Camping is available year round on all five islands in Channel Islands National Park in National Park Service-managed campgrounds. There is currently one established campground on each island: above the Landing Cove on Santa Barbara, on the east islet of Anacapa, at Scorpion Canyon on Santa Cruz, at Water Canyon on Santa Rosa, and above Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel. No camping is allowed on The Nature Conservancy's western 76 percent of Santa Cruz Island. Limited backcountry camping is available on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands. Please refer to the Backcountry Camping for more information.
Fantastic ocean views and relaxing beach time is practically guaranteed at Scorpion Santa Cruz island camping, the most family-friendly campsite on Santa Cruz Island. Set on the eastern part of the island, Scorpion is a short hike from the pier and is sheltered from harsh ocean winds. The largest of Californias Channel Islands, Santa Cruz is rich in cultural history, magnificent landscapes, and unique flora and fauna. The Chumash Native American Indians inhabited the island for 9,000 years, and Europeans have explored and ranched on the island for a few centuries. Remnants of ancient villages can be explored throughout the area. Additionally, 600 plant species, 140 land birds, 11 land mammals and a handful of amphibians and reptiles call the island their home. The island fox and spotted skunk are exciting finds, as theyre 100% unique to the island. Natural Features: Scorpions beaches are a mix of sand and rocks, and face the Santa Barbara Channel. Its one of the five islands that make up the Channel Islands National Park, and the altitude ranges from sea level to 2500 ft. at its rugged mountain peaks. Recreation: An ultra-fun activity is ocean kayaking. Kayak novices should hire a guide, and kayak rentals need to be arranged before arriving on the island. Whether boating around the island or simply perched on the beach, look out over the Pacific for a chance to spot whales, seals, sea lions and dolphins. For camping, fishing, kayaking and private boating information, contact Channel Islands National Park at 805-658-5730 or www.nps.gov/chis. Facilities: Scorpion offers 25 campsites and 6 group sites. Access to the island is by Island Packers Cruises or by private boat. Note that no landings are available at the pier. You must anchor off-shore and skiff in. Nearby Attractions: Hiking options are unlimited and offer spectacular coastal views. Try the Potato Harbor hike for views of the islands mountain peaks, the southern California coastline and a potato-shaped harbor. This popular hike takes you past antique ranching equipment and old buildings for a taste of island history. For more advanced hikers, tackle the 14-mile hike from Scorpion to Prisoners Cove. Expect to trudge through areas with your hands and feet.
Santa Cruz Island is a beautiful place to get away. We practically had the campground to ourselves. The campground is in good shape. There are yellow jackets swarming each water spigot but they don’t prevent you from filling up and they go away at night. It was very windy; lots of dirt blew into our tent at night. Bathrooms were okay… still give it 5 stars and can’t wait to come back!
This place is amazing! First take a small ferry to the island, then you walk about a 1/4 to a1/2 mile from the dock to the campsite. These sites are reservable! Only $15 a night. There are water spigots, vault toilets, picnic tables and for storage boxes. There is a ton of wildlife on the island. A lot of foxes, that's why you should bring your camera. There are so many hiking areas, amazing views, and a fantastic place to spend a weekend. Pack it on and out. Absolutely no fires, at anytime, ever, on the island. Have fun!
Stayed late Feb. 2019 Camped in back of Upper Loop
Channel Islands NP is magical. You and your things get dropped off by the ferry, then you head to your campsite. When we were there, work was being done in the lower CG, so we moved to the very back of the upper CG. It was a fortunate move, because the views from the upper are amazing. It’s not that far from the ferry drop off, depending on how much stuff you’re carrying. There aren’t cars or anything so you have to physically carry everything. It’s an easy walk. The campsite was level and clean, with water provided. It was extremely quiet, with only two other sites occupied and one ranger on the island. I couldn’t recommend it more highly! The trails on Santa Cruz were great, too. Hike to Smugglers Cove and to Potato Harbor, if you can!
