Overview of Santa Cruz Island- Channel Islands National Park

IMG_0400.JPGChannel Islands National Park has long been on our list of places to visit. Since Louis’s birthday fell on a Friday this year, I made an executive decision to celebrate his birthday by visiting Santa Cruz Island within Channel Islands National Park. Out of the five islands within the National Parks jurisdiction, Santa Cruz island is the most frequently visited island. Ferries to and from the island are available at least once a day.

This post will be followed by a series of other posts detailing the hikes and kayaking activities during our stay at Santa Cruz island.

The Quick and Dirty:
Santa Cruz Island
Duration: 3 days and 2 nights
Island Transportation: We were ferried by Island Packers from Ventura harbor to Santa Cruz Island. Cost for overnight round trip is $79 at the time of booking. It’s important to read the fine print to know arrival an hour before the ferry departure is required because you need to pick up your ferry tickets and drop off your camping gear. A couple of our friends had to take a later boat because they didn’t make it to the ferry on time.
We took the Friday morning 9AM ferry out of Ventura harbor and arrived at Santa Cruz island around 10:30AM. The island dock suffered some major damages during the December/January storm this year and was inoperable during our visit. As a result we had to be transported on land via a small dingy boat. This was very time and labor intensive for the crew members.


Edwin and Alpana getting off the dingy with the Island Packer ferry in the background

Campsites: There are two campsites to choose from on Santa Cruz Island, Scorpion Anchorage (Scorpion) and Del Norte/Prisoner Harbor (Prisoner). The Scorpion campsite is the larger of the two campsites, it is about a half mile walk from the harbor and potable water is available. Prisoner campsite is much smaller, primitive (with no potable water) and it is a 3.5 mile uphill hike from the harbor. We chose to stay at the Scorpion campground during our stay at Santa Cruz island. Reservations can be made at recreation.gov. The lower loop campsites are closer to the dock and upper loop campsites are mainly group sites and are the furthest away. Try to stay clear of the campsites near the pit toilets- they can smell pretty bad depending on the wind direction. Bringing less is always encouraged but there are wheelbarrows provided by Channel Island Outfiters near the dock where you can use to bring your gear to the campsite if you can’t carry it all at once.


Wheelbarrows provided by Channel Island Outfitters near the dock for campers to transport their gear and food.

The walk from the dock to our campsite took about 10 minutes and it was easy to find. The campsites are spacious at Scorpion and is surrounded by  fragrant eucalyptus trees. Be careful pitching your tent right underneath the eucalyptus trees to avoid fallen branches!


Campsite 20 towards the end of the lower loop, the campsites are large in this area and can easily fit 4-5 tents in each spot

Activities: Only about a third of the Santa Cruz Island is within the national park territory, the rest belongs to a private nature preserve and they require visitors to arrange a nature preserve escort if you want to visit the area outside the national park. Sea kayaking and snorkeling are available by Santa Barbara Adventure Company. Group and advance booking discounts are available upon request for sea kayaking- the total cost for kayaking came out to be $110 per person.
Best Time: You can travel to Channel Islands all year-round. Spring is a great time to go because of the mild weather and lush green hills filled with wild flowers.
Dogs Allowed? We had to leave Dakota at home, sadly no dogs allowed at the National Park

See links below on a summary of each hike and sea kayaking:

Potato Harbor Hike

Montañon Ridge Hike

Smuggler’s Cove Hike

Sea Kayaking with Santa Barbara Adventure Company



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