From a technical standpoint, yes, nude camping is legal on federal lands. But it also depends on the agency because each handles nudity and disorderly conduct differently. It also depends on the State only because most agencies still allow state laws to apply. For the most part, nude camping is allowed as long as no one else complains.
Is Nude Camping Legal on Federal Lands?
From the standpoint of law, the federal government has not addressed public nudity. However, from the standpoint of regulation, they have. Regulation is simply a more granular detail of how government will enforce law.
When it comes to nude camping, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) remains the most popular choice mostly because BLM lands have little law enforcement. But from a legal standpoint, the National Park Service is a safe bet beacuse the NPS is the only federal land management agency that does not allow state and local laws to apply.
Bureau of Land Management
The BLM has no rules against nude camping. They do not address nudity or public indecency anywhere in their rules and regulations.
- However, the BLM does have a rule stating that all state and local laws apply, and that state and local law enforcement officials are allowed to enforce laws on BLM lands. (Reference 8365.1-7 State and Local Laws)
- The BLM does have a rule against, “creating a hazard or nuisance”, but does not define what these are. (Reference, § 8365.1-4 Public health, safety and comfort)
U.S. Forest Service
The USFS does not ban nude camping or being publicly nude in general. However, it does allow each forest or grassland to ban public nudity, if it chooses to do so…
- To do this, each forest or grassland has to declare a ban on public nudity through a “forest order”. Each forest and grassland publishes their forest orders on billboards in visitor centers and campground kiosks. They can also be found online at each forest’s website under the menu, “Alerts & Notices”. (Reference § 261.58 Occupancy and use.)
- At this point, we are not aware of which forests and grasslands have banned public nudity. Note that a forest or grassland will often adopt an order for a period of one to three years, and then let the order rescind if the problem goes away.
- The USFS defines public nudity as exposing genitalia, areolas, or anus in an area where other people can see. Children 10 years and under are allowed to be publicly nude.
- The USFS also allows state and local laws to apply. If the state has banned public nudity, then it also banned in that forest or grassland.
National Park Service
The NPS does not specifically ban nude camping, however it does ban “disorderly conduct” and it does go on to cite, “engages in a display or act that is obscene” as an example. (Reference, § 2.34 Disorderly conduct)
- The NPS does not define “obscene”, thus it would be up to each park ranger’s discretion to determine if you are being obscene.
- The same rule referenced above also bans, “creating a physically offensive condition.” Whether or not public nudity can be considered this is up to each park ranger’s discretion.
- The NPS is the only federal land management agency that does not allow state and local laws to apply. For more about this read, “Do State and Local Laws Apply to Federally Managed Lands?“
Certain National Parks Have Banned Nude Camping
- § 7.87 Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park (Hawaii) – (a) Is public nudity prohibited at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park? Yes. Public nudity, including nude bathing, by any person on Federal land or water within the boundaries of Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park is prohibited. This section does not apply to a person under 10 years of age.
- § 7.67 Cape Cod National Seashore (Massachusetts) – (e) Public nudity. Public nudity, including public nude bathing, by any person on Federal land or water within the boundaries of Cape Cod National Seashore is prohibited.
- § 7.29 Gateway National Recreation Area (New York) – (c) Public lewdness. Section 245.00 of the New York Penal Code is hereby adopted and incorporated into the regulations of this part. Section 245.00 provides that: A person is guilty of public lewdness when he intentionally exposes the private and intimate parts of his body in a lewd manner or commits any other lewd act (a) in a public place, or (b) in private premises under circumstances in which he may readily be observed from either a public place or from other private premises, and with intent that he be so observed.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
The USFWS has a rule that bans “indecency” and “disorderly conduct” on its national wildlife refuges, but only if it is already banned within state and local laws. (Reference, § 27.83 Indecency and disorderly conduct)
- If a state or county does not specifically ban public nudity or exposure, then it’s not banned at that particular wildlife refuge.
- To our knowledge, every state has already banned public nudity to some lesser or greater extent. See, “State Laws Regarding Public Nudity” below for more details.
Army Corps of Engineers
The ACOE has a rule that addresses people being “disorderly” or “disturbing the peace”, but does not otherwise mention nude camping. (Reference, § 327.12 Restrictions.)
- As long as your nudity does not disturb the peace, technically you are not in violation of the above rule.
- The ACOE also allows state and local laws to apply. State and local law enforcement officers may enter ACOE lands to enforce laws. (Reference, § 327.26 State and local laws)
Bureau of Reclamation
The USBR does not specifically ban nude camping, but they do prohibit the creation of a “public alarm or nuisance”. (Reference § 423.22 Interference with agency functions and disorderly conduct)
- If you can be publicly nude without creating a public alarm or nuisance, then you should be fine.
- The USBR also allows state and local laws to apply. State and local law enforcement officers may enter ACOE lands to enforce laws. (Reference § 423.3 When does this part apply?)
All States Have Laws Against Public Nudity
Every state has adopted laws with respect to public nudity, public indecency, or lewd behavior in public. However in just about all states, outdoor nudity is only illegal when it’s done with the intent to offend or arouse others. As long as you’re keeping your nudity in private, or your nudity does not offend others around you, or you are well away from sight of others, you should have no problem.
Where is Nude Camping Absolutely Legal on Federal Lands?
Nude camping is only legal on federal lands managed by the National Park Service.
- This is because the NPS does not allow state and local laws to apply.
- All other federal land management agencies, however, do.
- The NPS still prohibits “disorderly conduct”, but park rangers only enforce this rule when they receive a complaint. As long as others around you are not offended by your nudity, or cannot see you, then technically you shouldn’t have a problem.
what is considered indecent exposure on blm land