Olive Dell Ranch, Colton, CA
Welcome to Meandering Mondays, where we provide brief reviews of naturist places we have visited, simply to offer our admittedly subjective thoughts about what we experienced there. With over 150 pins on our naturist travel map, we have a lot of reviews to catch up on. Once posted here, I'll move them over to the "Places" index under the main menu of our blog.
Olive Dell Ranch is a curious piece of nudist history, perched on the rugged mountains that separate Riverside from San Bernardino. From the looks of things, I suspect it hasn’t changed a great deal since they first opened back in 1953. Primarily catering to RVers, there are also several prefab units where folks live year-round, along with quaint little cabins they refer to as birdhouses, because, well… they look like birdhouses. For me, however, the most alluring feature at Olive Dell is the circuit of dirt roads and hiking trails that wander off the back of the property into the craggy hills, where nude hiking is the norm, along with a frisbee golf course, and very humble (golf) driving range, and several little stone cairns that have been erected by long-time patrons of this storied place. We’ve visited twice, once to meet Blake and Elizabeth, creators of the lively podcast Our Naked Story, and more recently to take on the naked trails with fellow naturist friend, Evan, the curator of @naturistvintage on Twitter. Our trek up the mountain not only provided breathtaking views of the surrounding region, but left me with a burning desire to return, as we clearly could have kept going for hours with little concern of meeting another human, naked or otherwise.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO GET THERE? As it turns out, we’ve essentially driven right past Olive Dell innumerable times over the years when taking the CA Route 60 cutoff between I-215 and I-10, usually on the way to Palm Springs. Once exiting the freeway, you make your way through a couple miles of suburban sprawl until all of the sudden, you drive right out of town and into the mountainous countryside. Another five minutes and you come to the aging sign for Olive Dell that directs you up a dirt road (Watch out for the meandering burros!) and to the front gates. Leaving your car in the dirt lot, you make your way through the pedestrian gate to find managers Lance and Veronica, who will invite you into the makeshift office on the back of their house to run a background check and ask a few questions to see if you’re really a clothes-free kind of human. I’ve been once as a couple, and once as a single male. It doesn’t seem to matter if you show up as the latter. I’m told the place has changed hands a couple times in recent decades, but it seems the management team has been there for a while. When I asked Lance about a trail map, he was effusively apologetic about not having gotten to that over the past, you know, decade or so. “You’ll figure it out!”
If you’re arriving by air, Ontario would be your best bet, as that airport is probably less than twenty minutes away, though you’ll still need to rent a car.
WHAT’S THE FAMILY VIBE? As my friend Evan had arrived a few minutes before I did, he was already hanging out on the patio near the pool taking in the sun. He observed that he had already seen more kids running around that he has ever seen at his home club farther down the valley. There are apparently a couple families with young children that live on the grounds. In fact, the regulars seem a bit younger than we’ve seen at other American naturist places, and they’ve actually invested a little TLC into the children’s playground. The place has a Bohemian feel about it, with colorful murals on the walls and an otherwise sense of “chillax.” On this Sunday afternoon, there was also a volleyball game just wrapping up.
HOW ARE THE ACCOMMODATIONS? Unless you live there, I think of Olive Dell as a day visit kind of place, though I believe some of the aforementioned bird houses are available as short-stay rentals. The legend I’ve heard is that the peculiar architecture was inspired by local building codes requiring a different permit if the footprint was beyond a certain size. By building the walls out at a diagonal, you could create a bit more living space with a minimum of floor space. Clever! You should also know that since they don’t have indoor plumbing, you’ll need to use the public restrooms and showers during your stay. (That’s a little easier to navigate at a naked place!) The RV lot looked pretty full to me, and given the windy roads, I found myself wondering how the owners of the larger RVs navigated their way in. These all appear to be long-timers, so I guess that’s not a maneuver you take on too often. They have several annual events, including the Bare Burro 5K that takes place in late spring. I’m guessing that generates a significant tent village literally overnight. On weekends, there’s an on-site restaurant and bar, which serves quite excellent tacos, by the way.
ANYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW? Given my ever-growing intrigue with the history of nudism, Olive Dell Ranch provides a particularly interesting perspective on the American Nudist Story. There are loads of historical references to Olive Dell when you go digging through old nudist publications. In fact, a major movie, Act Naturally, was filmed there on location about ten years ago. There’s a small memorial to the founder, Bill Kiesel, right next to the outdoor chapel on a bluff overlooking the Riverside valley, though I suspect it’s been a while since they’ve held a church service there. While I saw a fair number of Naked Sunset Folks hanging near the pool, I think the earthy, minimalist feel of the place is attracting a good number of millennials as well. I’m sure events like Bare Burro Run, along with dedicated space for disc-golf and similar activities help that cause. What the place lacks in luxurious amenities, it makes up with opportunities to get out and move, if only on the trails in the altogether. I found myself wondering how they’ve been able to hold onto the property as wildly expensive homes are dotting the surrounding hillsides, but I hope they keep it going, as it has definitely moved near the top of my list in regard to my obsession with naked hiking. Worth the trip, just for that!
Finally, I should also mention that during both of my visits, the place has been pretty chill with a few folks soaking in the hot tub and sunning near the pool. Check out Nick and Lins’s report if you want to get a feel for the place when there’s more going on! As is always the case, timing is everything when it comes to the prevailing atmosphere of a naked place.
Some gallery images are from Google and are believed to be in the public domain. Please advise if otherwise.