Big Moronga Canyon Trail Freehike

If you aren’t a nudie like me, this probably won’t be that interesting. And might be slightly NSFW.

This is the AllTrails map of the hike we decided on. Just extend that red line south to where it meets Indian Wells Road. Those loops at the top are part of the Preserve. No nudiness there.

Dan Carlson’s blog, The Meandering Naturist, follows the adventures of him and his wife as they travel the world to different clothing-free destinations. One day, he decided to get in touch with me. We discussed a zoom meeting but since he was coming out to California, we settled on meeting in real life.

Dan is extremely prolific and well known in nudie blogging circles. There’s his WordPress blog, The Meandering Naturist – Traveling the world in search of naturist nirvana… And a second blog, The Discerning Nudist – Selected Reading for those who prefer to live without clothing. And yet another blog, this one on Medium with even more content, also called The Meandering Naturist. There’s even an old Trip Advisor blog.

The Desert Hot Springs/Palm Springs area is probably the nude resort capitol of California with maybe a dozen different establishments listed as clothing-optional or nude. It is immediately adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park. Dan was interested in doing some nude backcountry hiking and JTNP has no shortage of remote trails to do it on.

However, a couple of things militated against this. The most important was the temperature. Most of JTNP is at 3-5,000 ft elevation. Highs were predicted in the low 60s, upper 50s for most of the park. The other factor was a large number of visitors. Ever since COVID hit, the trails everywhere out here have been inundated with hikers. And this was spring break, the busiest time of the year.

I asked Dan to check with the resort he was staying at (Terra Cotta Inn – oops wrong. It was Turtle Mesa B&B) and the host suggested Big Morongo Canyon Trail on some Bureau of Land Management land just west of the Park. This is part of the Sand to Snow National Monument. The elevation would be from 2500 to 1500 ft,.which should give us a several degrees warmer temperature. Not only that but it was downhill all the way. 🙂

BLM has a policy that they have no problem with nudity on their land out here as long as you are away from developed campsites, roads, and structures. A quick glance at the Riverside County and San Bernadino County codes did not show any ordinances against simple nudity. California state law only prohibits lewd conduct and conduct intended to shock and state courts have ruled that this does not include simple nudity. Legally we were safe from really bad outcomes. (Probably just my Asperger’s showing up again. I shouldn’t worry so much.)

It is good we both had GPS because the directions I found on AllTrails felt sketchy. Then we took his car to the top and left mine at the bottom. He had a very pretty rental while mine is a bolted together heap. Parking at the bottom was on a dirt road frequented by shooters and off-road drivers. (A quick recon showed that there were no such people there today.) It was Monday and I’m sure most of that took place on the weekend. OTOH, the parking at the top was at a local park, Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, with lots of users. It would be safe to park a nice new rental car.

The Big Morongo Preserve has a number of trails through a marshy area that is famous for its bird population. The people in the lot are mostly intent on walking the boardwalk through the wet area.

At the southern end, after perhaps a quarter mile, the trail departs the Preserve to enter BLM land. From there it heads down a dry wash about 5 miles to a gate marking the southern extent of the BLM land. From the vegetation, I get a sense that there ought to be a lot more water than there is.

We proceeded south through the Reserve until we got onto the BLM section and got naked. There’s a sign there giving trail directions. The water had dried up, the thickness of brush had diminished. From here on in it was wide open. Almost no foliage or other cover for the rest of the trip. You’d think the high visibility would be a problem. In reality that’s a good thing for a nude hiker on a wilderness trail. It means that you will see other people long before they get close enough to potentially be offended. Lots of time to get your wrap on if you feel the need.

A part of me was nervous to do the hike nude. This was not an area I was extremely comfortable and familiar with. I would not be able to “forget I’m naked.” There were at least a dozen cars parked at the entrance, including families and bird watchers, and spring breakers. Encountering a number of textile folks was inevitable. I suppressed that hesitancy, partly because I knew it was legal, and partly because it was kind of fun to push my safety zone. Oh yeah… and The Meandering Naturist would be hiking with me. I didn’t want to drive 3 hours to meet up with a fellow nudist and then back down.

Now, Dan doesn’t do frontals for privacy reasons. At the same time, he’s a far far more active nudist than I am. His blogs reach many more people than mine. He and his wife travel the world in search of unique nude recreational activity.

I respect his needs. There are those who claim that you’re not a “real” nudist if you don’t show your face and genitalia together for the world to identify you as such. I think they are misguided. I think any well-told tale is a benefit to everyone, even if there are no pictures at all. “Real” nudists ought not to make demands on other people without walking a mile in their moccasins.

I, on the other hand, have little to worry about from employers. I don’t have one. My only goals are to enjoy being true to myself and to help the world understand that it’s ok to be nude. Nothing ugly or particularly sexy about it. I’m fat, my skin sags and I’m not nearly as muscular as I once was. That doesn’t make a body ugly, that just shows it has been lived in. Genitalia is just another organ, no more to be hidden and no more disturbing than one’s nose. My greater freedom allows me to come out and play.

One man hiking naked can easily be perceived as a pervert – and perhaps even a potential sexual predator. It would be interesting if one could do a study of such things. Are nudists outnumbered by sexual exhibitionists? What percentage of naked males wandering through the outdoors are really doing it for sexual gratification?

What percentage of textile males would assume sexual intent if they met a casually nude woman on the trail?

When nudists assert that nudity is not sexual, they don’t consider that they are only speaking for themselves. For the vast majority of people, nudity in the presence of another person of the preferred gender is inherently sexual. That’s their reality. They have no way to quickly and easily distinguish between a nonsexual nudist and a sexual exhibitionist, so the assumption is not often the charitable one. A nudist has to overcome this, to defuse the situation in some way.

