Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park is a group of five islands off the coast of California near Ventura. The national park consists of the islands of Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara. During our visit we spent a day each on Anacapa Island and Santa Cruz Island.

Hiking on Anacapa Island

Getting There

The islands are accessible via commercial boat, private boat, or plane (Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands only). The cruise company Island Packers is the only boating operation affiliated with the national park. We used Island Packers during our visit and really enjoyed both trips we took to the islands.

We’re on a boat

Marine Life Spotting

On both days during our trip across the Santa Barbara Channel, we saw a variety of marine life that inhabits the area. The Island Packers boat crew scans the horizon for sea creatures during the trip to the islands and slows the boat when a sighting is made so that passengers can view the wildlife. During our trips to and from, we saw thousands of Common Dolphin, hundreds of California Sea Lions, a Grey Whale, and a Sunfish. The Dolphin sightings were especially exciting because we came across multiple “Megapods” each consisting of more the 5,000 Common Dolphin.

Dophin megapod on the way to Santa Cruz Island

Anacapa Island

While Anacapa Island is the second smallest within the Channel Island group (737 acres), it certainly does not lack in natural beauty. It is truly every Instagrammers’ dream! Wonderful ocean views, unique rock formations, and inspiring island mountain ranges made our visit majestic. The boat we took to the island was the only one visiting that day so the crew and passengers were the only people on the island.

 Aside from the landing dock and a few buildings, the island is undeveloped and preserved for the plants and wildlife that call it home. This place is truly “for the birds” as approximately 10,000 Western Gulls call this place home.

Google “Look at all those chickens original” if you don’t know what we are talking about!

The island has about 2 miles of hiking trails which we hiked 2 times over during our 4 hour stay. Our favorite point of interest was “Inspiration Point” located on the western end island. This point offers breathtaking views of the rest of the middle and western portions of Anacapa Island and was a great spot to stop for lunch. There was a group that brought a full on picnic and booze to sit by Inspiration Point, we were very much envious and wish we would have done the same!

Inspiration Point on Anacapa Island

Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz is the largest of the five islands at and is also the largest island off the California coast with an area of 61,972 acres. It is mostly undeveloped and more than 50% of the island belongs to a nature conservancy. We landed at Prisoners Harbor in the middle of the northern side of the island.

Hiking Navy Road on Santa Cruz Island

From Prisoners Harbor we hiked up the Navy Road toward the backcountry campground climbing from sea-level to an elevation of 1,250 feet. Throughout the hike we were rewarded with awesome views of the island mountains set in the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. From the campground we hiked back towards the harbor via the Del Norte trail. Our hike totaled about 8 miles and we found it easily doable within the 4 hours allotted before we had to return to the boat. We were the only people that chose this hike so it was nice to have the trail and views to ourselves. During our hike we came across various  wildlife including the Island Scrub Jay and the Island Fox.

Two Island Foxes

Takeaways

Our visit to Channel Islands National Park was a unique experience because we were able to feel like we were on the other side of the world but were only an hour and a half boat ride from the California coast. The amount of wildlife and beautiful landscapes we saw over only a two day span of time makes this place very special indeed. Our only regret is that we did not plan an overnight backpacking trip on one the islands to have more time to experience the island isolation. 

Lupine on Santa Cruz Island

Want more?

For more photos from our visit to Channel Islands National Park, click here!

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