Channel Islands National Park is unique in many ways. Situated along the cost of Southern California near Ventura, this park has a wide range of flora and fauna, some of which are found only on this island. The Channel Islands are home to over 2,000 plants and animals, of which 145 are found nowhere else in the world including the Island Fox. It comprises of 5 islands right off the Ventura coast: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara. It also offers a wide range of activities to participate in, ranging from hiking, camping, kayaking, scuba diving to sea cave exploration, photography and much more. Only way to reach the Channel Islands is to book a ferry from Ventura or Oxnard through the website https://islandpackers.com/.
We thought it would be really difficult to get any open slots to the channel islands as we were a little late on our plans but looks like if you are planning 3 weeks in advance, it should be good enough to get you a ticket to one of the islands. If you have a specific island in mind, booking 4-5 weeks in advance is recommended. We got tickets to the Santa Cruz Island, this is the easiest island to get to, has the best weather, and offers the most recreational activities. Santa Cruz Island Hiking Map and Guide. We did a guided hike from Prisoners Harbor to Pelican Bay, which is a 4-mile round trip with moderate difficulty.
Getting to the Santa Cruz island takes some time, we boarded the ferry around 9:15 and it took us about 2 hours to reach Prisoners Harbor. Ferry ride to the island is scenic in itself, at one point, all you can see around you is the ocean which reminded me of the wave scene from the movie Inception, where they are surrounded by sea from all sides.
We had about 4 hours on the island to complete the hike to Pelican Bay. The hike itself was absolutely beautiful, with a lot of viewpoints of the bay and the Pacific. Our tour guide did an amazing job informing the group about the different plants and wildlife, including but not limited to the different pine trees, fennel plants and Blue Jays. Probably as it was a daytime hike and a lot of us going together, we did not get a lucky sight of the cute islandic foxes that also live there. This hike is a paradise for bird watchers as well, as there are some variety of birds which are only found on Channel Islands and you can easily spot them during the hike. The hike takes you through a forest on a trail along the coast, with a lot of amazing view points and finally leads down, ending at a beach cove in the Pelican Bay. It took us around 90-100 mins to reach the beach, where we spent some time soaking up the beauty of Pelican Bay and started back for the harbor to make it in good time for the return ferry. We would have hiked for about 5 miles during our day on the island but we thoroughly enjoyed every single second.
Here are a few things that may help you:
- Carry tissue paper, wet wipes and hand sanitizer because they’ll come in handy for any food or drink breaks or just to freshen up.
- Be mindful that the only restrooms on the island are inside an outhouse at the start.
- Wear layers, the ride on the boat was chilly but the day warmed by the afternoon on the island.
- Bring enough food and water for the day. We brought healthy snack packets and bottles of coconut water and it was perfect.
- Bring a trash bag, you will carry out your trash with you. Keep this in mind when you pack your food choices.
- Look over the trail map and make a plan for the day, ahead of time, when you first arrive. The ranger will brief you on some good options when you first get off of the ferry too.
- You MUST secure your belongings.
- Consider bringing a blanket to sit on. If you finish the hike sooner, might just get to do a quick picnic at the Pelican Bay beach.
- Take a ton of pictures- the beauty will leave you in awe.