Channel Islands National Park Overview
If you’re looking for a unique outdoor experience in California, look no further than Channel Islands National Park. Located just off the coast of Los Angeles, this stunning park is made up of 5 distinct islands, each offering its own unique beauty and wildlife. To help you plan your perfect adventure, we’ve put together a list of the best hikes in Channel Islands National Park.
While Channel Islands National Park is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, it’s important to plan ahead. Not all of the islands are easy to get to, and some require a permit to visit. Make sure to research the islands you want to visit ahead of time and plan accordingly.
In addition to hiking, kayaking is also a popular activity in the park. Visitors can explore the park’s stunning sea caves and coastal rock formations by kayak, offering a unique perspective of the islands.
|Nearest Metro Area||Los Angeles, CA|
|Area Size||249,561 acres|
|Established||March 5, 1980|
|Hiking Trails||115 miles|
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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Channel Islands National Park
Smuggler’s Cove Trail (Santa Cruz)
Santa Cruz is the largest island of this national park and Smuggler’s Cove is one of the most popular hikes in Channel Islands. The trail climbs steeply to the west side of the island and visitors have the chance to see all of the wildlife and nature that make these islands so great. If you can only do 1 hike on Santa Cruz, make it this trail. The trailhead starts from Scorpion Beach.
- 7.5 miles out and back
- 1400′ elevation gain
Potato Harbor Trail (Santa Cruz)
Reaching Potato Harbor is worth your effort if you have enough time on the island. The magnificent coastal vistas along the way make for one incredible experience. Remember to bring binoculars to spot marine life – whale watching is best from December to mid-April! The trailhead begins at Scorpion Beach.
- 4.5 miles out and back
- 400′ elevation gain
Inspiration Point Trail (Anacapa)
Located on the cliff island of Anacapa, this is the best trail to explore while visiting. The island is split into 3 with East Anacapa being the only section open to visitors. Inspiration Point offers beautiful views of the other islets. The trailhead starts from the Landing Cove. Hike the entire islet in just 2.5 miles.
- 1.5 mile loop
- No elevation gain
Cavern Point Loop (Santa Cruz)
If you don’t have time to make it all the way to Potato Harbor, at least check out this short loop for its beautiful coastal views. This is also a good hike during whale watching season. Go clockwise to avoid a steep climb. The trail starts at Scorpion Beach.
- 2.0 mile loop
- 250′ elevation gain
Cardwell Point Trail (San Miguel)
A permit is required to visit and hike on San Miguel Island and hikers must be accompanied by a park ranger. This hike to the east side is the highlight of the island where you’ll be greeted by a mass horde of seals and sea lions. The trail starts at the Cuyler Harbor Beach.
- 6.0 miles out and back
- 500′ elevation gain
East Point Trail (Santa Rosa)
It takes a good 2-2.5 hour boat ride to get to Santa Rosa Island so you might as well hike this long coastal trail to get the full experience. There are opportunities to explore the beaches and the rare Torrey Pines on the island. A campground can be found about 1.5 miles from the pier as you will likely need to stay overnight if completing this entire trail. The trailhead starts at the pier.
- 15.0 miles out and back
- 700′ elevation gain
Arch Point Trail (Santa Barbara)
Santa Barbara Island has just over 5 miles of trails making it easy to explore the entire island if you’re willing to travel there. Arch Point offers gorgeous views from the rugged cliffs. The trailhead begins from Landing Cove on the east side of the island.
- 1.0 mile out and back
- 200′ elevation gain
Featured Image: Anacapa Island and lighthouse through the clouds, Photo by GPA Photo Archive
Don’t forget to stock up on the essentials before you plan your next hiking or camping trip! We have recommendations on: