Caution: Naked Hiking Day June 21

You May Encounter Bares in the Woods

Hiking Behind Silver Falls
Hiking Behind Silver Falls. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Each year, the 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. It falls around the date of Father's Day, and that leads to concerns about clothed 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.

 You may be thinking of joining in or worried about having uncomfortable encounters. Here is some guidance on naked hiking.


Naked Hiking and the Law

In many jurisdictions, it is not illegal to be naked in public if your intent is simply to be unclothed and not to incite or satisfy sexual arousal. 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.

In other jurisdictions, hiking naked can land you in jail. If you plan to go naked in the wilderness, know the local laws and seek out places where you are unlikely to encounter others who are not like-minded. 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.

It is wise to either find a private, secluded trail if going solo 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. 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.

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 him enjoy the sun and the breeze on usually-clothed body parts. You may want to explore do's and don'ts for how to behave in clothing-optional areas.

If the naked hikers are exhibiting signs that they are in fact perpetrators of indecent exposure, depart their vicinity as fast as possible 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 obvious signs of this criminal behavior. Most such criminal exhibitionists are not dangerous, but some progress to accosting and even assaulting others. They need to be reported.

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.

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 enough on arms and legs, let alone places usually covered. 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. Beware of the diseases that can be spread by mosquitoes and ticks, they 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, your 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.
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  • Kulbarsh, Pamela. Email interview. June 2009