The state of California has more established nude beaches than any other area of the United States. Northern California is more liberal than the southern half of the state and therefore has many more sites for no-hassle nudity, even though Southern California has better weather for being naked outdoors. Visiting San Francisco? The Bay Area has no shortage of beaches where it's no problem to bare all, including a popular nude beach with a superb view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Visiting Los Angeles? Well, that's a different story altogether. There are no beaches in the immediate L.A. area where it is completely safe to be nude. Los Angeles, Orange and Santa Barbara counties all have anti-nudity ordinances which are enforced. San Diego, on the other hand, has Black's Beach, California's most famous nude beach.
California has a scattering of some of the country's most renowned naturist resorts, which are mostly clustered within day-trip range of Los Angeles, San Diego and the Bay Area. About 100 miles east of L.A., the desert resort town of Palm Springs (along with nearby Desert Hot Springs) offers several couples-oriented naturist spa resorts and over 20 small-scale clothing-optional gay resorts.
Dividing California into manageable areas is a challenge. For our purposes, we've deemed the border of Monterey County and San Luis Obispo County as the north/south divide. Everything from Monterey County to the Oregon border is considered Northern California. Everything from San Luis Opispo County to the Mexico border is Southern California. We've classified sites in the Yosemite and Death Valley areas as Eastern California. (And remember that Lake Tahoe's popular nude beach is listed under Nevada.)
Northern California's wealth of skinnydipping sites can be a challenge to organize, so we'll go south to north by county and first consider sites on or near the coast, then we'll explore a few places farther inland but west of the High Sierras.
From the San Luis Obispo county line in the south to the Santa Cruz county line in the north, California's coastal highway twists and turns for 100 miles through Monterey County, and it is one of the most dramatic drives anywhere. Monterey, Carmel and a few other coastal towns are clustered along the northernmost 30 miles of this 100-mile-long stretch, while the rest of the county's coastline—a stretch of about 70 miles—has a few outposts here and there but no real towns. This extremely scenic and rugged stretch of the coast is generally known as the Big Sur region (and by some definitions, Big Sur extends southward into the northern part of neighboring San Luis Obispo County). Big Sur can generally be regarded as what separates Northern and Southern California. Northern California's best established nude beaches are located beyond Monterey County, as you follow the coastal highway north through the counties of Santa Cruz, San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin. Monterey County itself does not have any nude beaches that compare in popularity to what you will find in those counties. However, there are a number of beaches along the Big Sur coastline where nudists sometimes congregate, and the best established such beaches are Garrapata Beach  36.4248N, 121.9143W and Pfeiffer Beach  36.2411N, 121.8198W . These beaches are, respectively, about 10 miles and 30 miles south of Carmel, which is the nearest town to either beach. Much farther north in the county, Indian Head Beach  36.6768N, 121.8161W is located in Marina, north of the town of Monterey. This rather remote stretch of beach used to be off limits to the public since it was part of a military base, but a trickle of nudists have begun to visit the beach since the base closed in 1994.
Santa Cruz County has a number of nude beaches, some better established than others. Although 2222 Beach  36.9497N, 122.0529W is the closest nude beach to Santa Cruz, it is quite tiny and never has more than a handful of people. South of Santa Cruz, nudity occurs much more discreetly at Trestle Beach  36.9420N, 121.8710W than at other nude beaches in the county. To find the best nude beaches in the county, go north from Santa Cruz toward the small town of Davenport, where you will hit the jackpot with a triad of nude beach coves spread over a 2-mile stretch. South to north, these coves are Laguna Creek Beach  36.9830N, 122.1560W , Panther Beach  36.9928N, 122.1704W and Bonny Doon Beach  37.0012N, 122.1825W . Bonny Doon is Santa Cruz County's most renowned nude beach, notable for its fun, social atmosphere and for attracting a diverse crowd that is more gender balanced than the crowd at most nude beaches. Laguna Creek draws smaller crowds and is a mostly gay nude beach. Panther Beach gets some nude use but is not as popular with bare bathers as are its neighbors on either side, and the southern extension of Panther called Hole in the Wall Beach is a particularly secluded place for nude bathing, but it should be avoided at high tide. A notable inland site in Santa Cruz County is the San Lorenzo River  37.0234N, 122.0574W within Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, where a few hidden swimming holes are sometimes visited by skinnydippers. It's just a few miles north of Santa Cruz.
