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Five of the eight Channel Islands are protected, and half of the park's area is underwater. They are home to over 2,000 species of land plants and animals, and 145 are unique to the islands. The islands were originally settled by the Chumash people, and there is a unique Mediterranean ecosystem.

hiking
19 days ago

hiking
2 months ago

Easily one of the most beautiful hikes Southern California has to offer. Its uniqueness especially contributes to its beauty; hills, canyons, and the Pacific Ocean are all visible throughout numerous portions of the hike. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to go in April after a year of steady rainfall, so there were plentiful wildflowers just off the trail as well.

Given that there's a limited amount of people on Santa Cruz island at any given time (due to its isolation), the El Montanon Trail is the perfect place to hike in complete solitude. The time constraints- if not staying overnight, the boat arrives at 11 AM and leaves at 4 PM- many opt to hike to Smuggler's Cove or Potato Harbor, for an 8-mile trek up one of the highest peaks on the island seems daunting. While there are sections that are strenuous, the hike is quite tranquil and easily completed within the time frame.

Depending on which route you take, the trail eventually narrows from a fire road through campsites to a narrow, single-track trail that is overgrown with tall grass and wildflowers. After the trail crosses a wide creek (dry during my hike), the 1,900 ft. elevation gain begins. It plateaus temporarily at the junction between Smuggler's Road and El Montanon ridge. As you continue on El Montanon ridge, it's not especially likely that you'll run into crowds of people.

The trail up the ridge has endured plentiful rainfall and is therefore washed out and somewhat difficult to follow. However, the rock is stained red (presumably by iron?) so it's impossible to venture too far off the trail. The views begin to become more spectacular as you gain elevation, starting with a quick overlook of the Pacific Ocean, subsequently followed by a view of the other side of the island.

High Mount is an easy summit to bag along the way, and the views from the top are nearly as extraordinary as El Montanon's. The other side of the island, along with Prisoner's Cove (if I'm not mistaken) can be seen on a clear day.

The trail gets a bit rockier and narrower post High Mount, though the views become more memorable. Both sides of the path offer extraordinary views, with Anacapa Island seen to the left (heading upwards to the mountain) and the other side of Santa Cruz Island seen to the right. I was fortunate enough to witness the phenomenon called "fire clouds," where a rainbow-like color forms in cirrus clouds. Certainly a sight I'll never forget.

The true summit of El Montanon is further than the solar panels/building where this AllTrails map has the trail end. The views from the summit are panoramic with nothing (trees, shrubs, etc.) obstructing the spectacular views of the island and ocean. It's definitely worth the journey, regardless of the short timespan you may have to complete it in. Take a lot of water- there aren't many resources on this island.

Easy and quite trail..

hiking
2 months ago

This shorter trail is a staple and must do for Santa Cruz.

We went in early February both for the wild flowers and to catch the tail end of the season when whales pass the island. Of which we saw both :)

There was maybe 6 other people on the trail, two of which were rangers.

We did the loop in the direction from the lower campgrounds towards the cove. The beginning and end have a shorter rocky incline, but it's not that bad. It then follows along the coast to give you lovely vistas. It was so green when we went and cloudy that it reminded me of Ireland! Downside was parts of the trail were very muddy.

While end route not only did we see a whale and wild flowers, but we also saw a lot of caterpillars, island foxes, and crows. I am guessing soon there would be equally as many butterflies. We also saw that special bluebird, whose name escapes me now.

As an aside, the warnings you get on the island about the crows and foxes are legit. They are quick and very smart. We watched a fox almost immediately unzip and try to break into the a rangers backpack he'd set down about 10 yards away. Also when we got back to our packs on the cove (which we tarped per their directions), we saw obvious animal footprints all over as well as zippers moved in attempts to get in.

Hiking poles would help as well as (depending on when you go) boots you don't mind getting very muddy.

This trail was wonderful. I loved it more than I expected!

This was a very nice trail that offered a lesser frequented loop into the inner portion of Santa Cruz Island.

We did this hike in early February. We saw one other couple.

We took the loop heading out from the ranch and towards the cove. Both the beginning and towards the end have a bit of a sustained incline, but I think the views in this direction make for a more special trip.

The trail goes up towards the edge of a cliff before heading back inland. There is little shade, so make sure you bring something to mitigate the sun.

There is some old farming equipment you can visit on a mini detour that's worth a trip.

On the hike we saw island foxes, crows, and lovely wild flowers.

When we were there the trail was very muddy in portions. Also there were very rocky downhill segments to navigate. Hiking poles and (depending on when you go) boots you don't mind getting very muddy would help.

Overall a very nice hike and experience.

hiking
4 months ago

hiking
5 months ago

Terrific hike. I'm wasn't so much a fan of the actual cove as I was the hike there, which consisted of beautiful rolling green hills, several Santa Cruz Island endemic species of animals and flowers, and incredible views of Mount Montañon.

A strenuous hike, especially if you are hiking from North to South from the Prisoners/Del Norte portion of the island, but well worth it. Beautiful views of Santa Cruz island that offer ocean, rolling hill, canyon, and mountain scenery. Bring plenty of water.