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Santa Cruz Island - Channel Islands Hiking Trail

Santa Cruz Island Hike Overview: If you ever wanted to step back into history and discover what California coast looked over 300 years ago, then this Channel Islands hiking adventure is for you! Santa Cruz Island, the largest of the eight Channel Islands, features 77 miles of coastline and over 1,000 species of plants and animals. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy, Santa Cruz Island remains a pristine environment for hikers, kayakers, campers and modern day adventurers.

Santa Cruz Island has unique 10,000+ years of cultural history. For the majority of the 10,000 years, American Indians settled on the island and European explorers established a ranching presence on the island in the mid-1850s. The island’s history grew as bootleggers used some covers of the island, such as Smuggler’s Cove, to hide alcohol during prohibition. Additionally, during World War II the military established strategic outposts on the island and continues to use the island in certain sections. Today, 76% of Santa Cruz island is owned by the Nature Conservancy and the remaining 24% is owned and managed by the National Park Service.

When planning a trip to Santa Cruz Island, it’s recommended to pre-book your ferry transportation, because the amount of daily visitors is limited each day to reduce the impact on the island’s ecosystem. Island Packer offers round trip transportation for $29.50/one way ($59/total) from Oxnard to/from the island. Reservations can be made online here.

For this hiking adventure, the Go Hike it team visited Scorpion Bay and enjoyed a loop hike to Potato Harbor and back to Scorpion Bay. 

Santa Cruz Island Hike Estimated Time: 7-8 Hours. The morning boat leaves Ventura Harbor at 9:30 AM and returns from the island at 3:15. You are free to hike around the designated trails during your visit and/or enjoy the pristine swimming waters off the coast. 

Channel Islands Hike Total Distance: 4-5 Miles.

Trail Pictures

Map & Directions

Channel Island Hike Photo Gallery

Chanel Islands – Santa Barbara Islands Hiking Trail Image Gallery (click on image to rotate through image/s) 

When to Go

Summer, Spring, Fall: The Summer months are idea, but depending on the weather the Spring and Fall are also enjoyable times to enjoy this Channel Islands adventure. If you venture during the summer months, it’s recommend to make reservations for this Santa Cruz Island months in advance. Additionally, if you want to go during the weekend, reservations are also recommended well in advance.

Dog Friendly

No pets of any kind are allowed on the island to help perserve the island’s natural environment.

Incredible Ocean Views


Daily Limit to Island Visitors

Breathtaking Cliff Overlooks


Trail Map


Address for GPS: Ventura Harbor, 1691 Spinnaker Dr #105B, Ventura, CA 93001

Directions: From Los Angeles via Google Maps w/live traffic


Total Distance (miles)

Total Estimated Time (hours)

Intensity Levels

Barry-the-Bear: What an experience! Santa Cruz Island is incredible! I’m glad we prepared with this Catalina hike before our adventure. It helped us get used to taking a boat across the channel. We really enjoyed the simple geographical rock formations on Santa Cruz and how we could go camping, kayaking or hiking!

  • Intensity Level 75% 75%

Larry-the-Lion: Awesome! I thought that Santa Cruz was a just small town known for college students chasing after banana slugs, but Santa Cruz Island proved that there a lot more to chase after! This beautiful island hike features panoramic views of the ocean and fun historical relics, such as old ranching equipment, that enhance the experience.

  • Intensity Level 45% 45%

Chris-the-Cheetah: I decided to try the overnight adventure and loved it! Not only, where there plenty of amazing trails to explore, but I saw plenty of local wildlife, including local foxes!

  • Intensity Level 10% 10%

Why We Liked It

Santa Cruz Island is a true hikers delight. We recommend adding this to your bucket list as there are very few opportunities to explore raw California coastline. The National Park Service and Nature Conservancy do an excellent job preserving the island’s pristine condition, but keeping the island open for adventures to explore.

If you’re able, we recommend an overnight trip or planning a kayaking adventure to compliment your day hike.  This island experience is one for the ages and there is no better time than today to start your Go Hike it adventure!

Trail Pictures

Map & Directions

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Have you visited the Channel Islands? Leave a comment and share your tips!

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