Pfeiffer Beach

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Rating: A

Have you ever been to a beach with purple sand?Pfeiffer's sand gets its unusual color from bits of manganese garnet that wash down the cliffs during winter rains.In fact, the more north you go on the beach, toward the nude section, the "purple-er" the sand appears.But the amazing sand is only one of Pfeiffer's assets: sunset-watching can't get any better than it does at this shoreline, where, based on a long standing tradition, your clothing is optional unless someone complains.But don't get the site, which is federal property, confused with nearby Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.It's a state beach, where nudity is not tolerated.

Legal status:

Part of the Los Padres National Forest, whose rangers generally ignore nudists unless someone complains.

How to find it:

Pfeiffer Beach is around 30 miles south of Monterey and 3 miles west of Highway 1. Coming from the south on Highway 1, start counting the mileage from the Esalen Institute; the beach is about 12 miles north. From the north, turn right (toward the sea) onto poorly marked Sycamore Canyon Road, about a half mile south of the main entrance to Big Sur State Park and .6 miles south of the Big Sur Ranger Station, just past the Pfeiffer Canyon highway bridge. Watch for Sycamore before turning onto it and be careful of other traffic and children while you follow tree-lined Sycamore to the beach parking lot; it's a one-lane road for two-and-a-half miles. After paying a $5 day-use entrance fee and parking, walk north along the sand a quarter mile. A rocky outcropping divides the public and nude beaches. Walk around the bend, and you will arrive at the nude beach.

The beach:

There are two beaches. The one for clothed users is just north of Pfeiffer Creek, near the parking lot. The clothing-optional area is past the rocky promontory mentioned above.

The crowd:

On peak summer use days, expect maybe 50 people; usually, there are far fewer.

Problems:

Fee; fog; wind; cold water; riptides; in some years may be littered with driftwood.

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