Your Ultimate Guide To Channel Islands National Park Day Trip

Channel_Islands_National_Park_Day_Trip

Planning a Channel Islands National Park Day Trip?

Well, then we got you covered! We put together a guide on what to expect and what to do while visiting Channel Islands National Park.

So without further ado, let’s get started!

Overview:

Where is Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park Day Trip

For those that don’t know Channel Islands National Park is located off the coast of Southern California near the city of Ventura.

This National Park is made up of 5 different islands:

  • Anacapa
  • Santa Cruz
  • Santa Rosa
  • San Miguel
  • Santa Barbara

All five of these islands are home to tons of hiking trails with incredible views, native plants, and animals, as well as historic sites.

How to get to Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park Day Trip Boat Transportation

If you’re planning of visiting Channel Islands National Park there are a few things you should know when getting there.

First and foremost, the only way to get to any of the islands is by boat or plane.

The only boat company that offers transport to the islands is Island Packers.

They are the official concessionaire of Channel Islands National Park and have been taking visitors out to the islands since 1968!

Island Packers offers daily departures from Ventura Harbor and Oxnard Shores year-round.

Their boats are equipped with restrooms, a snack bar, and ample seating both inside and out.

On the other hand, Channel Islands Aviation is the only airline company that offers regularly scheduled flights to Channel Islands National Park.

They offer daily flights from Camarillo Airport to both Santa Rosa Island and Santa Cruz Island.

11 Things to Know Before Visiting Channel Islands National Park

Before you do a Channel Islands National Park Day Trip there are a few things you should know.

1. Bring Comfortable Shoes

While walking through Channel Islands National Park you will be doing a lot of, you guessed it, walking!

All of the islands here at this national park have no concrete roads or pathways. You will mostly be walking through a lot of dirt trails.

Your shoes may be dirty and you will be walking on uneven surfaces at times.

It’s recommended to pack a pair of comfortable hiking shoes or sneakers.

Sandals are not recommended unless they are specifically hiking sandals.

2. Don’t Forget Sunscreen, Hat, and Sunglasses

There are not many trees here that provide shade here on all the islands and if you plan on coming during summertime expect sun and warm weather.

In other words, don’t forget your hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.

The last thing you want to deal with is getting sunburnt!

A hat will protect your head from the sun and sunglasses will keep your eyes safe.

P.S. Just don’t forget to keep reapplying sunscreen every few hours!

3. Pack Plenty of Water and Snacks

Unfortunately, there are no restaurants, hotels, or stores on any Channel Islands.

So, if you’re planning on spending the day here you will need to make sure you pack enough food and water for yourself or anyone else coming with you.

We recommend packing snacks and lunch, as well as at least 2-3 water bottles per person.

It’s also a good idea to pack more food and water than you think you’ll need just in case.

But remember do pack light, but don’t forget the essentials.

Since you will be carrying all of these items.

Make sure to bring a backpack that’s comfortable and built to store your food in.

Furthermore, if you take the Channel Islands National Park Day Trip know that this park has a policy of no trash left behind.

This means you will need to take all of your food and water wrappers/bottles with you when you leave.

There are no trash cans on any of the islands.

4. No Cell Service or Wifi

There are no cell phone towers in Channel Islands National Park.

This means that depending on your phone service you may or not have cell service on the islands.

My phone plan is Visible and when I was there in August I was able to get service, however, it was spotty.

In certain parts of Anacapa Island when I was hiking I had none!

5. You Can Swim, but at your own Discretion

When I did a Channel Islands National Park Day Trip with my friend I was surprised to know that you could actually go swimming here!

Anacapa Island is the only island where swimming is allowed.

Where Island Packers picks up and drops you off at the front of the island is the only place where you are allowed to swim.

Understand though that there are no lifeguard stations or lifeguards on duty here.

You are swimming at your own risk.

When I went swimming here there were other several other people with me.

I also was swimming during the day around noon time.

