Caution: Naked Hiking Day June 21

You May Encounter Bares in the Woods

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

"If you go out in the woods today, you're in for a big surprise!" It isn't the Teddy Bears' Picnic, it's the bares enjoying the unofficial annual Naked Hiking Day, observed on June 21, the day of the Summer Solstice. It falls around the date of Father's Day, and that leads to concerns about clothed families encountering naked hikers.

Walking guru Colin Fletcher called this his "Second Law of Thermodynamic Walking -- give your b***s some air." He enjoyed hiking naked through the Grand Canyon and along the Pacific Crest Trail on hot days.

Are you thinking of joining in or worried about any uncomfortable encounters? Here is some guidance on naked hiking.


Is Naked Hiking Legal?

In many jurisdictions, it is not illegal to be naked in public if your intent is simply to be naked and not to incite or satisfy sexual arousal. If you are hiking on US federal land 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 get you a trip to the slammer. 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. Beware of the 10 ways walking can land you in jail.

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

What should you do if you encounter somebody hiking naked?

Usually, you can tell the difference between nudists and obscene exhibitionists. If they are obviously just out hiking and enjoying nature au naturel, just proceed as usual. If they aren't bothering you or others, let them enjoy the sun and the breeze on usually-clothed body parts. See more do's and don'ts for how to behave in clothing-optional areas.

If they are exhibiting signs that they are in fact perpetrators of indecent exposure, depart their vicinity as fast as possible and call the police, according to Pamela Kulbarsh, RN MSW and Psychiatric Emergency Response Team leader in southern California. 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. See more about how to react to flashers and indecent exposure.

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. Here is a guide to these itch-producing toxic plants.
  • 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, it can be 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 from sunburn.

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