Centered between Ancapa and Santa Rosa Islands, Santa Cruz is California's largest island. Endemic plants flourish alongside the striking mountains, peaks, and canyons; streams and springs swell with marine life. The island's western half is owned and maintained by the Nature Conservancy. Wander the 1.5-mile coast trail, spy bobbing dolphins and whales, or hike up one of the many canyons.

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Expert Review of Western Santa Cruz Island

Parks and Outdoors Review of Western Santa Cruz Island

Away Travel Expert: Ann Marie Brown
expert favorite Parks Expert Favorite
ParksExpert Rating 5.0 out of 5 Recommended for:
Birding,Whale Watching
Parks and OutdoorsExpert Tips & Helpful Hints
  • Although the National Park Service owns and manages most of the Channel Islands, 76 percent of Santa Cruz Island belongs to The Nature Conservancy. The only way to gain access to this part of the island is via a permitted, docent-led hike. These trips travel along a 1.5-mile stretch of the island's northern coastline from Prisoner's Harbor to Pelican Bay.
  • Botanical highlights of the Prisoner's Harbor to Pelican Bay guided hike include a stand of ironwood trees, which grow only on this island and neighboring Santa Rosa Island, and a grove of Santa Cruz Island pines, a type of Bishop pine remaining from the Pleistocene era.
  • A major attraction of visiting western Santa Cruz Island is the chance to see the tiny Santa Cruz Island fox, an endemic species about the size of a house cat that hunts during daylight hours. Birders will seek out the Santa Cruz Island scrub jay, double-crested cormorants, brown pelicans, and black oystercatchers. More than 140 land bird species have been identified here.

Western Santa Cruz Island
The Nature Conservancy

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The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

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