Explore the most popular hiking trails in Channel Islands National Park with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

After lunch near the Visitor's Center, I went to the Scorpion Campgrounds. I tacked on some extra trail when I had been looking for wildlife around the campgrounds. I then went up the Potato Harbor Road then onto North Bluff Trail and Cavern Point Loop Trail. Great Views.
Virtual Treadmill video of this hike can be seen on my YouTube Channel, copy and paste link below to watch it. Thanks.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFO02nxPdM4-CabegFIPlow?view_as=subscriber

hiking
1 month ago

Potato Harbor Trail is an moderate to easy hike and the views are spectacular of the Santa Cruz Island Coast. This hike is well worth doing, best in the spring when everything is blooming and it is not too hot. This day the ride over was a little tough with the swells but not too bad. There is an orientation you should do after getting off the boat, then you can do whatever you had planned. I immediately hit the trail up to the bluff overlooking Scorpion Harbor, then out to Potato Harbor overlook. Bring plenty of water especially if you are hiking inland, hotter away from coast.
Enjoy.

Virtual Treadmill video of this hike can be seen on my YouTube Channel, copy and paste link below to watch it. Thanks.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFO02nxPdM4-CabegFIPlow?view_as=subscriber

hiking
1 month ago

What a special place to be near such extremely rare species of trees. Truly amazing views! Trail was in good condition with some minor parts a bit washed out but manageable. Completed the whole hike in 2.5 hours walking quickly at 1.7 miles every 30 min. As a 32 year old male, this was pretty easy for me. Pack at least 3 liters of water and bring a hat. Had plenty of time to relax at the beach before departing.

Did part of this hike during our day on the island. Nothing too special.

hiking
1 month ago

Some nice views of the other side of Santa Cruz island but not as amazing as we expected from a national park.

hiking
1 month ago

Went to the Channel Islands for the day and this was one of the 3 hikes we did. Cool views, but not quite as spectacular as we were expecting.

Would not suggest this as an out and back because of lack of water. Better to get dropped at prisoners and hike across or even over night at del Norte along the way.

Very beautiful trail that follows the coastline of Santa Cruz Island! Make sure you bring enough water, there is no source for potable water until you get to Scorpion.

A nice, easy hike with gorgeous views the whole way! I was lucky enough to see a peregrine falcon perching on some of the cliffs along the trail. Make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and water because there is nowhere to stop in the shade on this trail.

Beautiful ocean views all around. Not much vegetation.

With high temperatures continuously soaring, the landscape hardly had any sort of vegetation. However, revegetation is being carried through to make sure Santa Cruz Island is abundant in life to ensure ecological restoration. Regarding the hike itself, the trail consisted mostly of going downhill. You’ll also be passing though Smuggler’s Canyon Trail. As a result of hiking past another trail, it was difficult to record the actual amount of time and distance it took me to get to Smuggler’s Cove.

The map displayed that the hike towards Smuggler’s Cove is 7.5 miles, but from my experience, it was half that distance. This indicates, to me, that the distance is the total hike of going there and going back, in other words, a round trip.

When you get there, there’ll be few vegetation and the shore is compiled of rocks.

I put three stars because lack of vegetation and good scenic views.

Fun hike on mostly paved road. Water was nice to swim in at the cove. Great scenery and solitude.

Rocky terrain with never-ending western sea gulls, pelicans, and another bird species everywhere. There are spots to take amazing photos though! Kayaking, snorkeling, and camping is allowed.

hiking
2 months ago

I really enjoyed this trail. Awesome, commanding ocean views for the majority of the trail. I could see other islands in the distance and the mountain peaks of the island I was on. The cove was cool, too; I went at low tide and was able to do a little tide pooling. I saw jellies, snails, hermit crabs, anemones, fiddler crabs in the water and tons of lizards and grey foxes on land. Steep hike (definitely got a good glute workout and my knees didn't like me at the end) but a very enjoyable, scenic hike...would do again if I had the opportunity.

2 months ago

Amazing place. Easy.

For an easier climb start at Campsite 22 and come back down the other side. Make sure you take water as there is no shade.

3 months ago

Had the cove to myself. Did some off-trail hiking near the cove, a dry riverbed. Great solitude, sweeping vistas. Fox followed me much of the way back.

great hike. we camped out over the week and plan to set out to east point via torrey pines. we did not make it. It was seasonably hot on july 7. We all packed 3L and a 32 oz bottle of water. we fan out at the end of the torrey pine trail and was just a little past half way. We turned back because we ran out of water. The view from top the trail on the bench is amazing and breath taking.

hiking
3 months ago

This is a beautiful hike with great views along the coast. I saw an island scrub jay and island fox, too. Easy hike and something that a family could do.