San Mateo County has two beaches that attract bare bathers. Nudity is tolerated at the north end of Gray Whale Cove State Beach  37.5666N, 122.5145W between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay. Farther from San Francisco but drawing a larger number of nudists is San Gregorio Beach  37.3319N, 122.4025W near Half Moon Bay. The beach access is privately owned, and the owners have opened it to the public as a nude beach since 1967.
In San Francisco, Baker Beach  37.7970N, 122.4820W is one of the top urban nude beaches anywhere in the world. Nudists here enjoy views of man-made and natural wonders: the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. Golden Gate Bridge Beach  37.8040N, 122.4790W is basically an extension of Baker, but a rocky promontory prevents easy access from one beach to the other. More secluded and difficult to access, GGBB tends to be the domain of gay men. Another place nude bathers congregate is Land's End Beach  37.7870N, 122.5071W a little west of Baker Beach, but Land's End draws just a trickle of nudists and is minor in comparison to Baker and GGBB.
Marin County offers ample nudist sites, starting near the Golden Gate Bridge. East Bonita Beach  37.8239N, 122.5070W near Sausalito is sort of a mirror image of Baker Beach in San Francisco. East Bonita is known both for its black sand and its stunning view of the bridge, the bay and the city. Farther north, the secluded north end of Muir Beach  37.8596N, 122.5798W , located in the community of the same name, is frequented by nudists. A little farther up the dramatic Marin coast, Red Rock Beach  37.8897N, 122.6337W near the community of Stinson Beach is Marin County's premier nude beach, drawing a diverse, fun, free-spirited crowd of nudists. East Bonita, Muir and Red Rock are all within 25 miles of San Francisco.
Farther north in Marin County, there are two notable sites near Bolinas: RCA Beach  37.9123N, 122.7298W is sparsely attended, but bare bathers are common. Nearby Bass Lake  37.9516N, 122.7655W , just inland from the coast, sees sporadic skinnydipping but requires a hike of over an hour to reach. Farther inland, between Bolinas and Olema, Hagmire Pond and neighboring Starlight Meadow  37.9734N, 122.7270W are gay nudist hangouts. This site is especially popular on warm days when the coast is fogged in. Farther north, Limantour Beach  38.0280N, 122.8980W is a gorgeous but mostly deserted beach that is ideal for nudists seeking space and solitude. Limantour is part of Point Reyes National Seashore.
Limantour Beach is the last notable coastal nude beach until you go all the way north past Eureka, but in the interim there are a couple of notable inland beaches that are not far from the coast. In Sonoma County's Russian River resort area northwest of Santa Rosa, there is a small beach on the Russian River near Wohler Bridge  38.5157N, 122.8745W that is visited mostly by gay men. Farther north in Mendocino County, Lilies Swimming Hole  39.3131N, 123.7112W on the Big River near Mendocino is a remote site where skinnydipping is the norm.
In Humboldt County, there are two notable coastal beaches near Trinidad north of Eureka. Baker's Beach  41.0487N, 124.1252W on the south end of Trinidad is a beautiful cove that attracts small crowds of nude bathers. Just a few miles to the north, College Cove  41.0654N, 124.1502W on the north end of town is also frequented by nudists. While College Cove draws much larger overall crowds, most of the crowd is textile, with more nudity toward the far south end. More lightly attended Baker's Beach tends to have more nudists as a percentage of the overall crowd. If the coast is fogged in, an inland alternative near Eureka is a riverbank sandbar near the Mad River Hatchery  40.8458N, 123.9866W in the town of Blue Lake, where there are typically a dozen or so nudists.
