California's Perfect Gay Nude Swimming Holes

By Mike Boisvert.

Visiting the Sacramento Valley? The valley has no shortage of beaches where it's no problem to bare all, including a popular nude beach in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Visiting San Francisco? There are no swimming holes in the immediate area.

Wohler Bridge

This swimming hole is in the Russian river resort area, east of Guerneville. On good days the riverbank beach attracts 50 or more swimmers. Nude sunbathing is popular at a meadow near the beach. Since this swimming hole is near the popular Russian River gay resort area, the majority of swimmers are are gay men. Be careful of the poison oak in the woods and the river current.



: Get off the River Road exit (toward Guerneville) of US 101. Head west on River Road about 7.5 miles. Turn right onto Wohler Road and go 1.4 miles. Before the bridge over the Russian River, there is a green steel gate with a large "Keep Clear" sign. This is the trail to the nude beach. (Your biggest challenge will be to find parking which is restricted. Try crossing Wohler Bridge and look for parking  on the other side.)

Walk along the paved road behind the green gate and watch for trail on the right. Take the trail until you reach a clearing along the river. You will find the nude swimmers congregating here, on this stretch of sand. The walk from the gate is not bad at all, about 15-20 minutes.

Lillies Beach

The swimming hole is east of Mendocino, about 150 miles north of San Francisco. This is the perfect swimming hole for those hot, hazy, humid summer days. Laid back folks really like it here as the area has this invisible aura that reminds people of the "feelin groovy" days of the sixties. 

It can be quite busy here with 100 swimmers on a hot day but on average you'll run into about 50 people. Weekdays are more quiet with about 20 people. The majority of the swimmers here are nude. 

Rowdies present on weekends, may be noisy, first road rutted and potholed but passable, trash near parking area, poison oak in area, rocky river bottom, cold water, long walk to beach.

Directions: Take Highway 1 north to Mendocino, then turn right onto Little Lake Road, the first right turn past the main Mendocino turnoff sign. Drive four or five miles east on Little Lake until you see a sign for Mendocino Woodlands. Follow the dirt road that starts there for about three miles. Keep going until you reach the Woodlands retreat. Instead of turning left into the campground, go right about .3 mile, until the road ends at the road that follows Big River. Go to the left and follow that road a quarter mile, until it ends in a parking area next to Lilies. Or to save time, from Mendocino, drive 3.5 miles east on Little Lake until you spot a dirt road with a yellow Forest Service gate. Follow the road until it comes to a second yellow gate. Just past the gate, at the juncture of a number of roads, turn right and take the dirt road to the parking area. The second route will save you 1.5 miles of driving, and the road is better than the first one.

Bring thongs or old shoes to wear in the river, which is strewn with rocks. To reach the beach from the path, wade across ankle-deep water to a site that is a mix of sand and gravel.

American River (North Fork)

This swimming hole is located in Auburn, northeast of Sacramento, on the North Fork of the American River. It's popular with gay men. The water is cool and does not have much of a current, so its quite relaxing. If you see straight swimmers simply move farther downstream. This is not the place to cruise and have sex in the woods as undercover cops have been known to arrest people. 

Directions: Follow Interstate 80 northeast from Sacramento to the Elm Avenue exit in Auburn. Head east on Elm Avenue, then turn left at the first traffic light, onto High Street. High Street becomes Route 49 for about two miles until it widens. The trail to the beach begins behind a a yellow metal gate on the right side of the road. From the green gate, hike downhill along the dirt road. When the dirt road intersects the bike path at the bottom of the hill, continue straight across toward the river on a trail. The  trail will lead you to a small beach that is used by nude swimmers. There are other small nude beaches if you walk downstream. It only takes a few minutes to walk to the beach. 

