Encompassing a group of rugged and beautiful islands off the coast of Southern California, Channel Islands National Park is certainly worth visiting. However, due to their remote nature and lack of available park services, visiting the Channel Islands poses some significant safety threats you’ll want to make note of before embarking on your trip.
Weather conditions can change rapidly and without warning, so make sure to wear appropriate footwear and dress in layers to protect yourself appropriately from the elements.
You’re likely to encounter a fair amount of wildlife on your trip to Channel Islands National Park, and it’s important to keep your distance when you do. Do not approach whales, seals, and sea lions and avoid coming into contact with any wild animals on land, like mice, birds, etc. for both their safety and yours. Be sure to check frequently for ticks and look out for dangerous flora, like poison oak and cacti.
Emergency services are limited due to the remoteness of the islands. There are no places to purchase supplies on the islands, meaning that all food, water, sunscreen, and anything else you might need during your trip will need to be brought with you from the mainland.
Rough terrain means that stairs, railings, and ladders will be slippery when wet and it’s important to stay back from crumbling cliff edges which could be hazardous.
Channel Islands National Park is situated within the heart of a tsunami hazard zone. In case of an earthquake, seek higher ground and move as far inland as possible.
Located off the coast of Southern California, Channel Islands National Park encompasses five of the eight islands in the chain of Channel Islands. These islands are Anacapa Island, Santa Barbara Island, Santa Cruz Island, San Miguel Island and Santa Rosa Island. There’s lots to do in these gorgeous islands, from sea kayaking to diving to hiking and more.
Hiking: Anacapa Island is arguably the most beautiful of the Channel Islands and offers breathtaking views. Though there are only two miles of hiking trails on the island, it’s worth it to spend a day hiking and taking in the scenic panoramas.
Wildlife Viewing: An ideal place for wildlife viewing, Anacapa Island has an abundance of seabirds, seals and sea lions, and vibrant marine life.
Watersports: A wonderful island for watersports, visitors can enjoy diving, swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking at Landing Cove. The area is characterized by sea caves, arches, and crystal clear waters, which are perfect for viewing the abundance of marine life.
Santa Barbara Island
Hiking: After braving the steep trail from Landing Cove, the rest of the island’s hiking opportunities are much easier and offer stunning views. Be sure to stay on the marked trails, as no off-trail hiking is allowed.
Wildlife Viewing: Another great island for wildlife viewing, prepare to see seabirds, seals and sea lions, and beautiful wildflowers.
Watersports: The only accessible beach on Santa Barbara Island is located at Landing Cove, where there is no lifeguard. However, this is still a great place for swimming, snorkeling, diving, and kayaking.
Santa Cruz Island
Hiking: One of the best Channel Islands for hiking, both the Scorpion Valley and the Montañon area offer vastly different and unique hiking opportunities worth exploring.
Wildlife Viewing: Though many seabirds inhabit this island, most visitors come to view the island scrub-jay, which isn’t found anywhere else in the world. You may also encounter island foxes here.
Watersports: A fantastic location for swimming, kayaking, snorkeling and diving, Santa Cruz Island’s Scorpion Beach is incredibly scenic and offers easy access to the water.
San Miguel Island
Point Bennet: This area is an excellent place to view northern elephant seals, California sea lions, northern fur seals and harbor seals in their natural environment. Because most of this island is closed to visitors to protect wildlife and the island’s habitat, you can only access this area with a ranger or guide via hiking.
Caliche Forest: Another spot on the island that must be visited with a ranger or guide, the Caliche Forest, a fascinating area of petrified tree stumps, can be reached via a five-mile round trip hike.
Cuyler Harbor Beach, the Cabrillo Monument, the Lester Ranch Site: These three sites on San Miguel Island can be explored on your own; it is not required that you visit with a guide. Access these points via the Nidever Canyon trail.
Santa Rosa Island
Hiking: There are some great hiking trails on Santa Rosa Island, namely the trail to Water Canyon Beach, and the rugged hike to Black Mountain.
Beaches: This island is known for white sandy beaches, with Water Canyon Beach as its most popular. It can get very windy here which is great for surfers, but other watersports like kayaking and diving are limited.
Fishing: Santa Rosa Island provides great fishing opportunities. However, you’ll need a California state fishing license and cannot fish within the three marine reserves.