Muir Beach


Highly Recommended!

Rating: A

Mellow times are continuing at one of the Bay Area's easiest to reach and most enjoyable clothing-optional sites, the clothing-optional north side of Muir Beach.  Also known as Little Beach, it's separated by the main public beach by a line of large rocks that visitors usually walk over.

Says Lucas Valley's Michael Velkoff, who switched from Red Rock to become one of more than a dozen regulars at Muir:  "This season, there's plenty of nice sand.  It's also a great place for women because people leave you alone here. Nobody's hitting on you. And high tide only comes a third of the way up the beach."

Additions over the last year or two include a new bridge over a marshy, lagoon-like area near the parking lot, plus about a half dozen Port-a-Potties.

According to authorities, there have not been any arrests or warnings for nudity since at least July 2010, which followed a controversy the previous year over whether clothing-optional use of the area should be halted.

After several community meetings, it was decided that while beachgoers' bare buns wouldn't be banned, a warning sign stressing "respect" for everyone and listing a phone number for complaints would be erected there.

Visits by deputies resulted in only four complaints about skinny-dippers and one citation for improper sexual conduct in 2009. Lt. Cheryl Fisher, commander of the Marin Sheriff's Department's substation in Marin City, says that even when people complain, they are usually no longer nude by the time deputies arrive.  "A deputy showed up on a very hot Sunday," says Velkoff.  "As soon as he left, everybody was naked again."

The beautiful, curve-shaped cove usually features a diverse crowd, better than average swimming conditions, and very easy access.  Instead of having to trudge down a beach trail, users walk less than five minutes along the shore from the public portion of the beach, called Big Beach, to the nude end. Tip: on warm days, arrive by 11am to find parking in the main lot.

Legal status:

According to the Marin County Assessor-Recorder's Office,  Little Beach consists of seven privately owned parcels off Cove Lane, in Muir Beach, up to the tidal zone, owned by Sigward Moser; Jason Weisberger and Carolyn Patterson; a trust of Erica and Madeline Groneman; the Elliott Theodore family; Christine and Kenneth High; a trust of Arlene Robertson; and the Nature Conservancy. A community meeting in June 2009 sparked concerns over nudity, sexual acts, such as masturbation, and alleged "intimidation" by nudists -- and what, if anything, should be done about the situation. Most of the 50 or so neighbors at the gathering appeared to be in favor of continuing to allow clothing-optional use, but some felt warning signs about perceived illegal activity should go up and others spoke in favor of a ban on nudity. Deputies said regular patrols -- but not specific anti-nudity visits -- would likely be increased. In 2001, reports of littering, defecation and sexual actions resulted in 20 public nudity citations and dozens of warnings over seven months. And in 1982, deputies made raids on nude sunbathers after receiving complaints about public sex and assaults on women.

How to find it:

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 (don't park on Pacific, even if you see cars there -- by the end of the day, they'll probably all be ticketed). 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.

The beach:

A small, lovely semicircular cove with, in most years, excellent sand for suntanning, reading, and picnicking.  "You can easily swim there," says Velkoff.  "There usually aren't any big waves.  But it can also get windy there."

The crowd:

On a weekday in June this year, about 20 people were on the sand. But expect more than 100 visitors on warmer summer days. Usually, though, summer Sundays produce a crowd of 30-40 persons. Straights, gays, singles, couples, families, seniors, young people, and others share Muir, which has a less social atmosphere than nearby Red Rock. "It's usually a quiet place," says Velkoff. "But I still make friends there right away."


Increased scrutiny by local homeowners has resulted in calls to deputies and, in some cases, citations or warnings; complaints about sexual behavior; gawkers; dogs; wind; parking lot jams up early on warm days.


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