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    Summer Fun at Clothing Optional Beaches: Marshall, Little Muir, and Devil’s Slide Beach

    By John Chen–

    In the last issue of the San Francisco Bay Times (July 27, 2023, I covered three picturesque Bay Area clothing optional beaches frequented by our fellow LGBTQ+ sunbathers: San Gregorio, Laguna Creek, and South Rodeo Beach along with some important “before-you-go” advisories. In a continuation of my summer clothing optional beach series, I would like to introduce three additional beautiful beaches: Marshall, Little Muir, and Devil’s Slide.

    Marshall Beach

    Often confused with Baker Beach, an easily accessible public clothing optional Presidio beach, Marshall is less visible and a predominately gay beach at the foot of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. What makes Marshall Beach so special is its up-close and spectacular view of the bridge, and golden sunsets. Many moons ago, Marshall Beach was a hidden gem, relatively unknown among tourists and sightseers. The local gay community successfully kept it a secret partly because the path down to the beach from high above was unmarked, steep, slippery and somewhat treacherous. Today, the reinvigorated Presidio has clearly marked and safe trails winding down to the beach that even people with little hiking experience wearing flip flops can manage given a little time.

    Once on the beach, visitors are immediately rewarded with a postcard view of the Golden Gate Bridge anchoring the Pacific crashing into San Francisco Bay. At medium to high tide, you’ll notice that the beach itself seems limited and unassuming. However, upon closer examination, you’ll see that Marshall Beach is divided into three distinct sections.

    Marshall Beach rocky cliff barrier separating it from Baker Beach

    The first section is the immediate beach at the end of the trail. Facing the vast Pacific Ocean, to your left, is a tall, impassable rocky, cliff-like barrier that separates Baker Beach from Marshall. To your right is a small beach that appears to end at a low rocky wall highlighted by a giant standalone boulder. This is where most tourists and sightseers frolic and take selfies before heading back up the hillside.

    If you walk the entire length of the beach, at the other end, you’ll notice people magically appear and disappear around the lower rocky wall. You guessed it. People scale and climb the low rocky barrier to reach the second and much larger section of Marshall Beach where you will clearly see naked sunbathers walking along the beach and tanning in relatively hidden spots along the cliffside. This is also where the vast majority of the gay beachgoers end up due to a more private and intimate feel. On a clear day, sunbathers can wave and smile in their birthday suits at stunned passengers crammed to the starboard side of cruise ships heading into San Francisco. 

    Marshall Beach overview from the south

    The final section is the “forbidden” area of Marshall Beach. Continue strolling on the beach towards the bridge and you’ll encounter many large boulders and rocks that prevent beachgoers from venturing further unless armed with the proper rock-climbing tools and boots. However, at the lowest of low tides, even a toddler can waddle from the first section all the way to the third section without so much as touching one drop of the Pacific Ocean. This “forbidden” section is instituted and heavily surveyed after the tragic events of 9/11 for a good reason. In this area, anyone can casually walk up to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge and touch it, climb it, or do harm to the structure. So, my recommendation is just to admire the bridge from a reasonable distance unless you secretly want to be arrested in the buff.

    Little Muir Beach

    The tiny, secluded beach town of Muir Beach is located in Marin and about two miles from the entrance of Muir Redwoods National Monument. The beach itself is one of the cleanest in California. Just to the north of Muir Beach, separated by a low rocky barrier and a narrow strip of a defunct fort wall, lies Little Muir Beach, a widely accepted clothing optional beach. Little Muir Beach is truly a serene getaway from the hustle and bustle of nearby urban life. The sand on the beach is somewhat coarse, but clean. The water is shallow and cold but surprisingly clear. Although Muir Beach can get a bit crowded on sunny and warm days, Little Muir Beach is the road less traveled and is directly connected to the community above. Most of the nude sunbathers gather around the area next to the low defunct fort wall mostly because this area of beach provides the greatest privacy.

    Little Muir Beach, the north end

    Devil’s Slide Beach

    Devil’s Slide was a particularly treacherous, narrow, and windy stretch of California Hwy 1 south of Pacifica where numerous cars have accidentally driven off the steep and eroded slopes. Today, this part of Hwy 1 has been converted into a wide walking trail with stunning and sweeping views of the rugged coastline high above the deep blue turbulent waves. Just a little south of the Devil’s Bunker—a former military lookout—and far below the cliffs lies the Gray Whale Cove with a beautifully preserved beach. Although the official name of the beach is Gray Whale Cove State Beach, a short stretch of the beach to the right of the long wooden stairway is known as Devil’s Slide Beach where, for years, beachgoers often bathe in the buff. Devil’s Slide Beach has a truly unique feel due to its pristine soft sand, granite-like backdrop, and its isolated and enclosed setting.

    Devil’s Slide Bunker in the distance

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball, and football teams.

    Published on August 10, 2023