Posted by: GeekHiker | August 3, 2008

Santa Cruz Island – Introduction

Santa Cruz Island is so, well, different from my normal hiking grounds (i.e. the Santa Monicas and the Angeles National Forest) I thought it deserved a little introduction all of it’s own.

Santa Cruz Island (cropped from public-domain NASA image here)

Sitting only twenty miles off the coast of Ventura & Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz is the largest of the eight islands that make up the Channel Islands of California. Five of the islands, including Santa Cruz, make up Channel Islands National Park; Santa Catalina is a mixture of private and public use (with the only major settlement on the islands); the remaining two are Naval installations.

76% of Santa Cruz Island itself is owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy, making it the largest privately owned island in the U.S.

Stepping onto Santa Cruz island is like stepping back in time to how California looked a couple of centuries ago. The island has been inhabited variously for at least 9,000 years, and boasts its own unique ecosystem, with some flora and fauna that exist nowhere else. Despite a long history of ranching and farming, efforts are now underway to restore the island to its natural state.

Today the 24% of the island managed by the National Park Service is available for both day use and overnight stays. Day hikes, departing from Scorpion Beach, circle onto the bluffs above the canyon as well as out to Smugglers Cove. Kayaks can also be brought to the island to explore the coast, though some of the many sea caves are closed to protect wildlife.

Camping is available at Scorpion Campground with pumped water. Food must be carefully stored to prevent the rodents and the island foxes from taking it. (The foxes, rescued from near the brink of extinction, can be quite brazen, showing little or no fear of people unless threatened. On one occasion, while a camper was in his tent, the foxes were sniffing around his table only 8 feet away in broad daylight!) No fires are allowed anywhere on the island due to the high fire danger and lack of firefighting protection; camp stoves are allowed.

It is highly recommended that camping reservations be made before transportation is arranged.

Of course, the only way to get to the island is by boat. The most popular service for residents of Los Angeles and Ventura is Island Packers. Rates vary depending on whether the trip is for the day or overnight and island of destination. Island Packers will take out all camp gear (as well as chairs, grills, ice chests, kayaks, and a whole manner of other stuff I saw brought out). Water and fuel must be separated from all other camp gear on the boat. Each piece of baggage or camp gear must weigh less than 45lbs; you’ll find out why when you get to the dock on the island. *grin*

And now, on to the hiking…


Wikipedia page for Santa Cruz Island:

NPS page for Channel Islands National Park:
The visitor center for Channel Islands National Park is located at 1901 Spinnaker Drive, just past the Island Packers dock at the end of the road. See below for directions.

Island Packers:
Directions to Island Packers: For the main dock in Ventura Harbor (they operate a satellite location at Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard), take the 101 north from Los Angeles. Exit at Victoria Avenue in Ventura, turning left (south). Drive approximately 1/2 mile and turn right at Olivas Park Drive, following the posted signs for Channel Islands National Park. After about 1.75 miles, Olivas Park will become Spinnaker Drive when you cross Harbor Blvd and enter the Harbor itself. Follow Spinnaker Drive 1/2 mile to Island Packers address at 1691 Spinnaker Drive, Ste. 105b.



  1. I went to Santa Cruz once. The Wife and I chaperoned a group from her school. We stayed at a house run by the Nature Conservancy. We ended up doing only one short hike to some waterfalls/pools. It was pretty cool.

  2. I very much want to visit Santa Cruz Island now. You said the two magic words: hiking and kayaking. Also how amazing would it be to spend time in such an isolated ecosystem? Well, I suppose you know this, seeing as you’re posting about it. But seriously, I am now very disapointed I don’t have the money to take a weekend and go explore.

  3. Homer-Dog – Nice! I hear they have a pretty sweet setup on that side of the island they use to woo high-roller-donors, including catering and a pool!

    Rachael – Someday, someday. You have plenty of time…

  4. […] posted a short intro to the main island, as well as two trail write-ups chock full of beautiful pictures that’ll make you want to hop […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: