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Anacapa Island Trail

A leisurely hike atop this cliff-lined island, among thousands of seabirds and with endless ocean overlooks.

Hiking Easy

3.9 km
135 m
135 m
0-1 hrs
Low Point
0 m
High Point
74 m
Anacapa Island Trail Map

East Anacapa Island is the closest of the Channel Islands to the mainland, and makes a popular destination for day tours into the national park. It’s not a large island, so you can see almost all of it on foot by hiking this figure-8 loop of trails.


The hike begins by climbing many concrete steps going up from the boat dock. This island has no accessible beaches, only cliffs on all sides. Once on top, a dirt and gravel path leads toward the cluster of historic buildings, now used by the national park. Here you can choose to go toward the lighthouse first or to start hiking the loop. A typical day tour to Anacapa leaves plenty of time to explore this 2-mile trail system, so you don’t have to worry about rushing to see it all.

The loop is mostly flat and easy walking, leading throughout the windswept plains atop this chunk of rock. The first thing you’ll notice is all the birds––the place is practically overrun with them, and there are several different species. This island is crucial for seabird nesting, thanks to sheltered crannies in the cliffs and lack of predators here. The island fox, a top predator on the other Channel Islands, has not made it to Anacapa.

The main highlights of the loop are its overlooks, where the trail meets the edge of the 200-foot cliffs. Most of the drop-offs are not protected, and the ground may be unstable, so it’s important to stay on the trail for safety. Pinniped Point is an overlook where you can spot seals and sea lions on the shore far below. Another is Cathedral Cove Overlook, where you’ll see rock formations beneath the clear water and jutting above the surface. The best view of all is Inspiration Point, which is at the far end of the trail. There you’ll look over a spine of rock protruding westward, toward the other Anacapa Islands arcing away in succession. If the air is clear you’ll see the mountains of Santa Cruz Island beyond.

Anytime of year can be good for hiking on East Anacapa, but the most comfortable and most beautiful time is early spring, when temperatures are warming and the flowers are blooming. The island has no trees, only grasses and shrubs which are brown for most of the year. The wetness of winter brings out the green, and the flowers soon follow. If you come later in the year you’ll miss the color show, but the animals are always present and the views are incredible on any clear day. Note that there is no drinking water available here, so you’ll need to bring plenty with you on the boat, plus sun protection and any other supplies you might need for your hours on the island.

Sources: https://www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/anacapa.htm https://theunendingjourney.com/channel-islands-anacapa-island/



Walking along a well-kept trail that’s mostly flat. No obstacles are present.

Low Exposure

1 out of 4

The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.


1 out of 4

Close to help in case of emergency.

Best time to visit

all year round


  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Family friendly

Guidebooks in this area