Lupin Lodge, the clothing-optional Santa Cruz Mountains retreat, is being put up for sale.
Management told staff and residents of the property the news last week during a community dinner, and as word got out, weekend bookings increased.
“I’m selling it for health reasons, and I want to retire,” said Lori Kay Stout, the owner and CEO, who first arrived on the grounds in 1982. “This is a hard decision to make.”
Following in the footsteps of European nudism trends of the 1920s, Lupin Lodge was established in 1935, long before the personal computer or Silicon Valley, back when you could get to the property by rail. It is the oldest member of the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce,
“We have a huge rich history in Los Gatos and in the naturist community,” Stout said of the site that was once a winery. “We’ve always been the same about being body-positive and letting go of shame and really relating to people in a genuine way—without any pretenses. Because you’re just another body and you don’t have clothes to hide behind.”
The 112-acre property, a place where all manner of forest critters—deer, skunks, birds and turkeys—congregate boasts sources of natural spring water and plenty of privacy, all while being just three-and-a-half miles from downtown Los Gatos.
The campground has a community feel. This week, for example, they’ll show the movie “Elemental” on Friday, while Saturday there’s an evening “Light Catcher” workshop, and on Sunday there’s a pancake breakfast and a guided hike.
Lupin hasn’t officially been listed yet, and things will continue as per usual, for now.
Charles Kuo, Lupin's 46-year-old operations manager, moved in a few years ago. He was working for Fry’s Electronics at the time, but wanted to live in nature.
“I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t an hour down some tiny little road, and then I came across Lupin—which felt like it was so far in the woods, but less than five minutes from the freeway,” he said, adding he wasn’t even a nudist. “That was actually something I was very skeptical about.”
He became acclimatized to the space’s focus on body positivity quite quickly.
“It was nothing abnormal,” he realized.
When Fry’s closed down, Kuo thought he’d do some traveling and then look for another corporate position.
Instead, Stout gave him a job.
“Originally when I came here, I was intending just to stay for the summer,” he said, reflecting on how he appreciates the open, judgment-free atmosphere on the land.
Kuo says he’s hopeful that the next incarnation of Lupin Lodge will be just as positive.
Stout grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family, but learned about nudism as an exchange student in Switzerland.
“You’re just another body, and you don’t have clothes to hide behind,” she said.
When her husband, who’d been in charge of Lupin since 1977, died in 2015, Stout became the sole owner.
“It’s always had interesting and diverse programming from different kinds of music—from bands and dances, to wellness weekends,” she said.
They housed firefighters during the 1985 wildfire and saw 13 buildings on the site destroyed in the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989.
“It was unbelievable,” she said of the quake that busted Highway 17 into pieces. “It was surreal to live through.” Lupin is located near the epicenter of the '89 quake.
As the crowd drawn to the location during the counterculture era has continued to age, Lupin has found ways to attract new members.
“I think what Lupin has done is, we’ve embraced the Burning Man demographics. So, we’ve been able to attract younger people, where being clothes-free is not a big issue for a lot of people,” Stout said. “They definitely are not, in general, card-carrying nudists. First of all, we don’t have any pockets.”
The property saw an uptick in traffic during the pandemic, which management say has continued over the past year.
After a couple visits to the cardiologist, Stout decided it was the right moment to sell.
“I have to deal with 38 agencies that I pay taxes to,” she notes. “It’s time to pass the baton.”