Channel Islands National Park Travel Guide

  • Channel Islands National Park
    by Jim_Eliason
  • Channel Islands National Park
    by Jim_Eliason
  • Channel Islands National Park
    by Jim_Eliason

Channel Islands National Park Things to Do

  • Visitors Center

    The main visitor's center is at the Ventura harbor. There is a smaller visitor center on Santa Cruz Island

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  • kayaking

    The Channel Islands are a prime kayaking spot. Many companies offer tours with equipment provided or you can have a personal kayak brought over for a fee.

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  • Wildlife

    The channel Islands are known as the Galagapos of America for its quantity of unique species, including the Channel Island Fox

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  • Hiking

    The islands have many scenic hiking trails ranging from a few mile easy hikes to multi day cross island hikes.

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  • Kayaking

    Orignally we were going to do the guided tour of the sea caves. But since we were flying on a pass and didn't know exactly when we would get in, I hesitated to make a reservation in advance because there were no refunds. By the time I landed in Los Angelos (it took us four flights to get there from Miami), there were no spots left to do the guided...

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  • Observation Tower

    Just outside the visitors center is a flight of stairs leading up to an observation tower where you can look out over the harbor and on a clear day, get a view of the islands. There are telescopes there too for a better view.

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  • Visitors Center Museum

    Inside the visitors center in Ventura there is a nice little museum with displays about the islands and the plants and animals that live there. There is also a tide pool with living animals, relief maps and photos of the islands, and information on the history of the area.

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  • Start at the Visitors Center

    Start your visit at the visitors center located in Ventura near the harbor. Here you can visit a small museum and get maps of the park, informative brochures and ask the rangers any questions you may have. There are also visitors centers, on Anacapa and Santa Barbara Islands. Hours for the visitors center in Ventura are: 8:30 AM to 5 PM daily...

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  • Island exploration at Anacapa

    What to do while you're on the island: Swim, snorkel, hike, camp, watch wildlife, kayak the sea caves that line the base of the island.

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  • Anacapa Island Tour

    A boat ride out 11 miles or so to Anacapa Island can be a lot of fun but only if the channel is calm. Pick a calm day and head over to the island where you will spend the day hiking and taking pictures.Make sure you bring a lunch and plenty of water as there are no concessions there. What you pack in is what you pack out. Take all trash with you. A...

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  • The mainland visitor's center

    The visitor center on the mainland is located in Ventura by the harbor. Included in the island exhibits are wildlife displays, and a tidepool with live sea creatures. There are also relief maps, photos, & the history of the islands. There is a gift shop & book store. On clear days you can see the islands from the observation tower.There are 2 more...

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  • Take A hike!

    I'm not much of a hiker.. but for some reason, I really enjoyed the trails here. The views were absolutely spectacular! If you have the energy, take a hike. It is definately worth it! There is a map infront of the campground and I think one right by the pier too. There are a few trails that you can hike and one of them is rather long.. I wanted to...

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Channel Islands National Park Restaurants

  • There are none...

    The islands are virtually uninhabited except for a few Park Service Rangers and campers (mostly Santa Cruz). For day tripping, bring your own lunch & drinks. There are no concessions on the islands. On the afternoon run back to the mainland, a couple of the Island Packers boats do have grilles and sell burgers, snack, drinks & beer.

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  • See these macho guns... those did the...

    AH... cookin' in the great outdoors... no restaurants here unless you count yourself. here is a suggestion and I believe a darn good one... don't plan complicated meals. you have to carry everything in and out of the island, so try to make it as simple as possible...we brought stuff like spaghetti, and velveeta mac and cheese (just need water to...

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  • Channel Islands National Park Hotels

    0 Hotels in Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park Transportation

  • Getting to the Islands

    A couple of companies offer either ferry service to the Island or day tours of the islands by boat. I sued a company Island packers that operate out of Ventura harbor and offer 2 dailly departures to Santa Cruz Island. Other Island services are less frequent. Dolphins and Whales are frequently seen on the way.

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  • Island Packers: Whale Watching

    Island Packers also offers boat trips December through March to see Pacific Gray Whales and June through September to see Blue Whales and Humpback Whales. The brochure I have did not give prices. Check the website for current prices.

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  • Island Packers

    If you don't have your own boat (I don't) you will need to arrange transportation to the islands. One place to do this is through Island Packers. They offer a variety of excursions to the islands throughout the year. Most of the trips are limited in season, so check when the trip you want is available. These trips can fill up quickly, especially on...

