4 ways to explore the remote Channel Islands

One of the country’s least visited national parks.

The National Park Service describes its five designated Channel Islands as “remote, isolated, rugged, and sometimes inaccessible.” And that’s exactly why this landscape off the coast of Southern California is an adventurer’s must-see.

The national park’s wildlife -- both on land and underwater -- remains the signature attraction here, but there are other ways to get a taste of this wildly natural preserve.

The Channel Islands are truly a beautiful place to explore. Photo: Courtesy of KCET

To learn more about exploring the Channel Islands, one of the country's least visited national parks, GrindTV caught up with Lata Pandya, segment producer for SoCal Connected. She recently visited this remote spot, often called “the Galapagos of North America.”

While her team was given an opportunity to visit Scorpion Rock, where only biologists are allowed to study rare plants and nesting birds, Pandya says visitors can experience the Channel Islands from other angles, too.

Wildlife watching

Be sure to stop by the Visitor Center area when you get on the island for more information on bald eagles, Peregrine falcons, Baja California treefrogs, lizards, and all kinds of animals.

“Our report is about the Island Fox making a comeback from the endangered species list and the amazing plants and animals that are not found anywhere else,” Pandya tells GrindTV. “We fell in love with the Island Fox and were surprised to learn how friendly they are with the people. Biologists told us that's not always the case on all the islands, but because there are a lot of campers on Santa Cruz Island they’ve gotten used to people.”


Endless places to explore by boat in the Channel Islands. Photo: Courtesy of KCET

It’s an adventure just getting out to the Channel Islands. You can get there via private boat, park concessionaires public ships (Island Packers) or planes (Channel Islands Aviation).

“We visited Santa Cruz Island for our report and it is a little over an hour boat ride from Ventura Harbor,” Pandya says. “On the way we were lucky enough to see some whales.”

Sea lions, seals and plentiful sea life are a common sight. Sea kayaking, snorkeling, diving are other ways to further explore the shorelines.


Go ahead … pitch a tent. Photo: Courtesy of Tim Hauf

While there are no services or conventional lodging on the Islands, there are primitive campsites on all five Islands: above the Landing Cove on Santa Barbara, on the east islet of Anacapa, at Scorpion Ranch on Santa Cruz, at Water Canyon on Santa Rosa, and above Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel.

“They are bare bones: picnic tables, water and not much else. There is very little cell phone service on the island making it a great way to get off the grid for a moment,” Pandya says. “Seeing campers made us want to stay longer and enjoy the beautiful natural wonder that is the Channel Islands National Park. I could only imagine how great the stars would look on the island.”

Limited backcountry camping is also an option on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands.


Views don’t get much better than this. Photo: Courtesy of Tim Hauf

Opportunities for hiking on the eclectic set of islands are vast and diverse enough for all ability levels. Topography ranges from flat, wide-open double-track roads to rugged, unmarked mountainous pathways.

Pandya tells GrindTV, “We hiked to some vista points and the view was absolutely breathtaking. You can see across to the horizon and down to some of the bluest seas.”

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