For now, Garrapata State Park, where rangers have posted anti-nudity signs, remains open. But it is expected to be closed, due to state budget cuts, by July 2012. The remaining nude sunbathers have been pushed to the northern edge of the beach. Officials say the nudists are vulnerable to citations if complaints are received. The property, located between Carmel and Big Sur, is breathtakingly beautiful, with picturesque coves, hidden caves, a lagoon, and hills that are bursting with spring flowers.
Garrapata is no longer patrolled specifically for nudity, but rangers act on complaints, don't tolerate sex acts, and depending on the ranger, may warn or cite nudies. "We require that you be clothed," says supervising ranger Glenn McGowan. But state ranger Chuck Bancroft said in an interview, "If there are some people at the north end of the beach, we're not looking except if there's a real problem." When asked to describe such a problem, he replied, "it could be aggressive (sexual) approaching or if there's aggressive behavior toward people who don't follow the same belief or lifestyle."
How to find it:
The beach is 18 miles north of Big Sur, near milepost 63.1 on Highway 1. From the corner of Rio Road and Highway 1 in Carmel, take Highway 1 south for about 15 minutes or exactly nine miles. Park on either side of the road. That will put you next to a hard-to-find access trail, which takes you onto the more nude north end of the beach. Alternately, after some open hills and a stone house with tall windows on a plateau, look for a large parking area on Highway 1 about 9.6 miles south of the Rio light. After parking, come down the trail with a guardrail, which will take you to the middle of the beach, and walk north. If you pass the Garrapata Creek Bridge, you've gone too far.
Because nudity is not officially permitted, there's no specific nude area at the beach. But naturists have traditionally gathered on the far north end of the shore. "Once in a while someone (nude) will wander onto the south part," says state ranger John McGee. The central part of the beach is so windswept that temperatures can be 20 degrees cooler than those at either end.
In the past, nudists, nonnudists, singles, families, locals, tourists, gays, and straights all mingled at Garrapata. Today, a few nudists -- mostly gay males -- remain on the north end of the beach, but quickly suit up if they see rangers approaching.
Unpredictable law enforcement; increased use by suited sunbathers and strollers who wander into the "nude area;" fog; wind; cold water; hazardous swimming conditions (one person drowned in 1998); visitors trying to make their own trails on the slopes between the highway and the beach (one death in 1989); and periodic reports of sexual activity.