The California State Park system officially outlaws nudity unless the area is specifically set aside for such use (e.g., dressing areas) but should you dare to go bare, there are plenty of clothing-optional beaches where you can swim, sunbathe, hike and play. Here are a few:
North Baker Beach
The northern section of Baker Beach is considered “clothing optional.” It’s located just northwest of San Francisco at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. Described as America’s biggest urban nude beach, visitors say Baker Beach has a ‘Burning Man’ vibe – think guitar players, drummers, art work, all mixed in with freewheeling Frisbee players. Expect to find a mish-mash of young, old, gay, straight, men and women.
Red Rock Beach
Perhaps the most popular nude beach in the Bay Area, Red Rock is part of Mount Tamalpais State Park. It’s family friendly, very social, and almost all nude. Red Rock Beach is small, and even smaller at high tide, so get here early when the weather heats up. It can get a bit crowded. Swimming is not recommended. Red Rock is located North of San Francisco on CA Highway 1 between Stinson Beach and Muir Beach.
Grey Whale Cove, or Devil’s Slide Nude Beach near Pacifica
Regulars call this place Edun (nude spelled backwards). The best time to come is in September and October. Otherwise it’s a bit on the chilly side. Grey Wale Cove is not suitable for swimming, but there is lots of wildlife to explore. You may even glimpse a great white shark. The beach is open every day. Dogs are prohibited. Grey Whale Cove is located on the San Mateo coast, north of Montara on U.S. Highway 1. The only available automobile parking is on the east side of the highway. WARNING: Crossing to the ocean side of the highway can be both difficult and dangerous.
Bonny Doon Beach
Located at the base of a cliff about 8 miles north of Santa Cruz, Bonny Doon Beach has been clothing-optional for 40 years. Sadly, the beach is at risk of losing its ‘clothing optional’ status. The nudist area is at the north end. Bonny Doon is a peaceful, sunny, sandy beach. The crowd is friendly and there are more women here than at other beaches. Dogs are allowed. There have been instances of break-ins and assaults after-hours. Be sure to lock your car and leave before dark.
San Gregorio Nude Beach, San Gregorio
Two breathtaking miles of soft sand, tide pools, and a lagoon -- San Gregorio is one of the oldest nude beaches in America. The clothing-optional community has been coming here for nearly half a century. The beach draws a large gay crowd, along with some straights, singles and families. Located south of Half Moon Bay just west of the intersection of State Routes 1 and 84, San Gregorio nude beach is privately owned so expect to pay an admission fee.