My husband and I are using our senior park pass to it’s fullest advantage. On our most recent trip, we decided to try Channel Islands and we were thrilled. First thing to know is that this trip requires some planning and flexibility. You must book your boat ride and camp site in advance and then check the day before to make sure weather permits the boat ride. Island packers provides the boat ride for both campers and day trips. We camped two nights. We departed at around 9 am and arrived at around 10:30. We had to check in by 8 in the parking lot at Ventura bay. You must not have water in your back pack, the propane must be out in a separate bin, and you are allowed only 60 lbs of “stuff” each. We took our Mountain House meals along with our jet boil, a few fruits, and a couple of sandwiches; our tent, sleeping bags, a Wenzel air mattress and were set. You take your stuff to the boat to load. On the day of our travel winds were gusting so severely that they cancelled the day trips, and it was rough! Lots of people got sick on the ride over. Upon arriving on the island, you form a bucket brigade to unload all the luggage/stuff, then a park ranger gives a brief overview of rules, mainly pack out all trash, no trash can be left on the island and to use the “Fox boxes” for all food stuff as the island foxes and ravens WILL take your stuff. You then take a short hike with all your stuff to your campsite - it’s about 1/4 mile or more, depending on your site. Each campground has multiple spigots on potable water, so no need to bring water with you. There are plenty of very clean vault toilets that are always filled with supplies including hand sanitizer. The hikes are spectacular and the trails are well maintained. Note, the hikes are challenging, when they say strenuous, they mean it! The park rangers are very helpful and accessible. The last day of our trip, we packed up our site and moved our stuff to a staging area so the next group could set up their tent. We watched the kayakers and snorkeling groups. The weather was very calm. The boat ride back was amazing, we saw schools of dolphins, the captain estimated over 2000 dolphins. He stopped so we could get lots of pictures. Note, there is no store on the island, we did have spotty cell coverage with AT&T.
We love staying on Santa Cruz island. You have to carry your gear a bit from the ferry but it's beautiful. The campgrounds have clean restrooms and plenty of fresh water so its perfect for families. The group sites are quite large and more secluded in the upper level. at the campgrounds there is a bear box at each site, make sure to utilize this for all food and anything that has a scent because the fox will eat through your tent and bags to get to the food. also keep anything shiny out of sight for the crows.
This place had been on my bucket-list of camping forever and it takes a decent amount of planning because not only can you only access the campground by private boat, once there you have to walk in about a 1/2 mile with all your stuff. It's totally worth it however. Incredible views, perfect weather (in April!), amazing flowers and so much to see and do.
The campsite itself is "basic" in that it has a vault toilet, water, and "fox boxes" (like the bear boxes in other campgrounds) to keep all the cute but quick and greedy foxes away from your food. There's also picnic tables, but other than that make sure you bring everything you need since there's no way to pop into a local store to grab something you might have forgotten. No camp fires are allowed and all garbage must be packed out (but can be stored in the fox boxes until you're ready to leave).
At only $15/night, the camp sites are a steal, though the boat trips will add on about $80 per person round-trip (slightly less for kids). 8am is the earliest boat ride and 4:30 is the last (via Island Packers).
Summary/Tips: Do it! Especially if you love hiking, this is an amazing place. Try to get your gear down to one well-planned backpack (or perhaps one of those foldy wagons as another reviewer recommended) so you only have to take one trip to the campsite, though you can always take more trips if needed.
The bathrooms were wayyy better than what I am used to, so major props to not smelling badly. Note: The only place to get water on the island is the campgrounds. We walked for miles out of water after using the 5 L we brought for the day hike we were completing. The facility is well maintained and there are very few other people on the island beside you due to limited camping and the need of a boat trip reservation to the island. Watch out for the foxes they are wiley and will steal any food left out even if you are a few feet away packing your tent.
No fires allowed but the weather is perfect.
.5 mile from shoreline, flat walk on dirt/rocks to campground. Less is more here, pack as light as possible for you will be loading your gear on and off the boat and to and from the campground. Even though its alot of work the island delievers. Beauty everywhere, native plant and animals you won't see anywhere else in the world. Very alien. Stunning. Foxes are everywhere, do not feed them, do not leave anything out on the table. Zip tie shut your tents, these foxes WILL get into your gear. They are cute but admire from afar, they are very aggressive towards other foxes and you will hear them get into turf wars. Giant ravens will also get into your stuff. There are many hikes that start from the campground and every one of them are worth seeing. We went to smugglers cove, 8 mile round trip full sun. Worth the hike, spent all day at the cove. I did roll my ankel on the rocks, be careful and always look where you step. It was such a demanding trip that I feel like I should have been rewarded a metal at the end. Do not underestimate the difficulty of this island. Still I will return to see Painted Cave.
Going to Santa Cruz island had been on our bucket list for quite a while, but getting there requires a bit of planning and a boat reservation, but when we finally got there it exceeded our expectations. The boat ride was an adventure, and our time on the island even more so. The boat docks at Scorpion inlet, and from there it is about a hike of about half mile to the campground which is is a shady little oasis tucked alongside a creek bed between two steep hills. The campsites are spacious, with water and standard latrines. You can backpack in if you want to travel light, some folks were wrestling with multiple bags and boxes, but several clever people brought folding wagons to tote things and that was a great idea. There are spectacular hiking all over, but be sure to bring water when hiking. There is a kayak-renting concession at the kanding but it seems a little expensive, so if you have one you can bring over on the boat it might be cheaper. This is a great place to get away from busy daily life. Just be on guard fir the island foxes and ravens who hang around the campground and steal gear and food!