Channel Islands National Park Hiking Overview
Hiking in the Channel Islands National Park, California
Hiking in the Channel Islands National Park, California (courtesy, Fred Hsu/Flickr)

There are few places left in California where a hiker can make a total escape from humanity within a few steps of a trailhead. On these islands, you're more likely to come across a sunbathing harbor seal than another wandering human. Here are some recommendations:

The Islands' Best Hikes...


Inspiration Point Trail, 1.5 miles
With only two miles of hiking trails in all, East Anacapa is often overlooked by hikers. But this easy walk from the Landing Cove to an overlook has some of the finest views in the chain. It's best seen in the springtime when the native flowers are in bloom.

Santa Cruz

Cavern Point, 2 miles
During gray whale season, this coastal hike is the best place to spot spouts from the Channel Islands' largest isle. Since it starts at Scorpion Beach, it's an excellent choice if you're staying at the campground.

San Pedro Point, 4 miles
From the historic ranch at Smugglers Cove, you'll walk off-trail through tall grasses to the island's easternmost point. The only thing between you and the mainland is tiny Anacapa Island, which rises from the Pacific mist like a mirage.

Chinese Harbor, 14.4 miles
Ever wonder what mainland California looked like before civilization set in? This a great way to find out. The long walk from Prisoners Harbor, which marks the west boundary of the government-owned side of the island, takes you to the only beach that can be accessed by land.

Santa Rosa

Water Canyon Beach, 2 miles
If there's any place more suited to island castaway fantasies than this pristine white-sand beach, we don't know it. It's a short walk from the pier or the campground. Enjoy it on a weekday, when visitors are at a minimum and the wind is low.

Lobo Canyon, 13 miles
This walk into a canyon between tall sandstone cliffs follows a year-round stream for a while before opening up to a beautiful bay. One of the more interesting hikes on the island, it offers a diverse sampling of the different landscapes.

San Miguel

Lester Ranch, 2 miles
At the end of any reasonably wet winter, waterfalls spill down the canyon walls on the way up to the overlook above this historic ranch site. Be prepared for a short, steep scramble to the top of the trail.

Point Bennett, 16 miles
There are 30,000 reasons to hike this strenuous trail through the caliche forest to the west edge of the island: That's roughly the number of sea lions and seals living at the end. All hikers must be accompanied by a ranger.

Santa Barbara

Elephant Seal Cove, 5 miles
From the Landing Cove, you'll climb the 562-foot North Peak (hardly worth calling a peak) before making your way down to a cliff-top lookout above an elephant seal colony. The cliffs are impressively steep—watch your step.

Getting There

Boat Transportation from Ventura/Channel Islands Harbor:
Island Packers: 805-642-7688,

Boat Transportation from Santa Barbara:
Truth Aquatics, 805-963-3564,

Air Transportation from Camarillo Airport:
Channel Islands Aviation: 805-987-1301,


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