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Channel Islands National Park, CA

We visited the Santa Cruz Island, one of the 5 Islands of Channel Islands National Park.

Since we went on the Memorial day long weekend, the campsite reservation had to be done almost 6-months in advance. Plus Santa Cruz Island is the closest and most popular one for visitors.

We took the ferry from Ventura, CA with Island Packers, also booked well in advance. 

The Scorpion campground is only a quarter mile walk from the pier. Located among the eucalyptus trees,  campground has drinking water, vault toilets (no flush), and trees for hammock (in most campsites). Our campsite was situated with no two trees to tie the hammock. And we envied others enjoying their hammock.

Campsite check-out time is 11AM. If the site you booked was used by someone the prior night, you have to wait till they check out.

So, we took the noon ferry to the Island. It’s an hour long ferry.

Day 1 Hikes:

After setting up the tent, and having lunch, we did the following hikes that start from the campground.

  • Potato Harbor – 5 miles
  • Cavern point – 2 miles – Popular for sunset.

These are fairly easy hikes with initial uphill of may be a mile to reach the top and mostly flat afterwards along the cliff.

Day 2:

After a very leisure breakfast, we started around 11AM on a 8-mile fairly strenuous hike towards Smuggler’s cove. We packed swim clothes as there is a beach access at the end of the hike. 

Spent close to three hours eating lunch, playing at the beach and drying up.

Pack at least 2-3 liters of water on this hike as it gets really hot during the afternoon and there is no water access.

Island Fox are to be found everywhere and they come after food. So, keep an eye out to protect your lunch/snacks.

Some of us attended the ranger talk at 8:30PM that night. Heard the water at pier has bioluminescent algae. 

Day 3: 

We had to check out at 11AM and the ferry back was not until 4PM. So, dropped off the bags at storage lockers near the visitor center and food bags at the bear/fox lockers. 

Hiked the 4-mile Scorpion Canyon loop in the meantime. It took around 2-hours. 

Ferry on the way back was the highlight of the trip, when 100s of dolphins decided to play around near the boat. 

There is no trash collection in the island, so we have to pack out the trash with us. So, plan accordingly. There were lot of camping groups that had roller suitcases / ice coolers etc., since the campsite is fairly easy to access from the ferry. 

And yes, there were lot of kids too. So, this trip is very kids friendly.

Island packers parking lot has enough parking spots for the duration of the trip.

Other Details :

Only Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz have potable water at the campground. Rest of the islands do have campsites, but no water.

Besides hiking, here are the other popular activities:

  • Kayaking to the caves
  • Snorkling 
  • Scuba diving – https://www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/diving.htm