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Channel Islands National Park offers a unique chance to discover the wild, rugged beauty of the Southern California coast. The park is made up of five pristine islands, each with its own unique charm. Exploring the islands takes a little enthusiasm and planning, though the payoff is access to one of the most unique and untouched coastal ecosystems in North America. Whether you're getting up close with sea lions on San Miguel, kayaking to hidden sea caves on Santa Cruz, hiking to historic lighthouses on Anacapa, strolling along sugar-white beaches on Santa Rosa, or exploring underwater kelp forests on Santa Barbara, Channel Islands National Park promises unforgettable adventures.
Looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure? Book an RV in Ventura County and you'll enjoy the freedom to explore SoCal at your own pace. Plan a day-trip to Channel Islands National Park or pack lightweight camping gear, leave your rig on the mainland, and embark on an overnight adventure. For more RV rentals, consider starting your trip in Los Angeles. The iconic U.S. city offers a huge selection of motorhome rentals for every occasion, from compact campers to family-sized rigs.
Nicknamed the Galapagos of North America, Channel Islands National Park is home to more than 150 endemic species of flora and fauna. San Miguel Island is a haven for seals, with thousands of the marine mammals flocking to Point Bennett. It's quite the spectacle, with California sea lions and northern elephant seals often joining the congregation.
On Anacapa Island, trails skirt the clifftops and take you to a historic 1930s lighthouse. Santa Cruz Island is studded with hidden sea caves and is a paradise for kayakers, while Santa Rosa Island is dotted with towering Torrey pines. Santa Rosa is also home to some of the park's most popular hiking trails, ranging from the flat and sandy terrain of Water Canyon Beach to the steep, rocky path to the summit of Black Mountain.
An important habitat for nesting seabirds, Santa Barbara is the smallest and southernmost island. There's plenty to discover underwater, with scuba divers flocking to explore the enchanting giant kelp forests that can reach heights of 120 feet. From December to April, Channel Islands National Park is one of the top places in the world to spot gray whales. From May to September, you could spot blue and humpback whales breaching in the protected waters. There's also a chance to see fins, minkes, and orca.
Southern California's sunny disposition means camping is available year-round at Channel Islands National Park. Santa Cruz Island Scorpion Ranch Campground is the largest, offering 31 sites with picnic tables and food storage boxes. You'll also have access to pit toilets. The Anacapa Island Campground offers seven sites set on a grassy bluff with stunning coastal views. Santa Rosa Island Campground is set in a sheltered canyon and boasts easy access to a gorgeous white sand beach. The remote San Miguel Island Campground is perched on a scenic coastal plateau, while the Santa Barbara Island Campground features ten sites and a dramatic clifftop setting.
All five islands are accessible only by park concessionaire boats, planes, or private watercraft. This means all camping is primitive and reserved for tents only. If you're RV camping and want to enjoy a day trip to Channel Islands National Park, consider staying at Los Padres National Forest or Point Mugu State Park. Sailings depart from Ventura and Oxnard, with parking available for both day-trippers and overnight campers. Don't forget to pick up a parking pass.
Most boat trips to Channel Islands National Park depart from Ventura, a laidback beach town anchored by a historic downtown core and wooden pier. It's a great place to stock up on gas and groceries or treat yourself at one of the colorful cafes or seafood restaurants. The town also hosts an excellent farmers' market where you can pick up fresh produce from across Southern California.
A 30-minute drive up the coast, Santa Barbara is a great place to rent a camper near Channel Islands National Park. The city will win you over with handsome Spanish Mission architecture, lashings of sunshine, and a lively bar and restaurant scene. If you're looking for a mainland nature fix, the two-million-acre Los Padres National Forest delivers with rugged mountains, ancient redwood groves, windswept grasslands, and rumbling rivers. It also operates 55 developed campgrounds, which means there are plenty of options for RV camping. Venture further afield and you can drive your camper rental to iconic California national parks like Yosemite, Redwoods, Sequoia, Joshua Tree, and Kings Canyon.