Some revegetation going on later in the trail. Beautiful panoramic views of the shore and sea.

hiking
3 months ago

Not a difficult hike, but it can get pretty warm in the direct sun. Great views along the trail until you make your way down towards the boat launch area. Good quick hike to do if you are only on the island for the day.

A group of four of us got a campsite and stayed on the island over-night. The boat ride in was phenomenal, make sure to get your tickets early and follow their strict guidelines (water and gas to be boarded separately). The boat ride takes an hour with tons of scenery. The island is like something prehistoric. You dock in a cove teeming with life. You'll have to walk up about five or six flights of steep stairs, overall it's a half mile to the campsites so you can bring a small cooler. There is no fresh water on the island, so expect to carry. We had about six gallons total for an overnight so that we had plenty to cook and clean with. There were, and this is no exagerrtion, seagulls everywhere. As well as their baby chicks. They were highly aggressive, swooping in and dive bombing you. You also had to keep eyes on the trail for sleeping chicks. But mostly, they're a nuisance but not violent (kind of like what I'm sure they thought of us). The campsites are incredibly small, with the exception of two. 6 and 7 can barely fit four people, so I recommend getting your own per couple, and they are first come first serve. A downside is the campsites being so close, a party of around twelve were able to, essentially, glamp as they could bring all of their "equipment" with them. They somewhat ruined the isolationist feeling by staying up til midnight, drinking, and playing music from a speaker. I recommend ear plugs to sleep with due to the gulls, who will stay loud through the night. But the views are absolutely stunning. It is a wild and savage experience that feels like you're part of a documentary crew for Planet Earth, or something. Once the boat leaves, taking the day hikers with it, you are essentially alone. You can swim, although the water is brisk and frigid, but the snorkeling is intensely raw and amazing. The only place, the cove from which you docked, has a kelp forest teeming with life. Just be on the lookout, there were all types of fish, but as we were leaving a sting ray swooped into the cove. Just be aware. There are sharks around the island, but they're not known to venture inside, however you will see your share of sea lions. This was one of our favorite parts of the trek. You can bring kayaks, something which I wish we would have done, as there are even better places to observe sea life on the southern tip. The boat comes back the next day around 11 am, and doesn't leave (with you) until 3:45, so bring enough food for two days. I do not recommend doing this trip for more than one day, unless you have some extensive sea-activities planned. Overall, a wild experience that was very immersive that I will not soon forget.

hiking
4 months ago

The hike wasn't hard at all and you'll get plenty of picture opportunities once you get to the end.

Potato Harbor was amazing at sunset! We were camping in the upper loop and left for Potato Harbor about an hour before sundown. We took the coastal trail instead of the harbor road in both directions, and there was breathtaking scenery throughout! Be sure to stay after sunset to catch the best colors. You can read more about our trip on my blog: https://tellmeabootit.wordpress.com/2018/05/16/santa-cruz-island-channel-islands-national-park/

hiking
5 months ago

Started from the Cavern Point trailhead and added an additional mile of amazing views along the bluffs. Had plenty of time for the trail, a long break at the overlook, and a chance to relax on the beach before the boat returned to the dock.

hiking
5 months ago

On the last day of my three day camping trip with Wilderness Adventures, most people opted for a 2.5 hour kayaking trip to the sea caves around the island. However, I chose to stay on dry land and do a hike to Smuggler’s Cove, a delightful harbor on the back side of the island that got its name from the illegal sea otter trade that took place between 1769 and 1848. It was one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever done. Just two hours out and an hour and a half back, this hike wove through a cypress grove, named Delphine’s Grove, grassy hills with purple clover, yellow mustard, and white and pink morning glories, Monkey Flower, Lemonade Berry, Santa Cruz Ironwood, and many other native plants on this island. The final mile of the hike was down, down, down to the sea. At the beach, we saw island foxes and lizards darting around, both of which are prevalent throughout the island. The island fox, deer mouse, and island spotted skunk are only found on the Channel Islands – and nowhere else in the world

The descent to the Cove was pretty steep and I wondered as I walked down, how I was going to feel climbing back up it. Well it was well worth it – it was such a beautiful beach and quite a dazzling vantage point in every direction. Climbing back up the hill reminded me of the Hobbit story with its rolling green hills and the light brown-red dirt on the paths. It looked like a fairytale to me.

The hike was just short of eight mikes, roundtrip, but the views from the top, coming back to Scorpion Bay were sensational. It was rejuvenating to see everything from the top of the island. This was a hike that I would like to do again.

Beautiful views

walking
5 months ago

Trail was busy with other daytrippers. Great views. Caterpillars, birds, and some friendly bees. Good hike for kids as it is quite level with minimal elevation gain.

Steep and gravely first miles levels out but steep about 3/4 mile from smugglers cove.

There are picnic tables at the cove

Nice hike can be windy

Great trail, beautiful views and lots of interesting plants in the spring

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