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Channel Islands National Park Warnings and Dangers

  • annk's Profile Photo
    smooth sailing Santa Cruz Island

    by annk Updated Oct 25, 2003

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    but on occassion there are rough seas. I've been to Santa Cruz & Anacapa a number of times and have only experienced one rough crossing with waves crashing over the side of the boat.

    It is advisable to call the morning of departure in case conditions are too rough and the trip is cancelled. Even when they cancel which is rare, Island Packers will cruise to the islands to pick up campers so they are not stranded.

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Beaches

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Channel Islands National Park Tourist Traps

  • annk's Profile Photo
    kayaking Santa Cruz

    by annk Updated Oct 25, 2003

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    There are many kayaking outfits that offer trips to the islands. Always ask how many kayakers there are per guide. I've seen some very large groups of 20-25. With that many people you cannot go too far especially when everyone must wait for the whole group to to go in and out of sea caves, etc. And also, the group can only go as fast as the slowest kayaker.

    Our group was small, just the 3 of us and a guide.

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Channel Islands National Park What to Pack

  • Wear Sunscreen

    Backpack. Be prepared to carry your gear up 156 steps from the pier, then walk 1/2 mile to the campsite Layers. Hot during the day, cool and breezy at night. Hat. Wetsuit if you plan to snorkel or go for a swim in the 60+degrees temp. waters surrounding the island. Bring ample amounts of sunscreen. Shade is very limited to non-existent. Bring...

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  • Packing List

    Weather can be unpredictable so be prepared for cool temperatures, fog, wind, sea spray and an occasional wet landing.Dress in layers, short and long pants, waterproof outer clothing, warm jacket, sturdy hiking shoes. Also bring sunscreen, sunglasses. Definitely take a camera, there are many photo opportunities. When kayaking or spending time at...

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Channel Islands National Park Off The Beaten Path

  • raraavis's Profile Photo

    by raraavis Written Oct 26, 2005

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    Painted Cave is in Santa Cruz Island. One of the five islands in Channel Island National Park. Santa Cruz Island has some of the world's largest and deepest sea caves in the world. In the largest, known as Painted Cave because of its colorful rock types, lichens, and algae, the entrance ceiling rises upward to 160 feet. Nearly a quarter mile long and 100 feet wide, with a waterfall over its entrance in the spring. The cave can only be explored with kayaks and dingys. Sealions and seals live in the cave. When you turn on your flashlight, you just might see a pair of eyes staring at you, following by loud barking. Be good to the animals because we are the intruders.

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Channel Islands National Park Sports & Outdoors

  • Hiking Prisoners Harbor

    Landings on Santa Cruz Island are at 2 locations - Scorpion Harbor (the most frequent & popular) and Prisoners Harbor. Land ownership at Prisoners is divided between the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy. Entering Nature Conservancy property is by permission only by naturalist led hikes. I joined one of the 5 mile hikes and found it...

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  • Nature Walks & Hiking

    The are a lot of opportunites for leisurely walks up to difficult hikes on the islands. You can venture on your own or join a Ranger guided nature walk/hike.Anacapa -There are 1 1/2 miles of nature trails with spectacular views.Santa Cruz -There is a more extensive trail system here. Trails range from easy 1/2 mile to strenuous 7 mile hikes. Lots...

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  • A Kayakers paradise

    You won't find white water and fast running rivers, but the rocky coasts, clear waters, plentiful wildlife and hundreds of sea caves will surely appeal to even the most experienced kayaker.Kayaks can be rented from a number of outfits on the mainland. Or you may bring your own. Reservations must be made in advance with both the rental outfit and...

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Channel Islands National Park Favorites

  • Channel Islands National Park

    Channel Islands National Park consists of a visitors center on the mainland in Ventura and 5 islands. Four of the islands: Anacapa; Santa Cruz; Santa Rosa; and San Miguel are situated close together and the fifth; Santa Barbara is off by itself. The visitors center is designed to blend in with the other buildings at Ventura Marina and has some...

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  • An overview.........

    Anacapa - The closest of the islands, takes approximately 1 hour to cross the channel. Half (non-landing) and full day trips daily. Anacapa is known for its lighthouse, sea caves & kayaking, scuba diving, & short nature walks.Santa Cruz - The largest of the Channel Islands, trips are made daily. Known for it's varied terrain, excellent hiking, sea...

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  • Flora

    There are 775 species of plants and about 10% are indigenous to the islands. Many are found on the mainland and some that were once prevalent can only survive on the islands now. I'm sure development and pollution play a major role.Pictured is a species of monkey-flower only found on the islands. I do not remember the exact name.

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