Two people, not so much. Especially a male-female pair. To put it bluntly, a textile observer might conclude that even if there were a sexual component, these guys are neither a threat nor are they “available.” They have each other. A group of people is even better. A group of people brings up the idea of nudism rather than a sexual dalliance. The problem is that nudists often do not put themselves into the minds of the clothed people they encounter.

There are consequences of being a nude fish swimming in a textile ocean. One must account for the other person’s logic – and also their fears. You need to be nonthreatening and defuse the situation. The encounter does not go like the encounter between clothed hikers.

That’s why I wear a broad-brimmed hat. If I encounter someone unexpectedly, it is the fastest coverup there is. Dan carries a wrap with a Velcro fastener. It is also very fast. My thinking is that it is still an extra “thing” to carry.

While we were hiking I let my nervousness get the better of me. When we encountered textiles, instead of just dropping the hat, I went with putting my hiking shorts back on for the encounter. There was plenty of time to see other people in advance but the action was still clumsy and awkward. Taking them off again was also awkward. On the third time I just went with the hat.

I’ve since thought about the difference between the two approaches. My shorts gave me what lawyers would call plausible deniability. They’d never know I was naked.

The hat does nothing to hide the fact that you are nude. Yes, I am naked. But I don’t want to cause you offense. I think I am more comfortable with that. I think trying to hide one’s nakedness can be interpreted as an act of guilt even if the reason you’re doing it is not to offend. I want them to think no clothes… but no problem.

As it was, we encountered 5 people on the hike. The first two were a middle-aged man and a younger man. They came up from behind. I got my shorts on and Dan got his wrap on. We basically said, “Hi.” but there was not much interaction. Later on, we caught up with them. Same drill, just not as hurried. Then they started to catch up with us again so instead of dressing we just picked up the pace. Had to have seen we were nude.

The second encounter was when we approached what was probably a young spring break couple. Got our kit on for the moment. This time I mentioned to them that we were hiking nude and hoped it was ok with them. They didn’t seem to mind. We walk away a bit before dropping our covers and continued on our way.

Dan and I agreed that the single demographic least likely to be offended by encountering casual nudity would be university students. Certainly it was my experience, even 45 years ago when I was one. It was also his. When I attended Cal State Northridge there was even a nudist club on campus, Au Natural. It is where my nom de plume came from. I doubt that anyone could get a group of students together to form such a group today. Nudists are all old fuddy-duddies.

The third encounter was near the end of the trail. A single young guy, parked at the other end, hiking up solo. I was a bit off-trail at the moment. This time I just went with the hat, again with the query. He was fine with it. I had imagined there’d be more people out but I have found it to be true that most people never get onto the beaten path, let alone off it.

As much as we may feel we are entitled to be nude anywhere, anytime, we still must remember that culturally we are the oddities and the clothed people are the “normals.” One needs to inform those you encounter about what you’re up to and then get consent if you’re going to continue doing it in their presence. That has never failed to defuse an encounter for me. It is just courtesy and will leave the people with a positive image of nudists rather than grumbling about some pervert shoving his junk in their faces.

That fanny pack. Never again! In order to access the contents I couldn’t just rotate it around, I had to unclip it and take it off. It was big and ungainly. Putting it back on was a pain if there was no place to sit or a vertical surface to back up against. Inside I was carrying a complete set of clothing, first aid kit, food that I never ate, and water I hardly drank. This hike was really too short and the weather too perfect to need supplies and help could be gotten quickly if needed. There was even cell service part of the way. I was way overprepped.

What might have been really fun? Stash everything in a bush back by that sign and totally commit to doing the entire hike with nothing but a hat and shoes. Retrieve it later. (Nude hikers call this flying without a parachute.) Don’t think it would have been a problem but you can’t know that in advance.

BTW, this trail is not really a footpath. That yellow post indicates a gas pipeline is buried along this route. This is an access road for the pipeline and there were tracks to prove that trucks use it. The snow-covered peak in the distance is 10,834 ft. Mt. San Jacinto.

This is the end of the nude hike. A rusted gate, shot full of holes. Before we started we checked to see if anyone was up here and there was no sign of activity. When we completed there was only the truck of the one guy we encountered. (Some of the reports on this trail advised to listen for gunfire at the end of the trail and if you heard it, turn around and go back.) My car was a couple hundred yards beyond, on a gravel patch by a small cinder-block building.

My opinion of the time spent meandering with The Meandering Naturist is simply brilliant. Would that it could have gone on from dawn to dusk! So many things to talk about and I was barely getting my thoughts organized. That 3 hours was not enough.

My opinion of this trail is something less than brilliant, altho any time spent nude in nature is inherently good. Being so wide open, it lent a sense of freedom and yes, exposure, to the hike. Kind of like that old Windows wallpaper. OTOH, I’m used to seeing these landscapes – though Dan might not be. I could use greener foliage, more wildlife, and fewer tire tracks. In a wetter year, there would have been wildflowers aplenty and maybe a trickle of water in the riverbed.

I’m hoping he comes back my way so I can show him some of the more spectacular scenery that I like to haunt and take him deeper into truly wild land.


  1. Grand Immortal Tofu King (BiblioNyan)

    I want to get more into solo hiking this year, I’d be a total beginner. I feel like it’d be really great for my physical health and also my desire to get more into nature photography.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fred (Au Natural)

    Start out short and close to home. Build confidence and go longer.

    Comfortable shoes and a shady hat are must-haves. Longer hikes call for food and water. Everything else is optional.

    You could do a lot worse than watch “Encouragement of Climb.” 🙂


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