Top Ten National Park Campgrounds

Channel Islands National Park, California
  |  Gorp.com

Off the coast of Santa Monica, this offers wilderness island solitude. The Channel Islands occupy such a unique niche in the ecology of the United States that they're sometimes referred to as America's Galapagos. As you'd expect with such a label, the park's diversity of animal and plant life is amazing. More than 2,000 species crowd this small park, and of those 145 can be found nowhere else on earth. The isolation of the eight islands in the chain has played a big role in building that diversity, as has its location at the collision point between the cold, nutrient-rich waters moving south from northern California and warm water moving north from Baja California. For the visitor, this adds up to an unparalleled opportunity to see amazing critters in a transcendent environment. The Channel Islands are the most important nesting grounds for seabirds on the West Coast. Though damaged by decades of cattle and sheep ranching, the islands still sport an impressive array of native plant life. Whales, orcas, and dolphins pass offshore. Tide pools, a vanishing habitat on the mainland, are doing well on Channel Islands. The national park occupies five of the eight islands in the chain, as well as much of its offshore waters. The islands are Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara. Each island has its own character. Anacapa is the entry point, tiny, popular, and closest to shore. Santa Cruz is the largest and most biologically diverse; it is largely owned by the nonprofit The Nature Conservancy. Santa Rosa is the most historically interesting, and the most wide open of the larger islands for those who want to do some independent exploring. San Miguel has (arguably) the best hiking as well as terrific wildlife. Tiny Santa Barbara is the most isolated, a place to go to be alone in a wild, windy ocean.

Five islands. Away from Los Angeles Describe experience.

Campgrounds are open year-round on five of the islands. Specific campsites are assigned upon arrival. Popular activities in the islands include hiking, bird watching, snorkeling, scuba, and swimming.

East Anacopa Island has 7 primitive campsites. Campground capacity is 30 people.

San Miguel Island has 9 campsites located about one mile from the beach landing. Campground capacity is 30 people.

Santa Barbara Island has 8 campsites located 1/2 mile from the dock. Campground capacity is 30 people.

Santa Cruz Island has the largest campground, located about 1/2 mile from the beach, with 40 campsites allowing 4-6 people each.

Santa Rosa Island has 15 campsites in its campground in Water Canyon. Campground capacity is 50 people. There is also seasonal beach camping on Santa Rosa Island for kayakers and boaters, permits are required.

Just the Facts

Route: Glacier to Artist Point on WA 542.

Length: 24 miles (one hour)

Season: Summer to early fall.


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