The Crater

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Rating: C

In California, anything is possible, including a crater-like bowl of sand, rimmed by huge dunes, that's just a block from Seaside's Edgewater Mall. Luckily, the nude sunbathers can't be seen by the shoppers.

Unknown, but may be part of the new and as yet undeveloped Fort Ord Dunes State Park.

How to find it:

Take Highway 1 to Seaside (south of Marina and just north of Monterey). Then follow the California Street exit. Park in the mall across the street from the beach. Landmarks include Fremont Boulevard, which dead-ends across from the Crater, and a gas station, which is in front of the Crater. You can't see the Crater from the ocean side of Highway 1, so walk up to what appears to be a giant sand dune, and you will come to it on the other side.

The beach:

A big craterlike depression of sand, surrounded by tall, very wide "walls" of sand. The area is in the middle of five miles of dunes.

The crowd:

Skinny-dippers who sunbathe at the Crater prefer weekdays. Usage is highest in early and late summer and fall. Both suited and nude visitors use the dunes, which remain uncrowded.

Problems:

More clothed visitors reported; unknown legal status; some broken glass on dune closest to Fremont Boulevard.

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