Channel Islands National Park
Guide

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Introduction

Encompassing five islands within a remarkable ocean environment, Channel Islands National Park is a great place to enjoy water-related pursuits. Located off the coast of Ventura, California, this national park protects and preserves a wealth of cultural and natural resources that are found nowhere else. Camping in this park in southern California promises to be a wonderful experience.

The five islands in the park include San Miguel (14.5 sq. miles), Santa Rosa (82 sq. miles), Anacapa (1 sq. mile), Santa Barbara (1 sq. mile), and Santa Cruz (95 sq. miles). Access to the islands is by boat and plane.

There are no RV campgrounds in the park as the islands are not accessible by vehicles. Only primitive camping is available on all the five islands, with one campground on each island. RV camping opportunities are, however, available at Venture Ranch KOA, seven miles north of Santa Paula.

Recreational opportunities at Channel Islands National Park include wildlife and wildflower viewing, bird watching, and picnicking. Exploring the park on boats, canoes and kayaks is extremely rewarding too. Moreover, there are scenic hiking trails on the islands.

Channel Islands National Park was established in 1980.

Park Alerts (3)

[Information] Santa Barbara Island Dock Closed; Landings Restricted to Adjacent Rocky Ledge [+ Info]

Santa Barbara Island is open to public access, but landings are restricted to the rocky ledge adjacent to the dock. The dock is closed and is not expected to be repaired in the near future due to the severe winter storm damage.

[Park Closure] Anacapa Island Closure During Crane Construction

Anacapa Island will be closed December 2 - 12, 2019 for a crane construction project. The island will be closed again for one week in January and March. Closure dates may change due to weather and project considerations.

[Information] Tidepool Exhibit Closed for Repairs

The tidepool exhibit at our mainland visitor center in Ventura will be closed for refurbishment until January 2020. All other exhibits will remain open to the public during this time.

RV Rentals in Channel Islands National Park

Transportation in Channel Islands National Park

Driving

The mainland areas of Channel Islands National Park where the Visitor Centers are located in Ventura and Santa Barbara are easily accessible by vehicles. However, the islands are only accessible by boats and planes. No transportation is available on the islands.

Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center is located at the end of Spinnaker Drive in Ventura Harbor, while Santa Barbara Visitor Center is located on Harbor Way in Santa Barbara Harbor.

Parking

Parking spaces are available at both visitor centers in the park.

Public Transport

Public bus and rail services operate to both visitor centers. Public boat transportation is also available year-round to the Island.

Campgrounds and parking in Channel Islands National Park

Campsites in Channel Islands National Park

Reservations camping

Ventura Ranch KOA

Ventura Ranch KOA campground is nestled at the foot of Ventura County's highest mountain, Topa Topa, and features various camping options such as tent camping, group camping, RV camping, safari tents and cabins. Ventura Ranch KOA is located seven miles north of Santa Paula off Highway 126, California.

The campground consists of 148 pet-friendly campsites that are available by reservations. Full hookups (electric, water and sewer hookups) for RVs are available, as well as amenities such as restrooms and showers, laundry facilities, and playground. Wi-Fi, picnic shelter and firewood are also available in the campground.

RV length limit at Venture Ranch KOA is 60 feet.

First-come first-served

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Channel Islands National Park

Spring

Boating

One of the most unique and rewarding ways to explore and experience Channel Islands National Park’s pristine marine environment is on boats. Boat rides are always challenging and exciting for visitors, thereby creating a memorable adventure. Private boating is allowed in the park and safe boating practices are recommended for all. The challenging weather conditions on the water also require that only properly trained, equipped and experienced boaters ride the waters.

Birding

Channel Islands National Park is home to various bird species that are distinct from those that are seen on the mainland parts of the park. As a result, the bird viewing opportunities on the islands are different from those on the mainland. Seabirds and shorebirds such as western gulls, California brown pelicans, Scripps's murrelets, and Brandt’s cormorants find nesting habitats on the islands. Watch out for these birds on your boat trip to the island. The landbirds, however, more commonly live on the California mainland.

Summer

Picnicking

There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy picnics at Channel Islands National Park as all the islands in the park except San Miguel have picnic tables. When the weather is fine, campers and visitors also enjoy meals on the beaches of the island. Although potable water is available on Santa Cruz Island and Santa Rosa Island, visitors are still required to bring their own food and water to the park. Public pit toilets are available on all the islands in the park.

Fall

Wildflower Viewing

More than 800 flora species call Channel Islands National Park home. On each island in the park, there are unique flowers that thrive based on a number of factors such as the size of the island, the distance of the island from other islands and the mainland, topographic diversity, the maximum elevation on the island, and the local climate. All these come together to create different flora species on each island. What this means for you is that you get to see a wide range of beautiful wildflowers on your trip.

Marine Life

Channel Islands National Park is home to diverse marine animals that breed on the islands and the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel. Different species of seals, whales, sea lions and dolphins are among some of the most commonly seen marine mammals in the park’s waters. As campers visit the islands in boats, it is common for dolphins to ride the bow waves for long distances. Between December and March, gray whales are often seen in the park’s waters too.

Winter

Hiking

There are many trails on the islands in Channel Islands National Park that provide excellent hiking opportunities to campers and visitors. The trails range from easy, maintained, and relatively flat trails to challenging, rugged, mountainous, unmaintained trails. There’s so much to choose from in the park. All campers are encouraged to be safe on hiking trails by avoiding interactions with wildlife, and staying away from cliff edges. You should also carry water when you go on hikes on the islands.

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