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
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.
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.
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
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