Precautions:

  • Don’t swim at night – only during the day
  • There are many rocks around the entrance of Anacapa Island – don’t swim near this area
  • Stay away from the caves
  • Watch out for the incoming Island Packers boat –
  • Don’t stray far from the Anacapa entrance
  • Don’t swim alone – swim with others

6. Pets aren’t allowed only service animals

Channel Islands National Park Day Trip sign

If you love hiking with your furry pet know that Channel Islands National Park does not allow pets on any of its islands.

The only exception to this rule is service animals.

This is due in part to keeping the protection of the wildlife in Channel Islands National Park.

All service animals will have to show proof of vaccination.

And for those visiting Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, and San Miguel Island expect your service animal to undergo a health exam within 14 prior to visiting the island.

This is due to the protection of the Island fox that is endangered.

7. There are restrooms

If you plan on taking a Channel Island National Park Day Trip rest assured there are restrooms on all islands here.

The only downfall is that they are pit toilets.

Meaning there are no flush toilets.

And also there are no sinks to wash your hands only portable sinks with water and soap.

8. Channel Island National Park Entrance is Free

If you’re wondering how much it costs to get to Channel Islands National Park then you’ll be pleased to know that it is free!

However, in order to get onto the island, you will have to pay either by boat (Island Packers Company) or plane (Channel Islands Aviation).

The cost will vary depending on what service you decide to use at the end.

Most people arrive on the island by boat.

9. Camping Available, but Permit Required

Channel Islands National Park offers camping on all 5 islands.

If you’re planning to do an overnight Channel Island trip you will need a permit.

These permits are available online and must be obtained ahead of time before visiting Channel Islands National Park.

There is a $15 per night site fee that helps support the maintenance of the campgrounds.

Each island has one established campground, however, Santa Cruz Island and Santa Rosa Island offer backcountry camping.

Which is camping in more remote areas.

There are also different rules for backcountry camping too so again make sure to visit the Channel Islands National Park homepage to learn more before you plan your Channel Island National Park Day Trip.

Both Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands also require a special permit for backcountry camping.

10. Check Weather Forecast

If you’re planning a Channel Islands National Park Day Trip do check the weather beforehand.

Channel Islands National Park is located off the coast of Southern California.

And although, California for the most part is sunny and beautiful Channel Islands National Park can have its share of bad weather too.

Channel Islands National Park is also located in a marine-layer climate.

What this means is that the islands are often shrouded in low-hanging clouds or fog.

Island Packers boat service can also cancel transportation due to weather conditions at times.

So definitely make sure to check the Channel Islands National Park weather forecast before you go!

11. Reserve Ahead of Time

Believe it or not, Channel Islands National Park has grown throughout the years in popularity.

Many families and friends are now planning Channel Islands National Park Day Trips.

So with that said, if you’re wanting to camp or hike make sure to reserve your spot ahead of time!

Channel Islands National Park works on a first-come-first-serve basis.

So the sooner you make your reservations the better, especially during the peak season which is Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Best Channel Island to Visit for Day Trip

Channel Islands with birds

You may be wondering then what is the best Channel Island worth visiting for the day?

After all, 5 islands are a lot to choose from and you may only have limited time.

To be honest, there’s really no right answer here when it comes to the best Channel Island to visit.

It all depends on what you’re looking for and what type of activities you want to do.

That being said most people who do a Channel Islands National Park Day Trip choose to visit Anacapa Island or Santa Cruz Island.

Anacapa Island is the smallest and most popular island to visit.

It’s closest to the mainland and takes about an hour to reach by boat.

Anacapa is also home to many seabirds, harbor seals, and sea lions.

The island has 2 different trails you can hike – the West End Overlook Trail which is a 0.5-mile loop that leads you to spectacular views of the island.

And the Anacapa Lighthouse Trail is a 1-mile loop that takes you to see the historic Anacapa Lighthouse.

In addition, you can go swimming here and camp overnight with a permit.

