2222

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Improved directions!

Rating: A

In late May, when my girlfriend and I visited a little cliffside park above it and peered down on the aptly named 2222 -- it's the number of the house across the street -- we discovered that the pocket-size cove looked as beautiful as ever. In fact, America's smallest nude beach is so small it could probably fit in your yard. And that's what makes it a magical place. You won't find crowds at 2222, which takes scrambling to reach and isn't recommended for children or anyone who isn't a good hiker. However, those who are agile enough to make it down a steep cliff and over some concrete blocks on the way down will probably be rewarded with an oasis of calm and a good spot to catch some sunrays. The most dependable trail begins on the southeast corner of the hillside overlooking the site. Even though there's a walking path just above it, the beach can't be seen from there. College students like to hangout here and, if they're lucky, get a glimpse of a local juggler who sometimes practices his routines on the sand. Tip: for great accommodations, check out the West Cliff Inn, 174 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, a bed and breakfast inn located a few blocks to the south; it's somewhat pricey, but truly enjoyable.

Legal status:

Santa Cruz city property.

How to find it:

The beach is a few blocks west of Natural Bridges State Beach and about 2.5 miles north of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. From either north or south of Santa Cruz, take Highway 1 to Swift Street. Drive .8 miles to the sea, then turn right on West Cliff Drive. 2222 is five blocks away. Past Auburn Avenue, look for 2222 West Cliff on the inland side of the street. Park in the pullout with eight parking spaces next to the cliff. If it's full, continue straight and park along Chico Avenue. An overlook with two benches facing an interesting obelisk-style sculpture is located between the parking area. Bay Area Naturists leader Rich Pasco suggests visitors use care and then follow the path on the side of the beach closest to downtown Santa Cruz and the Municipal Wharf.

The beach:

As Pasco puts it, "It's a small, delicate, baby beach." Depending on the tide, the beach measures a quarter to a half acre in size. Although the trail is littered with rocks and eroding soil, the cove itself is flat and very sandy.

The crowd:

Although it can sometimes be deserted (during my last visit, nobody was there), on a warm Sunday, we counted five nudists. Pasco found "maybe 10-to-15 people" at the beach. Almost everyone goes nude.

Problems:

Limited parking; proximity to residences; lack of privacy; cold water; may be foggy or windy; flies; steep trail with concrete blocks.

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