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Hiking & Camping Santa Cruz Island

It’s that time of year, where hikes turn into overnights and earlier this month, I made the trip to do an overnight at Santa Cruz Island, which had long been on my bucket list. Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the Channel Islands National Park. If you are making plans to visit, I highly suggest perhaps looking into camping in one of the three campgrounds located on the islands. To arrive at the islands, you can take the Island Packers boat from the harbor in Ventura. The boat ride is one hour and there are specific limitations to what and how much you can bring with you on the island, which is all spelled out here, on the Island Packers website.

I booked my campsite for the evening of July 4th, and not much was available besides group camping (up to 15 people per spot) which is a smaller, but more spread out campsite located in the back of Scorpion Anchorage Canyon. In fact, I prefer this spot to the other Scorpion campground because it is closer to the main trailhead and also has running (drinkable) water as well as dual bathrooms on site. There is also multiple ‘Fox Boxes’ which will keep the adorable, yet savage foxes that are exclusive to Santa Cruz out of your food supply! Each campsite also has a picnic table and ample shade. The other campgrounds on the island are Prisoners and Del Norte.

From my campground, I has easy access to the trail which leads up to all the beautiful coves as well as the very popular viewpoint, Potato Harbor. Other top viewpoints along the trail include Cavern Point and Smugglers Cove. While there is a lot more island to explore, than I had time for, these were the three hikes I did during my two day and one night trip. I certainly plan to return and camp at Prisoners Harbor which includes close access to the one mountain on the island, Mt Diablo (2,450 ft) as well as make time for the kayaking around the many island caves on the island, book this in advance, as we waited too long and did not get to partake.

Another piece of information worth having is knowing that the main dock on Scorpion is damaged, which means all persons and bags must be transported from the bay to land via skiffing. This adds quite a bit of waiting and travel time and I soon hope to see the dock get fixed so the experience is that much more convenient and enjoyable.

For more information on hiking the islands, visit


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