One of the Bay Area’s most popular nude beaches is a strip of sand within spitting distance of neighboring Stinson Beach, but separated by a rocky section of coastline. Tucked away at the foot of Mount Tamalpais, aficionados online rave about the privacy and the views. Meanwhile, uninitiated or unsuspecting interlopers refer to the “hippies” and sometimes “creepers” they encounter after descending the trail from Highway 1. The intersection of buff bathers and awkward newcomers is a common event at this secluded public beach because it also draws a different breed of adventure seeker.
Mickey’s Beach, as the climbers call it, happens to be one of the region’s most picturesque and challenging sport route areas, and also much renowned for its boulder problems. The area has been a hot spot since at least the 1990’s, when pioneers of the Bay Area climbing scene set routes in the area.
Its touristic draw, due to its overlooking the Pacific, is somewhat of a conundrum for beginners, since most of the routes are in the 5.10+ range. Entry-level climbers should focus on a few of the top-ropable routes on the large boulder called “The Egg” (to the south of the main beach area, accessible from the Steep Ravine Campsite trail). Meanwhile, the main climbing area (called “Main Rock” or “Peeper Rock”) adjacent to the beach features excellent, but hard, sport/trad leads. The other distinction to note between these two areas is that ocean-side Main Rock routes require an awareness of the tide, since a high tide can make it hard to belay without a rubber raft. In general, all of these climbs, including the Egg and boulder problems, are exposed to fog and spray; even the ones unaffected by tidal variation will offer unique challenges to landlubbing rock climbers.
For route details and topos check out Bay Area Rock, by Jim Thornburg, and rockclimbing.com’s Mickey’s Beach site. Also, here’s a map. And lastly, just in case you're curious, a reader poll on Marin County nude beaches.
By Brian Gruters
Brian writes about science, conservation, and ways that people interact with nature for various publications, as well as his blog, briangruters.com. He is an aspiring surfer, member of the Southern California Mountaineers Association, and likes to explore mountains and canyons.
Quote of the week:
“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.”
― Yvon Chouinard, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman