Follow it, then hike up the trail immediately on the south (left) side of the old fort to the top of the bluff. Rangers recently added some rails that make the path a little easier to follow. Take the trail straight west as it goes downhill toward the ocean (wear long sleeves and pants to protect against poison oak). At a small crumbling concrete bulkhead, the trail heads north along the bluffs and eventually down a shorter, steep section with small steps cut into the gully. The main path ends at the south end of Golden Gate Bridge Beach.
THE BEACH Three small rocky beaches located below Fort Winfield Scott. The main beach trail tends to be slippery, heavily eroded, and dangerous.
THE CROWD During the week, Golden Gate Bridge Beach attracts dozens of users. On weekends, (mostly nude) usage soars to between 100 and 300 visitors on the hottest days.
PROBLEMS Slippery, crumbling, sometimes muddy, and poison oakedged trails. Trash, rocks, wind, fog, unsafe swimming conditions, sex on the beach, too many people often jammed into too little space.
San Mateo County
Now that its main access road, landslide-prone Highway 1, is finally reopened, visitors are flocking back to one of California's only state beaches that officially permit nudity. Called Gray Whale Cove State Beach, the site known to many users as Devil's Slide draws maybe 200 people on warm days about 25 percent of them nude.
Nude use is especially popular on the north end of the long sandy shore. If you like Frisbee, it's easy to find somebody to play with at the cove. Signs, though, warn about dangerous surf. There's no lifeguard on duty. Dogs are prohibited. The beach is open all year and is one of the only California state parks that doesn't accept an Annual Day Use Pass.
HOW TO FIND IT From San Francisco take Highway 1 south through Pacifica. Three miles south of the Denny's Restaurant in Linda Mar, turn east (inland, or left) on an unmarked road, which will take you to the beach's parking lot, from which a 146-step staircase leads to the sand. Coming from the south on Highway 1, look for a road on the east (right) 1.2 miles north of the Chart House restaurant in Montara.
THE BEACH A 300-foot-long site surrounded by orangish sandstone cliffs on one side and the beautiful Pacific Ocean on the other. Devil's Slide is a great place to read, tan, jog, play Frisbee, and watch (true to its state beach name) gray whales, pelicans, and surfers.
THE CROWD Tourists, families, surfers, and naturists all use the beach.
PROBLEMS Influx of suited visitors, cold water, fog, wind, long walk to the beach. Landslides sometimes close Highway 1, three great white sharks seen in the '80s. Parking fee. Some sexual activity reported in north cove area in recent past. Rangers have made a few arrests.
A visit to San Gregorio combines history with recreation. Approaching its 40th anniversary, clothing-optional, privately run San Gregorio is America's oldest nude beach, founded right next door to San Gregorio State Beach, where nudity is not allowed. The huge property attracts some nude and suited straight couples, singles, and families. First-timers are sometimes a bit put off by the driftwood structures on the sandy slope leading down to the beach, which are used by some visitors as sex condos. Others relish San Gregorio's scenery.