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Santa Miguel Island -Channel Islands National Park

Pictured above are images from the largest island, Santa Cruz

 California National Parks  - Channel Islands

San Miguel Island

San Miguel, the furthest island west, is about 58 miles from Ventura Harbor and travel time including stops at Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Island to pick up or drop off passengers is about 3.5 - 4 hours. When traveling to San Miguel, Island Packers often travels along the south side of the scenic Santa Cruz Island coastline. When returning from San Miguel you will travel along the north side of Santa Cruz and view the Painted Cave, a large sea cave on the western end of the island. This provides those traveling to the outer islands of Santa Rosa and San Miguel an opportunity to circumnavigate Santa Cruz Island. Visitors going ashore on San Miguel should be prepared for a skiff ride from one the main boat to the shore of Cuyler Harbor. This landing can be an adventure in itself and at times you can get a little wet as the skiff may take spray from wind or a splash from a wave in the surf zone..

San Miguel Island is truly the backcountry of the Channel Islands National Park; it is both remote and exposed to the ever-changing elements at the western portion of the Santa Barbara Channel. Visitors should be prepared for a wide range of conditions including sun, fog, cool temperatures and wind. There is no potable water, and no shade trees on this island, so visitors should bring ample drinking water, a hat and sunscreen. Lunch, snacks, and water should be carried in a backpack or similar style bag since hiking trails are steep and narrow in some places. If planning to stay on the beach at Cuyler Harbor a small ice chest can be used. The white sand beach of Cuyler Harbor, and a steep 1.5-mile canyon hike with beautiful examples of native vegetation are open to all visitors.

To visit the pristine interior of San Miguel Island an island ranger or a National Park volunteer naturalist must accompany hikers. San Miguel is well known for the strange formations of Caliche, which are sand casts of ancient tree trunks and roots. In addition, though not accessible in a day visit (a 16 mile round trip hike) is the famed Point Bennett, that has one of the largest congregations of seals and sea lions found anywhere in the world. View the San Miguel hiking guide.


The Channel Islands are the most important nesting grounds for seabirds on the West Coast. Though damaged by decades of cattle and sheep ranching, the islands still sport an impressive array of native plant life. Whales, orcas, and dolphins pass offshore. Tide pools, a vanishing habitat on the mainland, are doing well on Channel Islands.

The national park occupies five of the eight islands in the chain, as well as much of its offshore waters. The islands are Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara. Each island has its own character. Anacapa is the entry point, tiny, popular, and closest to shore. Santa Cruz is the largest and most biologically diverse; it is largely owned by the nonprofit The Nature Conservancy. Santa Rosa is the most historically interesting, and the most wide open of the larger islands for those who want to do some independent exploring. San Miguel has (arguably) the best hiking as well as terrific wildlife. Tiny Santa Barbara is the most isolated, a place to go to be alone in a wild, windy ocean.

Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands are accessible by booking seats on chartered boats departing daily from Ventura and Santa Barbara or other coastal cities which offer scuba, fishing and excursion charters. If you are short on time, half-day non land excursions are also available in Ventura on the Whale Watching trips. But the good news is that if the whales are migrating, the captain of your day-trip charter will stop to watch and take photos. California's natural splendor is what you'll discover on a trip to the islands where you may view cormorants, seals, sea lions and endangered California brown pelicans near a giant kelp forests shelter with more than 1,000 species of ocean life.

Channel Islands Length X Width Travel Time (approx.)/ Distance Camping
Anacapa Island 5 miles X  55 min. to 1 hour / 12 miles 805-658-5730 
Santa Cruz Island 24 miles X  1 hour / 20 miles 800-365-2267
Santa Rosa Island 15 miles X 10 miles 2.5 to 3 hours / 46 miles 800-365-2267
San Miguel Island 8 miles X 4 miles 3.5 to 4 hours / 58 miles 800-365-2267
Santa Barbara Island 0.25 miles X 2.5 to 3 hours / 55 miles 805-658-5730
For information, write: Superintendent, Channel Islands National Park, 1901 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura, CA  93001-4354 or call, 805-658-5730. Request the brochure: Channel Islands National Park California, produced by National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior
Rangers conduct walks on San Miguel, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands. Call (805) 658-5711 for tour information or (805) 964-7839 for Santa Cruz island. 

Visitor Center in Channel Island Harbor, 1901 Spinnaker Drive, contains the park headquarters, featuring exhibits, hands on displays and slide and film shows about the islands.  Mon.- Fri. 8:30 am - 4:30 pm, Sat.&Sun. 8 am - 5 pm (805) 658-5730