Caution: Naked Hiking Day June 21

Hiking Behind Silver Falls
Wendy Bumgardner ©

Each year, unofficial Naked Hiking Day is observed on June 21, the day of the summer solstice. It may be celebrated by naked hikers singly or in groups in the woods and mountains on that date. Since it falls around the date of Father's Day, that leads to concerns about families encountering naked hikers.

Hiking naked is nothing new, although it is more common in Europe than in the U.S. Outdoor author Colin Fletcher wrote in his popular hiking books of enjoying hiking naked through the Grand Canyon and along the Pacific Crest Trail on hot days. If you are thinking of joining in—or worried about having uncomfortable encounters—here is some guidance on naked hiking.

Naked Hiking and the Law

It's not illegal to be naked in public in many jurisdictions if your intent is simply to be unclothed rather than to incite or satisfy sexual arousal. But the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Parks and Wildlife warned potential celebrators in 2017 that naked hikers would not be tolerated on state lands and would be dealt with according to the local laws if on federal lands.

If you plan to go naked in the wilderness, know the local laws and seek out places where you are unlikely to encounter others. In some jurisdictions, hiking naked can land you in jail. In the worst case scenario, the charge may even be a sex offense, with consequences that can follow you in your career and personal life.

If you are hiking on U.S. federal lands such as a National Forest or Bureau of Land Management area, there is no federal law against nudity, but state and local law may take precedence.

Safer Ways to Hike Naked

It is wise to either find a private, secluded trail or to join a group of naked hikers. Check with any clothing-optional resorts in your area to see if they have organized group hikes. There are several naked hiking clubs and meetup groups available around the U.S.

Some prefer to hike midweek when the trails are less likely to have clothed hikers. You might have to shift your naked hiking date when June 21 lands on the weekend. (It will be a midweek date for 2021 through 2023).

Choose an out-and-back trail so you can check for any other vehicles parked at the trailhead. That way, you can safely hike naked to the turnaround point and put on clothes for the return trip.

Some groups hiking on public trails will send a clothed hiker ahead to alert any "textile hikers" that a naked group is on the trail. This reassures others that you are not a threat, just happy, harmless naturists.

Natural Hazards of Naked Hiking

Naked hikers face increased exposure to the elements, pests, and irritants. Keep these in mind and plan for how you'll protect yourself, clothed or unclothed.

  • Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac: These can produce rashes that are bad on arms and legs and worse on places usually covered by clothing. If you're going to hike naked, you'll need to know how to identify and avoid these plants at all costs. Know before you go.
  • Mosquitoes and ticks: You don't want to be itching in uncomfortable places. You've chosen not to wear clothing to keep these pests from biting, so you may want to think about using insect repellent. The diseases that can be spread by mosquitoes and ticks can be far worse than just an itchy bump.
  • Sunburn: Be sure to cover all of your bits with sunscreen. Even if you are in the forest or it is a cloudy day, exposed skin can get too much ultraviolet radiation. While you might have thought to protect your face, be sure to protect the rest of your body from sunburn.

If You Encounter a Naked Hiker

When you encounter somebody hiking naked, you can usually tell the difference between nudists and obscene exhibitionists. If the naked person is obviously just out hiking and enjoying nature au naturel, simply proceed as usual. If the person isn't bothering you or others, let them enjoy the sun and the breeze on usually clothed body parts.

If naked hikers are exhibiting signs that they are perpetrators of indecent exposure, leave the vicinity and call the police.

This is the recommendation of Pamela Kulbarsh, RN MSW, and psychiatric emergency response team leader. Verbalizing, gesturing, touching themselves, etc. are signs of criminal behavior. Most criminal exhibitionists are not dangerous, but some progress to accosting and even assaulting others. They need to be reported.

A Word From Verywell

There are gray areas between the harmless nudist and the dangerous exhibitionist. If you don't want to be misunderstood, you may have to limit your sun-worshipping to clothing-optional designated areas and resorts.

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