Just west and east of the town of Willow Creek, cars pulled over in groups along Highway 299 are often signs of skinny-dipping holes used by local residents. Want more privacy? “You just kind of drive along for several miles before or after the town,” says former coastal resident Kie Relyea. “There are some places where you can get off the road. You look for a trail, and if it feels OK, you take it down to the water. We just keep going until we find a deserted spot or a place that has somebody you feel OK with who may also be naked. When you get to the beach, you just take off your clothes. The locals usually don’t mind.”
How to find it:
Take Highway 101 north to Eureka and Arcata. Pick up Highway 299 two miles north of Arcata. Continue east, looking for access to the river before and after the town of Willow Creek, about 30 minutes from Arcata. Keep your eyes open for trails heading toward the water, then follow them to sandy patches of riverbank next to your own private, just-discovered swimming hole.
Small swimming holes, usually with a few patches of sand next to the water’s edge, with enough space for several people to hang out on towels or beach chairs.
On warm days, usually just you and a few other visitors. Otherwise, be prepared for solitude — these swim spots are often deserted.
Rocky river bottom; cold water; unknown legal status; needs better directions; dense undergrowth (and possible poison oak) on trails.