Elsewhere in Marin

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Rating: C

Want to be nude at a waterfall? After some hiking, you could make your fantasy come true right in Marin. After taking a dip in clothing-optional Bass Lake (please see previous entry above), some visitors like to walk a little further to gorgeous Alamere Falls, which is actually four separate falls. "It was spectacular," says recent visitor Ryan, of the East Bay. Other Marin locations that get limited clothing-optional use include Fern Grove, close to Starlight Meadow, in the Dogtown area; and the Inkwell Spillways, near the Inkwell in Lagunitas, which made an indelible impression on a reader named Larry: "It felt comfortable to visit. Just do it discreetly."

Visitor Trevor Murphy told us that the water at Alamere is impressive during the spring but slows down by September. "The big part of the falls goes over a cliff into the sea," he explains, "but there's another stage higher up where the stream falls into a couple of stone pools on a little plateau." In all, Alamere is a whopping 70 feet high, with the lower part measuring maybe 40 to 45 feet.

Legal status:

Alamere Falls and Fern Grove are on federal land managed by Point Reyes National Seashore. The status of Inkwell Spillways is unknown; it is said to be monitored and posted with No Trespassing signs.

How to find it:

To find Alamere, follow the directions to Bass Lake, then continue 1.5 miles from Bass on the Palomarin Trail past Pelican Pond to the waterfalls. Watch for poison oak.  "I've never encountered any poison oak," says Ryan, "but the trail is very narrow and overgrown.  You're walking through a corridor of greenery." The last half-mile of the trail is via a signed spur path, off the Coast Trail. From the spur, it's a little difficult to handle. You'll need to get down to Alamere Creek, but the trail to it is steep. Some parts of the path are only two feet wide. From there, cross Alamere Creek, which, during times of high water, can be tricky. From the top of the cliff, some daredevils scramble down the eroding, crumbling, rockface, which has become increasingly dangerous, to the beach. "You have to be careful because it's steep," says Ryan.  Suggests the Bay Area Hiker (bahiker.com) site: "Carefully cross over the water at the top of the second drop, and you'll reach a flat, where you can follow the water to the main drop at the coast's edge ... If you want to continue to the beach, walk from the top of the main waterfall where it spills onto the beach, north and slightly away from the cliff edge, to an obvious but unsigned, well-worn descending path. The first drop is an easy, stairstep-like descent down bare rock." The last 20 feet are said to be tough because of loose rock. Falling can be easy and there are almost no reliable handholds to grip.  "You have to almost go down on your butt," says Ryan.  At the beach, walk south for the best view of the waterfalls. To return, retrace your steps. 

Fern Grove -- not to be confused with (Sigmund) Stern Grove, on the edge of San Francisco's Sunset District -- is said to be just north of Starlight Meadow. Take Highway 1 past the pullover for Starlight, then look for the start of the Randall Trail. If you reach Fivebrooks on Highway 1 and still haven't seen it, turn around; the trail is about 2.5 miles south. Take the path uphill until you see the meadow. 

Inkwell Spillways is across the road from the Inkwell (see above). At Shafer Bridge, look for two dirt roads on the left. Park past the bridge and walk back to the dirt roads. Follow the easternmost one, along the creek, for a half mile. When the road turns left, climbing toward the dam at Kent Lake, stay on the trail along the creek.

The beach:

Alamere Falls: Alamere Creek is the source of three small falls and a large one that empty into the Pacific Ocean. "All of them are spectacular, but access to them is not easy, requiring a hike down very steep and treacherous trails," reports the Frisky Banner, a local naturism newsletter. "The worst and most dangerous is the last trail that leads directly to the beach. Two men in our group took that trail, and the rest of us stayed near the smaller falls. I was envious looking at the two guys running around naked under the big falls. I took a picture of them from above and even then had my stomach in my throat." Inkwell Spillways: "You'll come to a pool at the base of the spillways," says Robert Carlsen. "There's an outlet from a pumping station that's nice to sit at, plus some big rocks that feel great after swimming.

See photos of Alamere here

The crowd:

Only occasional use is reported, the most popular site being Alamere Falls.  On summer weekends, "you'll usually see 20-40 people" walking on the trail and gathering at the top of the waterfalls, according to Ryan.  "But because you have to go down on your butt, most people chicken out of going down to the beach.  There might be two or three persons there."

Problems:

Poison oak; dangerous hiking conditions near the beach on the trail to Alamere.

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