Guidebook

10 of the Best Hikes in Channel Islands National Park

Explore 5 natural islands in the middle of a massive marine sanctuary.

Greg Heil

Description

Channel Islands National Park protects an impressive 249,354 acres, but most of that protected area is actually a marine sanctuary. While the park protects five of the Channel Islands located just off the coast of Southern California, the marine sanctuary extends six nautical miles into the ocean. "Isolation over thousands of years has created unique animals, plants, and archeological resources found nowhere else on Earth and helped preserve a place where visitors can experience coastal southern California as it once was," writes the NPS.

While many visitors to the Channel Islands come specifically for the protected marine environment, even land lovers "can find spectacular hiking opportunities. . .and one established campground on each of the islands," according to NationalParks.org. In this guidebook, you'll find 10 of the top hikes in Channel Islands National Park.

Smuggler's Cove and Potato Harbor are two of the very best hikes in the national park, and both provide beautiful trails leading to isolated beaches for a unique experience of Coastal California as it once was before it got overrun by development.

To tour two of the smallest and more isolated islands, try either this hike that covers the entirety of Anacapa Island or this loop around Santa Barbara Island.

And these are just the highlights! Dive deep into the routes in this guidebook to discover all the incredible hiking opportunities that the Channel Islands have to offer!

Channel Islands National Park: Smuggler's Cove

Channel Islands National Park: Smuggler's Cove

3 - 4 hrs
11.4 km
440 m
439 m
The best trail on Santa Cruz Island.
Difficult
Private
Channel Islands National Park: Potato Harbor to Cavern Point

Channel Islands National Park: Potato Harbor to Cavern Point

2 - 3 hrs
7.2 km
225 m
219 m
Potato Harbor to Cavern Point
Difficult
Private
Channel Islands National Park: Santa Cruz Island

Channel Islands National Park: Santa Cruz Island

1 day +
39.7 km
1,413 m
1,411 m
Ecological balance--and dozens of sweet places to hike, paddle, and camp--have been restored at California's Channel Islands.
Difficult
Private
Channel Islands National Park: Anacapa Island

Channel Islands National Park: Anacapa Island

1 - 2 hrs
4.0 km
130 m
134 m
Anacapa Island's oceanfront overlooks, throngs of wildlife, and a picture-perfect lighthouse highlight this classic 2.5-mile loop in Channel Islands National Park.
Difficult
Private
Channel Islands National Park: Santa Barbara Island Loop Trail

Channel Islands National Park: Santa Barbara Island Loop Trail

2 - 3 hrs
8.9 km
348 m
348 m
Santa Barbara Island is the smallest island in the Channel Islands National Park. It's the most remote and furthest offshore, roughly 45 miles. One loop trail covers the one-square-mile islet. The windswept isle is home to seals, sea lions, seabirds and the secretive island night lizard.
Difficult
Private
Channel Islands National Park: Lobo Canyon Trail

Channel Islands National Park: Lobo Canyon Trail

2 - 3 hrs
8.0 km
354 m
308 m
Discover ancient archaeology and island isolation (playful sea lions excepted) on this 5.2-mile loop through Santa Rosa's steep canyons and sandy beaches.
Difficult
Private
Channel Islands National Park: Torrey Pines Loop

Channel Islands National Park: Torrey Pines Loop

1 - 2 hrs
6.4 km
219 m
220 m
Squeeze this 4.3-mile dayhike in before the ferry departs for the mainland. Highlights: super rare pine trees and breezy views of the mighty Pacific.
Difficult
Private
Channel Islands National Park: Yellow Banks

Channel Islands National Park: Yellow Banks

0 - 1 hrs
3.0 km
161 m
154 m
Explore an abandoned ranch, island fauna, cave-pocketed canyons, and a secluded beach on this 2-mile trek along southeastern edge of Santa Cruz Island.
Difficult
Private
Channel Islands, CA: Two Harbors to Little Harbor

Channel Islands, CA: Two Harbors to Little Harbor

2 - 3 hrs
9.0 km
502 m
506 m
Climb a rugged mountain spine—and cruise wide-open bison territory—on this 5.6-mile section of the Trans Catalina Trail that joins two of the island's best beaches.
Difficult
Private
Channel Islands National Park: Water Canyon to East Point

Channel Islands National Park: Water Canyon to East Point

1 day +
44.9 km
1,019 m
1,020 m
Venture off SoCal's coast for long beaches, hidden canyons, and sea life.
Difficult
Private