenic Hot Springs. For more hot springs that can be enjoyed in the nude, add these Clothing-Optional Hot Springs in Colorado to your bucket list.
After a recent battle between the BLM and the American Association for Nude Recreation, over one million acres throughout Southern California were designated safe for nudist recreation. That’s a massive swath of land to frolic about. Some of the best areas include Joshua Tree, Palm Springs (which also hosts the Terra Cotta nudist resort), and Death Valley.
– Contrary to what you might think, seeing a group of naked hikers is actually less appalling than seeing just one man going rogue in the raw. There’s strength in numbers. If you’re interested in hiking naked, consider joining a group through Facebook like the American Association for Nude Recreation. These groups have usually established an understanding with local authorities, and they’ll have good insights for nudist campgrounds, recreation areas, beaches, and hot springs.
– Hike on the weekdays. There are lots of people usually around any given recreation area on the weekend, so you’re better off roughing it during the week.
– Poison ivy, poison oak, mosquitos, ticks, sunburns — protect your newly exposed areas just as you would any other part of your body.
– Make the most of the early morning. Getting to the trails before the crowds is a great way to beat the summer heat and minimize your chances of having an awkward encounter.
– Be prepared. Just because you’re going all-in on being a free spirit doesn’t mean you should be hiking without supplies. Be sure to pack food, good footwear, navigation gear and a change of clothes in case you get busted.