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Cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to do in beautiful places

Channel Islands National Park

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  • Some of the largest islands in California
  • Accessible only via boat or plane
  • Home to many unique plant and animal species

When To Visit: Year-round

Climate: Dry and warm with potential for high winds year-round.

Location: Southern California, 20 miles off the coast of Ventura

Located just outside the Greater Los Angeles region, these five undeveloped islands offer beautiful ocean views and the chance to see species that are found nowhere else on the planet. Choose an island or islands to explore and spend some time in this serene offshore region.

Photo: Santa Cruz Island from Pelican Bay Trail

What To See & Do in the Channel Islands

To access the parks, drive to Island Packers (a private boat company) in Ventura and pay $60-$80 (depending on your island of choice) for a boat ride to the islands. Make a plan for where you’d like to go and check the boat schedule ahead of time.

Channel Islands Hikes

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Santa Cruz Island from Pelican Bay Trail

All of the islands have great trails to explore. Here are my top picks for Channel Islands hikes:

  1. Pelican Bay Trail, Santa Cruz Island
    • 4 miles round trip, out & back, 2-3 hours, easy to moderately strenuous, 700 foot elevation gain
    • Available only as a guided hike, check schedule with Island Packers ahead of time
    • Takes you out of national park land into part of the island controlled by the Nature Conservancy
    • Great ocean and island views and opportunities to scrub jays and island foxes, two of the islands’ species found nowhere else on earth
  2. Lobo Canyon Trail, Santa Rosa Island
    • 9 miles round trip, out & back, 4-5 hours, strenuous
    • A diversity of unique plants and rock formations in a quiet canyon
    • Stunning sandstone cliffs that have been formed by water
  3. East Anacapa Island Loop Trail
    • 2.4 mile loop, 1-2 hours, easy, 400 foot elevation gain
    • Pass coves, cliffs, and a historic lighthouse
    • Great overlooks of Anacapa Island
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Santa Cruz Island

Channel Islands Water Activities

Itching to get in the water? You can sea kayak, snorkel, or dive on the islands – rentals are available on the mainland. There are also several available whale watching tours in the area.

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Kayaking at Anacapa Island

Where To Stay & Eat in the Channel Islands

There are no food services or lodging in the park, so come prepared with food or purchase some at the Island Packers dock or on the boat.

Each of the park’s islands has a campground – there are boats scheduled specifically for overnight visitors.

There are countless dining and lodging options in the Ventura and Oxnard areas.

Nearby Side Trips from the Channel Islands

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Venice Canals in LA

Los Angeles: An hour south, the largest city in the West is so much more than the entertainment capital of the world. Explore its plethora of neighborhoods and find hidden treasures like the tucked away canals of Venice and the secret stairs of Silver Lake. Read more.

Santa Catalina Island – While not easy to access directly from the Channel Islands, this is Southern California’s most popular island to visit. Drive a bit over an hour south from Ventura to Long Beach to catch a boat to Catalina, which is more developed than the Channel Islands and has a town with lodging and food options. Plan a birthday trip – you get a free ride to the island on your special day!

 

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