Everything you need to know to drop trou waterside
Happier times have returned to the clothing-optional portion of Muir Beach, long cherished by nudists and known to locals as Little Beach. "Dogs without leashes have replaced people without swimsuits as the top beach concern of the season," says Steve Kinsey, the member of the Marin County Board of Supervisors who found himself smack dab in the middle of the brouhaha between some homeowners and nudists over use of the sand in the last few years. After several community meetings, it was decided that, while naked use of the incredibly beautiful cove would not be ended, a warning sign stressing "respect" for everyone and listing a phone number for complaints would be installed by the county. Unlike many other nude beaches, Muir doesn't have a challenging beach path, with eroded steps or poison oak — and the swimming here can be good. To reach it, walk along the water to the north end of the public beach and follow the others you will see crossing over a line of rocks there.
Directions: From San Francisco, take Highway 1 north to Muir Beach to milepost 5.7. Turn left on Pacific Way and park in the Muir lot (to avoid tickets, don't park on Pacific). Or, park on the long street off Highway 1 across from Pacific and about 100 yards north. From the Muir lot, follow a path and boardwalk to the sand. Then walk north to a pile of rocks between the cliffs and the sea. You'll need good hiking or walking shoes to cross. In very low tide, try to cross closer to the water. The nude area starts north of it.
RED ROCK BEACH, STINSON BEACH
With what's thought to be the friendliest Bay Area nude beach crowd, Marin's Red Rock Beach plays host to Ultimate Frisbee games that last up to three hours. Nudists are also trying their luck at double disc court, for which players toss two Frisbees at once ("We throw them really hard and fast," says Fred Jaggi, the attorney-teacher from Stinson Beach), and Befuddle, which, Jaggi explains, means that "you throw the first one soft and the second disc hard." Naked Scrabble has replaced nude hearts as the most popular game played by sunbathers. Tips: the lower part of the trail sometimes is slippery, so wear good shoes on the path instead of flip-flops. For more sitting space, visit when the tide is low (check tide tables before visiting) and bring a folding beach chair. If possible, arrive early in the day, before crowds, or come on a Monday.
Directions: Go north on Highway 1 from Mill Valley, following the signs to Stinson Beach. At the long line of mailboxes next to the Muir Beach cutoff point, start checking your odometer. Look for a dirt lot full of cars to the left (west) of the highway 5.6 miles north of Muir and a smaller one on east side of the road. The lots are at milepost 11.3, one mile south of Stinson Beach. Limited parking is also available 150 yards to the south on the west side of Highway 1. Or from Mill Valley, take the West Marin/Bolinas Stage toward Stinson Beach and Bolinas. Get off at the intersection of Panoramic Highway and Highway 1. Then walk south 0.6 mile to the Red Rock lots. Follow the long, steep path to the beach that starts near the Dumpster next to the main parking lot.
BASS LAKE, BOLINAS