South Yuba River

This swimming hole is located between Marysville and Grass Valley, northeast of Sacremento. "If you're looking for a place to get a great tan, read a newspaper, or simply float on an air mattress on some nice water, then you might want to try the south fork of the Yuba River," says reader Mike, of Sacramento. "Every time I go, I have a great time." Both nude and suited visitors use a popular, sandy beach off an easy trail. Tips: Bring a watch to follow our directions, plus water shoes or old shoes for wading across the river in low water to look for other clothing-optional mini-beaches.The beach: One main beach, with other little, sandy areas spread out on both sides of the river.

This is a popular swimming hole for everyone including gay men. Parts of this area is for clothed bathers. The area where nudity begins is at the end of the Buttermilk Bend Trail  that is marked by a "Trail End" sign. No camping is allowed here. You'll find about 30 men here on the weekends. The swimming hole has been reported to be very beautiful and having large rocks for sunbathing. Another nice plus is that the calm spots has water that is comfortable for dipping into during the summer. During the week, you'll most likely have this area all to yourself. Lou and Linda are the caretakers of this area.  

Directions: From Auburn, take Highway 49 north. At Grass Valley, take Highway 20 west eight miles, then turn right onto Pleasant Valley Road. Stay on Pleasant Valley Road for 7.8 miles until you reach the South Fork of the Yuba River. Cross the bridge over the river, then turn right into a parking lot. A trail begins at this parking area. Follow this trail then turn left at the small post that says "Buttermilk Bend Trail." Follow this upstream for about 1.25 miles. You'll be about 100 feet above the river with good views of the water and beach areas below. After about 15 minutes, the trail will cross a side stream on a wooden footbridge. From here, continue walking along the trail for another 5 to 10 minutes. You will then reach a number of side trails down to the nude area of the river.



Upper Bidwell Park

Chico, Sacramento Valley

This swimming hole is in Chico, Sacramento Valley in Bidwell Park. Upper Bidwell Park is a section of the park on the northeast side of Chico. This part is located in the Sierra Nevada foothills so why not combine your excursion here with a hike or mountain bike ride? Nudity is completely LEGAL at the creek from Diversion Dam below parking lot L. Salmon Hole (parking  lot M) is pretty remote so the  probability of 'trouble' is extremely low. It is also pretty well known as a 'gay' area. It's an 8 minute hike down a pseudo ravine and then up the river a bit from the parking lot. If you wear sandals it is best to wear the kind that secure around the ankle or water-shoes are great since it is not advisable to cross certain parts of the river bare-footed. Bring something soft or padded to lay out on as the large boulders make ideal sunning spots often better than the low sandy beaches for direct sunlight. And lastly a plastic airtight seal-able baggy for your cellphone & cigarettes. Although alcohol is not legal in the park it is quite obvious that many bring beer up here anyway especially since rangers are rare to be found in this area.

The area is now only conveniently accessible by car on Friday and Saturday until 9PM as they have closed the road to motor vehicles all other days after the Horseshoe Lake parking area [near end of paved road]. The park is closed on Sundays and Monday. You an hike/bike from there Tuesday-Thursday but it almost one hour each way if you walk it. After you drive through the entrance gate ignore the sign warning you that the gravel part of the road is very rough since its fine for up to where you want to go.

They have permanently blocked the road at/after parking lot "L."  Thankfully parking lot "M" in only 1/4 mile further up the road. The area closes earlier from October to March at 7PM. 

Directions: At the junction of State Routes 99 and 32 in Chico go north on SR-99 about 2.5 miles. Take the East Avenue exit and follow East Avenue for about 2.75 miles. When  East Avenue changes to two lanes, look for the large fire station on the left side of the road. Turn left onto Wildwood Avenue, which will shortly become Upper Park Road. Proceed 1.7 miles to the entrance gate, which is open during daylight hours. After the gate, the park road becomes gravel. Continue 2 miles to parking area "M" on the right side of the road. From the parking lot, hike down toward the stream, then walk upstream for a few minutes. The nude swimming hole is just out of view of the parking lot. It takes about 5 to 10 minutes to get here when you start from parking area "M."


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