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!
For a national park that’s located just off mainland California, Channel Islands feels like a world away from bustling L.A. We visited in March, and while the weather was cold and rainy, our experience was one of the most unique we have had in the national parks.
After ferrying from Ventura, we arrived at Santa Cruz to set up our tent (be sure to reserve your site ahead of time online) and squeeze in an afternoon of kayaking before the rain hit. We brought our own kayak to the island (an extra fee on the ferry) but you can also rent kayaks or take a guided tour on Santa Cruz. We’d highly recommend kayaking while you’re there!
The campsites were spacious, flat, and SO GREEN! Santa Cruz is one of the few Channel Islands to have running water, but you’ll have to bring all the other supplies you’ll need during your stay. If you visit in the spring like we did, we’d recommend bringing plenty of rain gear and maybe a deck of cards, as there wasn’t too much to entertain us when it poured. Also, mind your food and clothing; an island fox ran off with a pair of underwear we had left out to dry!
The rest of the island provides many hiking trails (we loved Potato Harbor and Cavern Point Loop) and secret coves (like Smuggler’s Cove) which provide even more sanctuary and solitude than just being on the island. And the ferry itself was a wildlife viewing experience, with harbor seals and dolphins dotting the way.
You can read much more about our four days in the park on our blog: Switchback Kids (Channel Islands)
I can't emphasize enough how much I love camping here. We came here for about 5 days a few years ago, and had a great time. The campground has ample shade, provides benches, food storage lockers (definitely use them, the island foxes are adorable, but ruthless when it comes to stealing your food), and pit toilets. Choose a site a good distance away from the pit toilets if you have a choice. This should go without saying, but this campground is on an island, so you need to take a boat to get here (Island Packers out of Ventura). Word of wisdom--pack wisely when you go, as the campground is maybe a half a mile to a mile from the boat landing. If you have a ton of loose items and a ton of bags, expect to make many trips back and forth. When we went, we took our kayaks to get the most out of our week on the island. You can also rent kayaks (I THINK you have to make reservations ahead of time), and the kayaks are already on the beach waiting for you. We took our own, however, so we could tour on our own. I believe when you rent you have to go with a guide. We had to make a reservation for our kayaks, for an added fee, but they help load them and paddle them for you to the beach. We stored our kayaks on the beach during our time there, but brought a chain lock to lock them together to prevent anyone from taking them on joy paddle. There are also a great number of different hiking trails that leave from the campground that can keep you busy. Another note for the campground, the time we were there was EXTREMELY windy. The way the campground is situated, it is in a narrow valley that acts as a wind tunnel when it is windy out. Many of our neighbors did not do a good job of staking down their tents and some of them nearly blew away. If you are looking to really get away from it all, this is probably for you.
The Channel Islands are slightly difficult to get to with the need of the ferry. However it is well worth it, since it is incredible to be on the island. Santa Cruz is amazing. Foxes everywhere. Kayak around and experience seals and dolphins right underneath you in beautiful coves. An amazing and unique experience.
Oh, where do I start with this wonderful place? Do I talk about how incredible the smells of the eucalyptus trees are? Do I talk about how nice it is to be completely disconnected from the outside world? Do I talk about the amazing stargazing? I don't even know. First off, we stayed in campsite 23, on the very far end of the upper loop (about 3/4s of a mile from Scorpion Anchorage). It was great! The upper loop has all of the group sites and thus everything is a more spread out. The trees aren't quite as dense in the upper loop as they are in the lower loop, but there's still plenty of shade. There are tons of cute little island foxes EVERYWHERE at both loops- we were worried that we wouldn't see any, but that concern was quickly put to rest. Some friends of ours said they heard the foxes making a lot of noise at night, but I personally didn't hear any. The Scorpion Canyon loop trail goes right past campsite 23, but we were never bothered by that. There are two large eucalyptus trees that we put our tent right under (even though the ranger told us not to- we're rebels like that) and it was great. Be prepared for approximately a million earwigs all over everything you own, though, especially your tent. Taking down our tent at the end of our trip (3 days, 2 nights) was definitely gag-inducing for me as a creepy-crawly-hater. I don't know if anything like permethrin would help combat that, or if that only really works on mosquitoes and the like. There's a picnic table with a fox box attached and a larger fox box off to the side at every site. USE THEM. The foxes and the birds love to use every place in the world as their bathroom, and if you don't put things away you'll end up with some nasty stuff on your things. The larger fox box was plenty big enough for our two large backpacking packs and all of our food and such. The doors also make a great windbreak for starting a campstove! Along those lines I would also highly recommend bleach wipes or something of the sort to help keep your table clean. I'm certainly not averse to a little "nature" in my food, but (excuse my bluntness) I draw the line at puddles of pee and fecal matter. We didn't have anything of the sort and I wish we had. You may also want to bring your own hand sanitizer, as the bathrooms both ran out while we were there and we only had a tiny bottle. There is a potable water spigot in the middle of the upper loop, and a two-stall pit toilet bathroom. It was definitely reasonably clean, albeit a bit smelly (but what can you really expect on an island with no real utilities?). I would call it the most glamorous and easy "backpacking" trip I've ever been on. If you treat the trip as though you'll be staying in the backcountry, you'll really enjoy yourself. If you go in expecting fully lit bathrooms with flush toilets and showers that get cleaned twice a day, you're going to have a bad time. Santa Cruz is a gorgeous island, and I'd love to go back. We loved the campground and its accessibility to several hikes, as well as the small visitor center and Scorpion Cove.
KEY POINTS: -think as though you're going into the backcountry, and pack accordingly -bring wipes for the tables (lots of fox poo) -keep as many belongings as possible in the fox boxes! -upper loop sites are more spread out, but there are fewer trees than in the lower loop