Explore the most popular walking 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.

hiking
16 days ago

We had a lot of fun on Santa Cruz. The hike is steep at the beginning but levels off for most of the hike. We brought sandwiches with us and had lunch at smugglers cove. Beware the ravens and foxes looking for food. To switch it up we came back by the oil well.

Great hike. Complete solitude. Exposed ridges were, very windy. I repeat. Very windy. Recommend trekking poles to help anchor or provide added stability against strong wind gusts.Have your camera ready, the views are breathtaking. We combined with trip to Smugglers cove. All day hike. One of my favorites.

hiking
6 months ago

Bring a ton of water, calculate and then add the 100oz you don't think you need. Beautiful hike and back country beach camping.

7 months ago

Did a variation of this
Went to High Mount only
Also combined with Scorpion Loop Trail

hiking
7 months ago

Well maintained trail that is easy for kids and adults. The final decent with switchbacks is the only reason for a moderate trail difficulty. Views are stunning and the Island Fox are fun to watch. Take your lunch and enjoy the views at Cavern Point.

Hiking through the remnants of a Pleistocene forest is in and of itself pretty cool. Add in a beautiful and mostly deserted island and this is a hike to get done. You have to do a lot of work to hike here. At minimum catch the charter boat out of Ventura to do this as a quick day hike. If you can afford the time, camp for a few days and better explore the island. While the map shows this hike as a quick mile and a half loop... it is about three miles from the pier to the trail head... so plan on at least 7 miles.

hiking
8 months ago

Someone should really try to get the Easy label updated. In no way is this hike easy. I only tracked from the beach back up to the trail head, saving the batteries on all the devices for what was a long day. This section of trail is only three miles round trip. It is occasionally a narrow single track with a drop off on one side, most of the path was easily navigated.

The real difficulty comes in getting to the trail head. From the dock the total hike is 9 miles round trip. 12 from the campground. It is beautiful and well worth the effort. Take lots of water, the return trip is likely to be warm.

hiking
10 months ago

Day Trip to Anacapa Island on Island Packers. 4 hours on the island hiking the main trail. Seagulls and their chicks were everyone on the island as it was nesting season for the seagulls. Trying to protect their chicks, walking on the trails made us targets for the seagulls. It was hard to enjoy the hike due to the huge amount of seagulls. Their poop was everywhere and because of this, there wasn't very many places to sit down without sitting in bird poop. 5 hours here today was definitely too much time as all the seagulls made it hard to enjoy

hiking
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

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.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

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.

hiking
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Incredible wildlife! The trail is a bit washed out, but that's just the nature of the beast. Smugglers Cove is full of life. We explored the tide pools filled with bright purple urchins, little crustaceans, and magnificent looking shells. The ocean leaves its mark on the sand and it's simply stunning. The hike was pretty strenuous due to the humidity. We quite literally hiked through a cloud. We chose the day hike option and we're able to complete the out and back with well over 2 hours to spare. We saw multiple island foxes and they seriously are living, breathing stuffed animals. It's truly a magical experience! Next time, we'll definitely be staying over night and kayaking. Those caves beg to be explored!

backpacking
Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hiked in on a Friday, with temperatures in the low 90's, and hiked backed out on Sunday, walking in the clouds as the weather dipped in the low 70's. At the time of this review there was no water other than at Clap Springs which is detour off Wreck Road by a couple of miles. Bring plenty of water

hiking
Wednesday, August 10, 2016

hiking
Tuesday, June 21, 2016

We headed out from camp at 7am. Long, windy, wiinnnnndddy, foggy trail up and over mountains to the other side. It started off cold and crazy windy, but we went down into Lobo Canyon and out to continue onto a route along the rocky coast, so ended up being about a 14 mile hike. Amazingly beautiful Lobo Canyon, and the picnic on a rock cliff , next to crashing waves was great! If you come to Santa Rosa Island, this is the best hike on the island by far.

hiking
Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Took the 4 mile round trip guided hike from Prisoners Harbor. Didn't think I could make it all the way, in fact more than half of the group turned back but when I saw Pelican Bay Up ahead, all I wanted was to rest my sore feet in some cool clear ocean water! Stunning views, learned a lot of how truly unique this habitat actually is.

hiking
Friday, August 21, 2015

Great trail with amazing views. If you are going in the summer be sure to leave early before the fog clears off and it gets too hot. Hopefully once you arrive the sun is out, however it will make for a dry and hot hike back. Bring lots of water because there are no places to refill. You basically follow what looks like a fire road. On the way back you can take a number of single track trails cutting between the fire road that make the distance shorter.

I visited the Channel Islands in mid Feb of 2015. Decided to go to Santa Cruz and land at Prisoners so I could do the Pelican Bay Trail. The trail was only 4.5 miles, not 6 as the site suggest, but the difficulty was moderate/strenuous.

The hike itself was absolutely beautiful and our tour guide David did an absolute amazing job informing the group about the plants and wildlife. The Pelican Bay hike is inside the Nature Conservancy which requires that this hike be done with a tour guide. Getting to Pelican Bay was definitely worth the hike! We were able to stop to enjoy our lunch that we brought with us and the view.

I would highly recommend this hike. And we will definitely be back to the channel islands for some camping!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Such an awesome day, a truly unforgettable experience! Got seasick on the ferry over there, had to run the last mile back to catch the ferryat the end of the day, slight heat stroke (very little shade) didn't have a minute to spare to check out the welcome center or relax at the cove turnaround! Can't wait to get back for a second try, loved it. The ocean breeze, the birds that buzzed our heads, the Fox on the trail in front of us...totally worth the trip!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Not very difficult. It has beautiful botanicals and rock formations. Ends with a breezey beach. Not a loop. Best on the island in my opinion.

on Smugglers Cove Trail

camping
Sunday, April 07, 2013

Breathtaking views, coastal breezes below to contrast with the general Santa Criz island (inland) warmth during late Spring/ summer months. Cover your food, bring insect repellant, and avoid the camp ground out houses (too many rats). One of my favorite hikes.

hiking
Thursday, August 02, 2012

Hiked this about a year ago. It's a beautiful, easy to follow trail to the top of the mountain. Once you reach the top, you'll feel the other side of the island beckoning. We caved to the siren call of the backcountry , went off trail, and quite enjoyed continuing on the ridge that goes towards Smugglers. If you go this way, be prepared to encounter some steep terrain with a thick layer of loose gravelly stone. We did it without trekking poles and stayed on our feet, no problem. Continue down throgh the gresslands (formerly grazing land) until you get to the road, then follow that down to Smugglers. I can't remember how we found our way down to Smugglers exactly, but the Island isn't huge, there aren't any predatory animals, and if you've got a few hours to kill (as is likely), this is a great way to go off trail without feeling like you're getting lost in the woods.

Hiked the Montaon Ridge "trail" but it was not listed. This is the closest. Great view at the top and on the way of the Santa Barbara Coastline. The "trail" only applied to parts. Very step in parts as well. Other parts of the trail were more like a river bed with nothing but rocks to step on.

on East Point Trail

hiking
16 days ago

hiking
17 days ago

hiking
17 days ago

on East Anacapa Island Trail

18 days ago

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