Naked in Nature in Washington State
By Dick Morrill
Nudist resorts and nude beaches are terrific, but up a notch in risk and adventure is when you are likely to meet clothed hikers – and rangers, on private land, or county, state, and federal rangeland, forests, and parks. Nude hiking in the Cascades is one of a kind adventure.
We have been hiking naked for years, but always alone, until a couple of us connected on a beautiful fall day in 1999, hiking to Lake Lillian in the Cascade Mountains.
Even then, we didn’t get naked until we were really remote in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness east of Seattle. But the sheer sense of freedom and naturalness was so great that this was the beginning of years of great nude hiking ever since.
Sun Lovers Under Gray Skies
We are now up to an informal group of a dozen guys, who in varying combinations, hike almost every week in the summer (actually May through October, even earlier sometimes) and we are affiliated with a larger naturist group, Sun Lovers Under Gray Skies (SLUGS), with gals joining in on a few hikes.
We’re all in the Seattle area, so we mainly hike in the Cascades mountains or foothills to the east, either off I-90 or US2, but sometimes farther south (Mount Rainier) or in the North Cascades, or even in eastern Washington. One of our favorite hikes was to Scenic Hot Springs, off US2 near Stevens Pass, but these are temporarily closed.
Hiking on Weekdays
We usually hike on weekdays, when we are less likely to encounter families with children or large groups. The legality of nude hiking is ambiguous, even here in liberal Washington. Strictly it is illegal to hike naked almost anywhere, including the national parks and forests, as county indecent exposure laws apply, but in practice, skinny-dipping and even nude hiking are tolerated in more wilderness-y areas, a few miles away from a parking lot or campground.
Here is a story of a typical hike. We get to a trailhead fairly early (like by 9 AM) before most hikers. If there are only 1 or 2 cars in the lot, we get naked soon. If there are a fair number of cars, we wait until we are a mile or two from the parking lot. We may meet “textiled” hikers on the way in, but we typically brazen it out, that it was the natural way to be and do not cover up unless we can see that it is a family or largish group.
Only a Few are Upset
In hundreds of encounters over the last 6 years, only a few people have been upset. Fortunately, rangers we’ve met were at sufficiently remote places that they didn’t care.
The variety of reactions in interesting. A few walk past saying nothing. Younger hikers (under 40) are apt to say, ”Hey that’s cool! Women are no more apt to be upset or make an unfriendly comment than men; in fact, when we meet a couple, the guy is apt to be embarrassed and upset, while his wife or girlfriend tells him they don’t care!
Also, older hikers (over 60) seem less worried about nudity than younger ones.
Also, people see you far in advance, they have a chance to get used to it, and are less upset than if they are surprised. It gives them time to come up with a variety of questions, like whether we’re part of a group, or how we keep our intimate parts from getting sunburned, or bitten by mosquitoes or stung by bees (hey, it happens!).
On a recent hike with 7 of us, one gal remarked as the last of us passed, “Is there no end to you naked men?” At first, when two or more of us were hiking naked, we worried if it would be more threatening than one person alone, but the answer is no: more seem to signal a naturist group, while one guy can be seen as a “pervert.”
Of course, the safest is a mixed-gender group. Other guidelines for nude hiking is that you should be hiking – that is, have boots and at least a day pack, and, guys, no erections.
We get to a destination high lake, or maybe a mountain peak for lunch, skinny dipping, taking pictures and exploring. Heading back down we stay naked as long as we can. On our lucky days, we make it all the way back to our cars!
For those interested in naked hiking around the country and the world, there are two yahoo groups: naturist_hikers and nakedhikers, where you can read about other favorite hiking areas, as in southern California, the Tucson area, parts of Florida, and many other places. Also useful is netnude.com.
The closest thing to a clearinghouse on possible hikes is the yahoo group, NWnaturists.
Nude Hiking Etiquette & Tips by Murray Lundberg
Given the fact that most people hike with clothes on even when there’s no physical need for them, a few precautions will allow those of us who prefer to walk in comfort to do so without causing any problems.
1. Avoid trails where there are likely to be clothed hikers. It’s best to avoid confrontation if at all possible.
2. Use ‘out and back’ trails. That way if there are no vehicles at the trailhead you can be pretty sure that at least on the outward journey you will have the trail to yourself.
3. Look for signs that others have been on the trail before you, and if you do meet someone coming the other way, ask them if they have seen anyone else on the trail.
4. Avoid trails where there are likely to be children and family groups. People who would normally react with a smile when meeting a nude hiker can easily take offense if they feel their children are threatened.
5. If possible, hike with others. A lone hiker is more likely to be seen in a bad light than a group. A group with both men and women will also generally be seen in a better light than an all-male one.
6. If possible do your walks on a weekday rather than on weekends.
8. Keep an eye out ahead for approaching hikers, and be prepared to cover up quickly. If you are alert you will see or hear them long before they are aware of you.7. Be aware of where the trail will take you-you don’t want to find yourself in a residential area.
9. If you are caught by surprise, act naturally, normally, and openly. Don’t dive into the bushes or act in some other guilty or suspicious manner.
10. Take off sunglasses to greet or talk to others.
11. Be aware of weather conditions. Take clothing that would be required if it started raining or there was a sudden drop in temperature.
12. Put your clothes back on if you have to traverse areas where it is likely you may slip and find yourself sliding down the rough or rocky ground. Nude gravel rash is best avoided.
13. Carry sufficient food and fluids for the duration of your walk, and be aware that hiking in the nude makes dehydration occur more quickly.
14. Carry plenty of sunscreen and mosquito repellant.
15. Last but definitely not least, tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back.