On the other hand, Santa Cruz Island is a popular place for kayaking.

Channel Islands Adventure Company is the only place you can sign up to do kayaking or snorkeling tours here.

But if you’re more of a hiker type then rest assured Santa Cruz Island has plenty of hiking trails for you to explore too.

There are many different hiking trails that each offer different difficulty levels and views.

Some of the most popular trails include:

  • Pelican Bay Trail
  • Smugglers Cove Trail
  • Cavern Point Loop Trail
  • Potato Harbor Trail

Pelican Bay is a good introductory trail.

It’s only 0.5 miles and takes you through the island’s history, native plants, and birdwatching.

If you want more of a challenge then the Smugglers Cove Trail is for you.

This 2.5-mile trail is considered moderate to difficult and takes about 3-4 hours to complete.

The Cavern Point Loop Trail is another great option that leads to amazing views of the island’s cliffs and caves.

F.A.Q.s

Channel Islands Trip Hiking

Can you do a Day Trip to Channel Islands National Park?


Yes, you can plan a Channel Islands National Park Day Trip! If you start off in the morning then by boat, it will take about an hour to reach the island.

Which gives you plenty of time to explore one island and participate in some of the activities Channel Islands National Park has to offer such as hiking, kayaking, and birdwatching.

In my experience exploring 1 island a day was just the right amount.

2 islands in 1 day would have been too rushed and you wouldn’t get to enjoy each island fully.

Channel Islands National Park is best enjoyed at a slow pace so you can take in all the natural beauty around you.

How Long do you Need at Channel Islands National Park?

If you’re traveling alone or with friends who enjoy camping then staying more than one day at Channel Islands National Park is recommended if you want to experience more of nature.

However, one day per island is sufficient if you just want to do a Channel Islands National Park Day Trip.

This gives you enough time as previously mentioned to do some of the popular activities on each island.

And if you’re short on time then I would recommend visiting Anacapa Island or Santa Cruz Island as they are the closest to the mainland and have plenty to offer in terms of things to do.

What is the best island to visit in Channel Islands?

There really is no right or wrong answer to this question as each island has its own unique charm.

That being said most people who do a Channel Islands National Park Day Trip choose to visit Anacapa Island or Santa Cruz Island.

Anacapa Island is the smallest and most popular island to visit.

Since it’s the closest to the mainland.

However, Santa Cruz Island is a popular place for kayaking and is home to many different hiking trails.

In the end, it really comes down to what activities you’re interested in and how much time you have.

How much does it Cost to Visit Channel Islands?

The nice thing about the Channel Islands is that until Cabrillo National Monument or Joshua Tree National Park that have entrance fees Channel Islands don’t.

It is free, but you still will need to pay to get in here either by boat or plane.

Conclusion

Channel Islands National Park is one of California’s best-kept secrets.

The park is made up of 5 different islands, each with its own unique charm.

Whether you’re interested in hiking, kayaking, or just want to relax on the beach Channel Islands has something for everyone.

You can plan a Channel Islands National Park Day Trip here!

If you start off in the morning then by boat, it will take about an hour to reach the island.

Which gives you plenty of time to explore one island and participate in some of the activities Channel Islands National Park has to offer such as hiking, kayaking, and birdwatching.

It’s a perfect family-friendly activity or a romantic getaway.

Just remember please help do your part in protecting this beautiful place by taking all your trash with you when you leave and respecting the wildlife.

Let us know in the comments below if you’ve ever visited this place or have any favorite islands you recommend visiting.

Happy Travels!

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Jess and Jeanette
About Jess and Jeanette

Jess and Jeanette are two sisters who created Unseen Beaches. This beach travel site was inspired by their family beach vacations while growing up. Helping you discover the best U.S. beach destinations worth visiting, staying, and eating.

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Hi! This is Jess and Jeanette. Two sisters & beach travelers. We built this blog to share our travels in hopes of helping you plan your next beach vacation. Cheers! ❤️

 

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