Our 38th annual survey of Northern California naked fun in the sun
After Tracey, of San Anselmo, hiked to what she called "beautiful, clean, sunny" Bass Lake, she went onto a message board in June to urge those who are considering trying the Bolinas attraction to "Go. Go. Go now." "The trail was a little overgrown. But I had fun swimming nude in the lake," says regular Dave Smith, of San Leandro, about his adventure last year. "If you want to visit an enchanted lake, Bass is it," agrees Ryan, also of the East Bay. "Tree branches reach over the water, forming a magical canopy, and huge branches of calla lilies bloom on the shore." Ryan isn't kidding: even walking (45-60 minutes from the parking area over 2.8 mostly easy miles) to Bass can be an adventure unlike any other. One time, rangers stopped and cited a clad man with an unleashed dog, but let some passing nudists continue. And Smith, who usually walks naked, has come across bobcats and mountain lions early in the morning. "I came around a corner and there was a mountain lion sitting like Egypt's Great Sphinx of Giza 50 yards down the path," he says.
Directions: From Stinson Beach, go north on Highway 1. Just north of Bolinas Lagoon, turn left on the often-unmarked exit to Bolinas. Follow the road as it curves along the lagoon and eventually ends at Olema-Bolinas Road. Continue along Olema-Bolinas Road to the stop sign at Mesa Road. Turn right on Mesa and drive four miles until it becomes a dirt road and ends at a parking lot. On hot days the lot fills quickly. A sign at the trailhead next to the lot will guide you down scenic Palomarin Trail to the lake. For directions to Alamere Falls, 1.5 miles past Bass Lake, please see "Elsewhere In Marin" in our online listings.
RCA BEACH, BOLINAS
Want to recharge your life? A trip to RCA can do just that. And a single stopover at the beautiful beach will probably inspire you to keep coming back. "It hasn't changed much in 20 years," says regular visitor Michael Velkoff. "A downside is that it's very exposed to the wind. The good news is that there are lots of nooks that are sheltered from the wind. And there's so much driftwood on the sand that many people build windbreaks or even whole forts. You could build a village with all that driftwood. The last time I went, somebody built a 30 foot tall dragon out of it." Suited and unsuited males and females and families visit the shoreline, which seems even bigger than its one mile length because, adds Velkoff, "we'll see six people on a beautiful day on a Sunday. Picture [please see next listing] Limantour as far as how people are spread out on the sand. Everybody's like 100 feet apart. It's great."
Directions: From Stinson Beach, take Highway 1 (Shoreline Highway) north toward Calle Del Mar for 4.5 miles. Turn left onto Olema Bolinas Road and follow it 1.8 miles to Mesa Road in Bolinas. Turn right and stay on Mesa until you see cars parked past some old transmission towers. Park and walk .25 miles to the end of the pavement. Go left through the gap in the fence. The trail leads to a gravel road. Follow it until you see a path on your right, leading through a gate. Take it along the cliff top until it veers down to the beach. Or continue along Mesa until you come to a grove of eucalyptus trees. Enter through the gate here, then hike .5 miles through a cow pasture on a path that will also bring you through thick brush. The second route is slippery and eroding, but less steep. "It's shorter, but toward the end there's a rope for you to hold onto going down the cliff," tells Velkoff.
LIMANTOUR BEACH, OLEMA
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