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There are a million ways to celebrate the official first day of summer. Friends gather for cookouts or camp out to enjoy the plentiful sunshine. Personally, I’ll be catching the latest sunset of the year from a board on a group paddle this year. But when it comes to welcoming in the sunniest season, there are few traditions as bold as Hike Naked Day.
Hike Naked Day is exactly what it sounds like, a day for stripping down to your birthday suit and taking a stroll on a trail. While its origins aren’t clear, we appear to have thru-hikers to thank for it, with most sources claiming it arose naturally on the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail. However it started, hundreds of people now celebrate it— usually discreetly. You won’t be getting this holiday off from work anytime soon.
Want to feel the sun on your cheeks? There are a few things you need to know first. We’ve collected some of our writing on Hike Naked Day to help educate you.
Why Should You Hike Naked?
In a world with crowded trails, ticks, and smartphone cameras, why would you ever strip naked in the backcountry? Proponents will throw around words like “freeing” and “natural,” but for some hikers, going out in the buff is one more step toward learning to love the bodies that carry them down the trail. In 2020, Kassondra Cloos wrote about her own venture into naturism in Mexico’s Loreto Bay National Park.
I would not call myself a nudist, nor would I say that I particularly like being naked. While bodies come in a wonderful diversity of size, shape, and color, beauty standards do not. I still recoil when I think of an infomercial I saw when I was elementary-school age about the scourge of spider veins. I started poking could-be cellulite before I could drive. I know better than to be pushed around by beauty marketing, but I can’t seem to stop reacting to it.
Is it Legal to Hike Naked?
The answer might seem like a straightforward no, but the truth is that this question is pretty tough to answer. Public nudity is covered by a patchwork of rules in the U.S.; while there’s no federal law banning nudity, in most national forests and BLM lands, state and local laws are still in force and may provide for fines or even jail time for anyone who chooses to strip. We quizzed a couple of legal experts about what nude hikers need to know. (Pro tip: Hiking naked on private land is always kosher, as long as you have the landowner’s OK.)
Surprisingly, you might have an easier time hiking in the buff at most national parks. Technically, there are no federal laws against nudity. (The exception: Cape Cod National Seashore, which banned going full-frontal after a rash of complaints in the eighties and nineties.) With that said, nudity can be cause for a disorderly conduct charge if it disrupts or disturbs other visitors’ experience enough.
A Word of Warning: Not Everyone Appreciates Naked Hikers
Not to state the obvious, but many hikers—not to mention law enforcement officers—frown on meeting nude people in public. We’ve written about a few of those conflicts over the years—a 57-year-old hiker who faced charges after stripping down in Connecticut, and a Swiss town that went as far as to ban naked hiking after a few too many tourists decided to try it. Should you choose to try it, make sure you understand the situation where you’re going, and always bring something to cover up in case of emergency.