San Francisco County has only a few nude beaches, but they have a loyal following. During much of the year, it may be too cold to get outside near the ocean and take all your clothes off, but when the days are warm and sunny, they can get quite busy.
In spite of all that, San Francisco has some of the busiest and best-known nude beaches in California. That's because of a quirky intersection of geography and law. In many other parts of California, local nudity laws and state park regulations make it hard to find a nude beach where you don't risk arrest or at the very least, hassles. In San Francisco, the nude beaches are in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which is U.S. government land.
There is no federal law against nudity, but neither is it a guaranteed right. That means that state, county, and local laws can take precedence, but in practice, they don't in San Francisco. There is a city/county law against public nudity, but so far, that hasn't affected what people do at the local nude beaches.
Clothing Optional Beaches in San Francisco County
San Francisco beaches tend to be foggy in the summer and subject to "June gloom" when the offshore marine layer sticks around all day. The water is so cold all year that few people want to swim in it.
Expect to spend most of your time on the sand and not in the water. These are the best-known nude beaches in San Francisco (which, by the way, is both a city and a county with the same boundaries.
Baker Beach: San Francisco's busiest nude beach has fantastic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and a lively mix of friendly people. The beach is used by both clothed and unclothed visitors, along with local fishermen and photographers (who try to keep those nude bodies from accidentally showing up in the photos). The only downside of Baker Beach is that a lot of people want to go there on a warm, sunny day. That affects the parking lot, but the clothing optional part of the beach is never too crowded.
Golden Gate Bridge (Marshall's) Beach: Marshall's Beach is a busy spot that's popular with the local gay community, but singles and straight couples go there, too. You'll get fantastic views of the bridge from the beach, but it can be so cold and windy that you may decide to keep your clothes on.
Lands End Beach: Lands End is a secluded beach that's at the bottom of a steep trail that branches off from the Lands End trail. It's rocky and a little hard to get to, but it has fantastic views, and you might be the only person there, in a spot that feels like you're on the edge of the world.
Fort Funston Beach: Fort Funston Beach is on Skyline Drive south of Ocean Beach. The entrance is well marked. It was once used as a nude beach, but these days it's more popular with dog walkers and hang gliders. Even though nude use has been infrequent in recent years after a crackdown by park rangers, a few stalwarts still like to use the beach, mostly in the sand dunes. You'll find mostly families on weekends when it's almost impossible to find a private spot. Fort Funston is also a popular dog beach and the furry folks aren't always under tight control of their owners.
You can also find quite a few nude beaches north and south of San Francisco. In fact, northern California has far more clothing-optional beach locations than Southern California does.
You'll find what you need to know about the clothing optional beaches closest to San Francisco in the guides to Marin County nude beaches, San Mateo County nude beaches, and Santa Cruz County nude beaches.
Rating San Francisco County Nude Beaches
When we asked our readers which San Francisco County nude beach they like best, 4,500 of our readers had their say. 61% of them said they liked Marshall's Beach best, 16% said Lands End and 15% liked Baker Beach.
Oddly, if you checked the number of people who use each one, you would conclude that they like Baker Beach best.
Mapping the San Francisco County Nude Beaches
If you want to see where all the San Francisco clothing optional beaches are, use this San Francisco County Beach Map at Google maps, where the nude beaches are marked with pushpins. You can use it to get directions to each one.