Arroyo Seco River Hike

Ventana Wilderness

June 7-9, 1997.

July 10-12, 1999
August 19-21, 2000

July 10-12, 2010

Arroyo Seco is anything but seco (Spanish for "dry"); it got its name because it disappears before joining the Salinas river somewhere underground. In the hills, it has carved a narrow deep gorge with an all year stream flowing from pool to pool. We will travel its course through the Ventana Wilderness for about 11 miles. Much of the travel along the canyon is wading through the shallow portions of the stream, or swimming the deeper portions, alternated with patches of boulder scrambling. Along the lower stretches, there is as much swimming as walking, with one pool after another. We will encounter several waterfalls; once we will have to climb down through a waterfall, or jump 25 feet, possibly using a rope brought along for this occasion. The canyon grows so narrow at one point that you can touch both sides at the same time. The rock walls go up vertically for nearly 50 feet. At that same point, you are also floating in 35 or 40 feet of water. At another point, you can slide down a natural slippery sluice before splashdown in the next pool. The sculpted granite of the canyon floor is spectacular. The hot weather in July makes the river particularly delightful. With the possible exception of the Forest Service campground, we can be nude the entire trip (apart from our feet). This is in fact the recommended attire, as any clothes you choose to wear will be soaked.

Textiles take over the lower (best) 4 miles on weekends, so we'll come through that stretch on Monday. At weekdays we will not meet that many other people, and a greater percentage of them will be naturists. The first 7 miles of the trip go through a remote area, where we are not likely to encounter (many) other people at all.
For best enjoyment, your pack should provide a degree of flotation for you, as well as itself. A dry bag such as available at R.E.I. will keep your stuff water-free, while allowing you to lounge on top of it in the water, as you drift through the idyllic pools. Or, you can throw your pack in and jump after it. I also recommend that you wear good covered shoes (not sandals) for traction in the stream, ones that can stand to be wet all day. And take an underwater camera! For a complete checklist click here.

The Ventana Wilderness is located south-east of Monterey, California. The meeting point is about 2 hours driving south of San Jose, or 2 hours north of San Luis Obispo. We meet on day 1 at 4pm at the endpoint of the trip, leave half of the cars there, and carpool to the beginning (a 1.5 hour drive). That night we sleep on a remote forest service campground (tables and grills, but no water), from were we start hiking the next early morning. The second night we sleep along the banks of the river, most likely on a sandy place where we can do without sleeping pads. We'll try arrive at the endpoint of the hike by sunset on the next evening. Then we have to carpool back to the beginning of the hike (1.5 hour) to retrieve half of our vehicles, possibly after a hearty meal on the way. Expect to be home late.

There is no fee for this trip from my side, and neither do I assume any responsibility. You'll have to pay a few dollars for the campground and parking, and take care of your own food and equipment. A good condition, strong swimming skills and the sense of equilibrium needed to hike on slippery boulders are required. During the 11 mile hike there are no other ways for leaving the canyon than going back to the starting point or continuing to the end. The last time the Bay Area Naturists did this hike was in June 1995. I didn't check the area since, and there may be new obstacles on our path. Like all wilderness expeditions this trip is not entirely without risks, which each participant carries him- or herself.

For further information and registration (for this 1997 trip) contact

Rob van Glabbeek

The www page for this trip can be found at
Checklist 1995 trip report by Michael and Beth Photo's of the June 1997 trip July 1999 pictures August 2000 pictures

Postscript: Because it was absolutely wonderful I repeated this trip in July 1999 and August 2000. The participants consisted mostly of my personal friends, a couple of members of the Bay Area Naturists, and a few people who found this page on the web. In 2002 I stopped living in the USA, and I didn't do this hike since.

Email on this subject keeps streaming in at rates that make it hard to provide everyone with a personal answer. I do not know where this page is linked from, but do keep in mind that I am not a tour operator.

Similar trips as the one described above were organized by Doug Hetrick July 12-15, 2003, July 17-20, 2004 and July 9-12, 2005. He plans to go again July 10 thru July 12, 2010. He may have space for more participants; be sue to include ASR Hike in the subject line if you email him about it, at

This letter describes some problems encountered when driving to the start and endpoint of the hike (The Escondido campground and the Arroyo Seco Campground respectively) and also argues the trip can be done with one car and a bike.

Here are some photos from a trip in 2003
and here are trip reports for Arroyo Seco excursions by Casey & Emily.

Rob van Glabbeek