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June 21st marks an unofficial holiday: National Hike Naked Day. But you don’t have to wait for summer solstice to enjoy baring it all in the woods.
Nude hiking’s nothing new: Europeans have been slaying the game for years, and folks like backpacking OG Colin Fletcher enjoyed the perks of “free hiking” more than 50 years ago.
“I still walked naked, in space and solitude,” wrote Colin Fletcher in The Man Who Walked Through Time, his account of backpacking the Grand Canyon back in the 1960s. “The sun still beat down, hotter every day.”
Today, the popularity of thru-hiking on routes like the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail have made nude hiking something of a backcountry past-time, and one look at Instagram’s naked hiking hashtags prove the hobby is alive and well.
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The spirit of naked hiking is easy to grasp: losing a layer of clothing in such a natural setting feels instinctual and liberating.
For most enthusiasts, the discomforts of hiking naked — bugs, sunburns, chafing, coming across a large group of clothed, conservative hikers — are minor nuisances outweighed by the freedom of “lettin’ things air out.”
That said, there are ways to make the experience more enjoyable – and legal. Here are a few ways to prep for your jubilant, fleshy union with the great outdoors.
Know the Land
“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,” says Wendy Bumgardner at Verywell Fit. “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.”
The thing to know here is: be smart.
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Don’t do naked jumping jacks at the trailhead to warm things up. Because local and state authorities can decide how to deal with naked hikers (and public indecency) pretty much on a case-by-case basis, it’s good to initially keep a low profile, especially if you’re in a popular area.
A few years back, Colorado Parks and Wildlife even warned hikers ahead of time that nude hiking could lead to indecent exposure citations.
At the very least, understand the general rules and regulations of the area you’re hiking and have a plan of action if you’re confronted by a park ranger or irritated passerby. Having a well-articulated defense of your nakedness can go a long way.
Consider the Trail Less Traveled
There aren’t any hard and fast rules to nude hiking, and you can go where you’d like, but choosing less frequented trails can make for a more enjoyable trek. The more remote of a location you pick, the less chance for you to face any hassles or angry parents.
No matter where you go, there’s a good chance you’ll run into other (potentially nude) hikers, but planning ahead of time can help you find somewhere you want to explore that’ll lead to a good time for all.
If you’re visiting a popular national park, consider tackling some of the more obscure, under-the-radar trails that don’t get as much traffic. This isn’t as easy thru-hiking something like the PCT, but you can still pick and choose stretches of trail to go bare, and decide where to suit up if you need to stop for supplies.
No decent conversation about nudity would be complete without a word on protection.
We’re talking sunscreen, of course, and the best way to enjoy your bare day in the woods is to not get fried on parts of your body that generally don’t see sunlight.
I’m talking to you, butt cheek.
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There are way too many sunscreen options out there, but we recommend going with a lotion that contains fewer chemicals or modified ingredients — something like Thinksport natural sunscreen. And don’t think it’s a one-and-done deal out there.
“Reapply every two hours or more frequent if exercising outdoors,” says the American Hiking Society. “Even waterproof sunscreen can come off when you sweat.”
It’s also not against the rules to wear a good hiking hat and hiking boots. And bug spray. Do that too.
Join the Community
If it’s a thing, people are gettin’ together to do it.
“If you’re interested in hiking naked, consider joining a group through Facebook like the American Association for Nude Recreation,” says Dillon DuBois at AllTheRooms. “These groups have usually established an understanding with local authorities, and they’ll have good insights for nudist campgrounds, recreation areas, beaches, and hot springs.”
Aside from orgs like the AANR, you can find local nude hiking and nude camping groups on Meetup and Facebook.
Try heading to your local REI and ask customers entering the shop if they’re currently a part of any nude hiking groups, and if so, are they accepting new members?
Embrace the Spirit
Talk to any nudist or occasional nude hiker and they’ll tell you being naked in nature is less about the physical and more about the internal freedom it represents.
“It is about being as you are and remembering that this is what your body feels like,” says Karin at Girls Astray. “Naking [naked hiking] is not about showing, but rather about feeling.”
Nude hiking isn’t for everyone, but for those willing to try something new, it’s a refreshing departure from the norm.
A survey in 2019 found that about 30% of people had no problem with naked hiking, but only about 15% of people said it sounded fun. One of the goals of groups like the AANR is to remove the stigma associated with nude recreation and educate those on the difference between nudity and lewd behavior.
“Nudity, as we espouse it, is the enjoyment of the freedom of being without clothes,” says the AANR. We can’t think of a better place to do that than out in the woods.