At first glance, Humboldt County seems like a place where you would find lots of nude beaches. It is known as one of the state's most laid back places in terms of alternative lifestyles. Searching the county's laws turns up no ban on public nudity, either.
It's also one of California's northernmost counties, less than 100 miles south of the Oregon border which seems a bit far north for much serious sunbathing. Locals say naked weather doesn't start until June at the earliest, but with summer's average highs seldom getting above 70 degrees, even then you might think it's too cold to be taking your clothes off.
All of that doesn't keep people from enjoying a little nude recreation on days when it actually does warm enough.
Humboldt County has only a couple of beaches frequented by locals:
Sometimes called Baker's Beach, this nude beach is not to be confused with an also-nude beach of the same name in San Francisco. Humboldt County's Baker's Beach is in a secluded cove just south of the town of Trinidad, and you won't find any signs pointing to it from the main road.
The road leading to this small beach was closed due to a washout for several years, and you might read elsewhere about that, but don't get the wrong idea. The road has been open again since early 2010. The beach is between the towns of Trinidad and Moonstone, near the Cher-Ae Heights Casino.
To get there, set your GPS to 1183 Trinidad Scenic Drive, Trinidad CA. That's the address of a house near the beach. It's the best thing to use for getting close to the beach, but please don't go driving up the driveway and pestering those poor homeowners.
You can also follow these directions: Take the Trinidad exit off U.S. Highway 101 (exit 728). Go west, then south on Trinidad Scenic Drive, which is very close to the highway. Park on the wide shoulder of the road, just after you pass Baker Ranch Road on the left. A steep, overgrown-looking trail descends to the beach from there.
You can see some photos and get more information about Baker Beach here.
College Cove is two areas with one name. The north section, which is easier to reach, has more clothed visitors than the south. A rock wall on the beach separates the two parts. Both locations are popular with young singles and have some gawkers.
To get close to the parking area for College Cove, set your GPS for 520 Stagecoach Road, Trinidad, CA. That's a made-up address which is very close to the turn onto a small road that leads to a dirt parking lot described below.
You can also follow these directions. To get there from the town of Eureka, take U.S. Highway 101 north to the exit for the town of Trinidad and go west toward the ocean on Main Street.
Where the road curves left and becomes Trinity Street, turn right instead onto Stagecoach Road. Go past the entrance to Trinidad State Beach, cross Mill Creek, and keep going past Anderson Lane which intersects Stagecoach Road from the left. Look for a small road on the left that leads to a dirt parking lot. That's where you turn left to park.
From there, follow the trail beneath the trees. After about 500 to 600 feet, when you see a path on the left, take it and then hike down to the small, protected cove. If you miss that turn, you'll end up on top of a nearby cliff. Turn around and go back if that happens.
More Places for Clothing Optional Recreation
If you're in Humboldt County, you can also go south to a nude beach in Marin County, which is the closest place in California that has nude beaches but that's about a four-hour drive away. If you want to make the trip, they're all listed in the Marin County nude beach guide.
Northern California also has several clothing optional resorts that cater to people who enjoy the clothing optional lifestyle. Some of them are centered on natural hot springs and offer overnight accommodations. They're all listed in the guide to clothing optional resorts in California.