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Channel Islands National Park
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Santa Rosa Island

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Channel Islands
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Santa Cruz Island -Channel Islands National Park
Pictured above are images from the largest island, Santa Cruz

California National Parks  - Channel Islands

Santa Rosa Island

Santa Rosa Island takes 2.5 to 3 hours travel time on a high-speed catamaran from Ventura Harbor. It is approximately 46 miles offshore. The officially licensed charter boat company, Island Packers, sometimes stops at Santa Cruz Island to pick up passengers..  Island Packers often travels on the south side of the Santa Cruz Island coastline and returns from Santa Rosa on the north side of Santa Cruz where a view of Painted Cave, the largest and deepest sea cave in the world, is afforded.


Visitors to Santa Rosa Island are required to step up a ladder and climb a number of narrow ladder rungs to reach the top of a pier. The pier was once used for the Vail and Vickers cattle ranch that operated on Santa Rosa Island for approximately 100 years and still holds lease on some island property until 2011.

Santa Rosa features pristine white sand dunes and beaches, rolling hills, sculpted canyons and plenty of wind. A public restroom with modern facilities includes running water, a real luxury compared to the rustic outhouses on some of the other islands. There are a few picnic tables adjacent to the ranch area with no shade provided. Day hikes along the coast and to the endemic Torrey pines include Cherry Canyon trail overlooking Bechers Bay, Vail Vickers Ranch and Skunk Point.

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