There are several notable inland nudist sites in the Sacramento Valley between Sacramento and Redding. The site that is closest to Sacramento, Bare Cove  38.7728N, 121.1260W on Folsom Lake near Roseville, is also the most lightly visited, drawing only a handful of nudists on the busiest days. A little farther away is a hidden beach on the North Fork of the American River  38.9070N, 121.0443W in Auburn that draws a mostly gay crowd. A little farther north, there are several skinnydipping holes along the South Yuba River. In a remote area near the Nevada County and Yuba County border, the South Yuba River near French Corral Creek  39.2900N, 121.1780W draws a small number of nudists. Close to Nevada City there are three swimming holes on the South Yuba within a stretch of about 10 miles: Hoyt Crossing  39.3032N, 121.0800W , Purdon Crossing  39.3303N, 121.0358W and Edwards Crossing  39.3328N, 120.9914W . Hoyt is the most popular but can be overrun with textiles at times. Nudity is also common at well-attended but less-crowded Purdon as well as at Edwards, which is the most remote and least crowded of the three.
Farther north in the Sacramento Valley, there is a well-established and hidden nude swimming hole in Upper Bidwell Park  39.7820N, 121.7449W in the college town of Chico.
Big Sur (Monterey County)
Harbin Hot Springs
Middletown (Lake County)
Kabuki Springs & Spa
Orr Hot Springs
Ukiah (Mendocino County)
Sierra Hot Springs
Sierraville (Sierra County, north of Lake Tahoe)
Wilbur Hot Springs
Wilbur Springs (Colusa County)
NATURIST RETREATS & OTHER NATURIST-FRIENDLY ESTABLISHMENTS
Laguna del Sol
Wilton (southeast of Sacramento)
Los Gatos (between Santa Cruz and San Jose)
Meadowlark Country House
Calistoga (Napa County)
Castro Valley (east of Oakland)
Ventana Inn & Spa
Big Sur (Monterey County)
PLACES TO STAY—GAY
Guerneville (Russian River)
The Woods Resort
Guerneville (Russian River)
Rancho Cicada Retreat
Plymouth (near Sacramento)
NUDE BEACHES & NATURAL HOT SPRINGS
Southern California's premier nude beach is one of the most famous nude beaches in the world: Black's Beach  32.8915N, 117.2537W in La Jolla, just north of San Diego. This popular beach attracts a diverse crowd. Farther north and also in San Diego County (near the Orange County line), San Onofre Beach  33.3320N, 117.5050W is also extremely popular although not as famous as Black's. This beach is about halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles.
Los Angeles has no nude beaches on the coast due to a vigilantly enforced county anti-nudity ordinance. It has been years since nudity has been safe or viable at beaches formerly visited by nudists. There is, however, a hidden site deep in Angeles Crest National Forest where au naturel sunbathing occurs frequently. This site is in Upper Big Tujunga Canyon  34.3059N, 118.0700W , 35 miles northeast of downtown L.A.
Like in Los Angeles to the south, authorities in Santa Barbara have not been friendly towards nudists. While the Santa Barbara area once had multiple nude beaches, only one still draws notable crowds of nudists: More Mesa Beach  34.4178N, 119.7913W on the west side of the city. At the far southern end of the county (at the Ventura County line), a trickle on nudists continue to visit Bates Beach  34.3818N, 119.4881W despite the possibility of being ticketed that has existed since about 2000. Secret Beach and Vista del Mar Beach  34.4701N, 120.1888W , which are so close together we consider them one site, still attract a trickle of nudists. Their location along an unpopulated stretch of coast 30 miles west of Santa Barbara has, it seems, provided a measure of protection against persistent patrolling, but much discretion is in order nonetheless. The county's anti-nudity efforts are focused on coastal sites. Nudity is the norm, apparently without hassles, at Gaviota Hot Springs  34.5026N, 120.2184W in Gaviota State Park, just a few miles inland from Secret Beach and Vista del Mar Beach.
The next county north of Santa Barbara is San Luis Obispo County, and this is where you'll find Pirate's Cove  35.1759N, 120.7160W , located near the Avila Beach community south of San Luis Obispo. Nudity is freely tolerated at Pirate's Cove, making it the safest nude beach between San Diego County and Monterey County.
