Walk through wildflower meadows and hike mountains to discover spectacular views at Channel Islands National Park. Kayak beside dolphins and listen to sea lions barking as they sunbathe on deserted beaches.
Leave mainland California and boat across the open ocean. Of the eight-island chain, five make up the national park, covering the distance of the coastline from Santa Barbara to San Diego.
The ferry stops on the most easterly of three tiny islets of Anacapa. The 2-mile (3-kilometer) island trail loop provides an excellent walk, weaving through fields of sunflowers and red paintbrush. Look down onto waves crashing against cliffs and admire the 40-foot-high (12-meter) Arch Rock.
Continue west to the chain’s two biggest islands, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa, for superb hiking options. Santa Rosa’s highest peak stands at 1,589 feet (484 meters). If you are experienced try kayaking and diving in the pristine tidal pools and kelp fields. On dry land, check out the rare sub-species of Torrey pine growing here and see bald eagles searching for voles and rabbits scurrying across the grass.
For an amazing animal encounter, head to San Miguel, the westernmost island. Join a ranger-guided 16-mile (25-kilometer) round-trip tour to Point Bennett where up to 30,000 California sea lions and elephant seals live on the rocks. Marvel as they lumber about before disappearing gracefully into the deep blue sea.
Farther east, Santa Barbara is the smallest of the islands, with an area of about 1 square mile (260 hectares). Separated from the rest of the chain, this is one of the least crowded islands, making it the ideal place to admire seabirds. Follow the island’s walking trails quietly. Many species including pelicans, oystercatchers and western gulls hatch their young beside the paths.
The easiest way to reach the Channel Islands is on a boat tour from Ventura or Santa Barbara. The park is open year-round and entrance to each of the islands is free, although transportation to the island has a fee.
Whether you’re looking for mountains, trees or seals, U.S. national parks offer affordable adventures for all travelers. Enjoy your trip to Channel Islands National Park.