Southern California has a hodgepodge of notable inland nudist sites. The best, near Hesperia, is Deep Creek Hot Springs  34.3395N, 117.1771W , one of the most popular hot springs sites in the country in spite of the 2-mile hike required to reach the area. Because of its relative proximity to Los Angeles (about 90 miles), this beautiful desert area gets a lot of visitors, and nudity is such an intrinsic part of the culture that nude hiking is commonplace.
Palm Springs has a rather obscure gay skinnydipping site on the Whitewater River  33.9795N, 116.6497W that is virtually unknown to all the vacationers sunning nude at the city's many clothing-optional resorts. The Whitewater River site is sporadically attended.
In the beautiful Kern River Canyon east of Bakersfield, there is a small beach at one end of the Kern River Cataracts  35.4808N, 118.7484W that is sporadically attended by nudists. Farther up the canyon is Remington Hot Springs  35.5776N, 118.5498W , where nude soaking is the norm in the idyllic, shaded riverside pools. Space is limited, but it's one of the nicest spring sites in the state.
NATURIST RETREATS—Palm Springs & Desert Hot Springs
Desert Sun Resort
Living Waters Spa
Desert Hot Springs
Terra Cotta Inn
NATURIST RETREATS—Palm Springs & Desert Hot Springs—ADULTS ONLY (not suitable for minors)
Sea Mountain Inn & Spa
Desert Hot Springs
NATURIST RETREATS & OTHER NATURIST-FRIENDLY ESTABLISHMENTS—Elsewhere in Southern California
Arroyo del Sol
Altadena (metro Los Angeles)
Borrego Valley Inn
Borrego Springs (between San Diego and Palm Springs)
DeAnza Springs Resort
Jacumba (southeastern San Diego County, near Mexican border)
Deer Park Nudist Resort
Glen Eden Sun Club
Corona (western Riverside County, near Orange County border)
Olive Dell Ranch
Colton (south of San Bernardino)
PLACES TO STAY—GAY—Palm Springs
All Worlds Resorts
Canyon Club Hotel
Century Palm Springs
Desert Eclipse Resort
Desert Paradise Resort Hotel
El Mirasol Villas
Escape Palm Springs
The Hacienda at Warm Sands
Inndulge Palm Springs
La Dolce Vita Resort
La Joya Inn
Tortuga del Sol
Vista Grande Resorts
Warm Sands Villas
PLACES TO STAY—GAY—Elsewhere in Southern California
San Vicente Inn
Yucca Valley (north of Palm Springs)
NUDE BEACHES & NATURAL HOT SPRINGS
California has a scattering of nudist sites that are not easily categorized into Northern or Southern California. These eastern sites are all closer to the Nevada border than to the Pacific Ocean, and all but one are located east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
One of the most remote hot springs sites anywhere is Saline Valley Hot Springs  36.8058N, 117.7729W . These springs, located within Death Valley National Park, require driving about 50 miles on unpaved roads through a harsh but beautiful landscape. Almost all visitors to this popular site stay overnight, and unrestricted nudity—at the pools and everywhere else in the area—is an intrinsic part of the culture. A much more accessible clothing-optional natural springs in the same general area is Keough Hot Ditch  37.2574N, 118.3723W south of Bishop. Keough is close to a major highway.
South of Death Valley, in the tiny, very remote desert town of Tecopa, nude soaking is the norm at a small natural spring called Tecopa Wild Springs  35.8728N, 116.2191W . Tecopa is 85 miles west of Las Vegas, Nevada, which is the closest major city. (See also Tecopa Hot Springs Bathhouse under "Soaking Establishments" below. Bathing attire is prohibited at this small, gender-segregated hot springs facility.)
Much farther north, nudity is commonplace at Buckeye Hot Springs  38.2388N, 119.3251W and Travertine Hot Springs  38.2458N, 119.2050W , both of which are located near the small town of Bridgeport. This town is about 25 miles north of the turnoff to the eastern entrance of Yosemite National Park.
Also near Yosemite but on the western side of the High Sierras, Willow Creek  37.3392N, 119.5739W is a beautiful mountain creek where skinnydipping is common. Willow Creek is located east of Oakhurst and a little south of the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park.
Tecopa Hot Springs Bathhouse
Tecopa (Inyo County)