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About Santa Rosa Island
Tucked away in a canyon to protect visitors from strong northwest winds, Water Canyon Campground offers exceptional island views, access to spectacular hiking opportunities and a nearby white sand beach. Located 40 nautical miles from the Channel Islands National Park visitor center in Ventura, Santa Rosa is the second largest island in California at approximately 53,000 acres in size. The island landforms support a diverse array of plant and animal species including six plant species found nowhere on earth but Santa Rosa Island. The island also hosts over 100 bird and three land mammal species, including the endemic island fox. Remains of an ancient species like the pygmy mammoth have been uncovered on Santa Rosa Island. These miniature mammoths, reaching just four to six feet tall, roamed the islands grasslands and forests during the Pleistocene Age. The island has rich archeological resources as well. It is home to thousands of significant archeological sites of the Chumash Native Americans, who inhabited the island until 1820. Others have come to the island during more recent centuries to exploit its rich resources, sometimes making it their home. In addition to the native Chumash, European explorers, Aleut sea otter hunters, Chinese abalone fishermen, Spanish missionaries, Mexican and American ranchers, and the US military all have left their mark on the Santa Rosa landscape. Visitors can see relics of these occupations in remnants of fishing camps, water troughs and fence lines, the pier where cattle were loaded and unloaded, buildings and equipment of the historic Vail and Vickers ranch at Bechers Bay, and remains of the military installations. Natural Features: Santa Rosa has a landscape of remarkable contrasts. High mountains with deeply cut canyons give way to gently rolling grass-covered hills, extensive beaches and coastal wetlands. The altitude ranges from sea level to 1,589 feet. Recreation: Several trails and roads traverse the island, providing visitors with spectacular hiking opportunities, including the relatively flat route to Water Canyon Beach to the rugged, mountainous path to Black Mountain. Due to the strong, persistent wind, swimming, snorkeling, diving and kayaking are limited and recommended for the experienced visitor only. Despite the wind, Santa Rosa Island offers exceptional beach walking on white sand beaches. Access to one of the best beaches, Water Canyon Beach, is just over a mile from the pier in Bechers Bay and just down canyon from the campground. Beach access is also available near the pier. No fishing is allowed within the marine reserves located around the island. Fishing is allowed outside of these areas. For more information about recreational activities in the park, visit Facilities: Primitive camping is available at Water Canyon Campground (15 sites; 5 persons per site). Picnic table, food storage box, windbreak, pit toilet and water are provided. The campground is a flat 1.5-mile hike from the pier and a 0.25-mile from the airstrip and Water Canyon Beach. Due to the boat schedule, minimum stay is generally three days. Nearby Attractions: Good tidepooling spots are located within Bechers Bay, including just east of the pier, the east end of Southeast Anchorage, and near East Point. A short hike from the campground is the Santa Rosa Island Torrey pine grove. This pine is considered one of the rarest pines in the world-the last enduring members of a once widespread Pleistocene forest. Near the pier, visitors can see buildings and equipment of the historic Vail and Vickers ranch. Access to a highly recommended beach, Water Canyon Beach, is just over a mile from the Bechers Bay pier. The sandy beach lies on the northeastern shore of the isla ACTIVITIES Boating Interpretive Programs: Educational Programs Hiking Picnicking: Picnic Tables Water Sports: Scuba Diving Swimming Site
Drive In
National Park Service
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Santa Rosa Island is located in Channel Islands National Park in California
33.991 N
-120.048 W
Get Directions
Boat transportation can be arranged with Island Packers from Ventura Harbor. Air transportation can be arranged with Channel Islands Aviation from Camarillo airport. To park headquarters in Ventura, California: Highway 101, exit Victoria or Seaward to Ventura Harbor.
4 Reviews of Santa Rosa Island
great experience

We backpacked for 3 nights on santa rosa island. the boat ride was a little choppy but once we arrived the weather was fantastic. it was so isolated, not many people are allowed to camp per night and once you are there, you are stuck for a few days. it was amazing and peaceful, I would love to go back. make sure to utilize thet til bear boxes, the fox like to eat your food as well as the crows. so if you leave anything in your tent, it will be damaged and broken into.

Isolated, pretty, and very windy.

If you like the feeling of having an entire island to yourself and don't mind hiking in a bit this is the trip for you. You access the island via boat. If you're packing for this trip you need to keep your hydration bladder and your camp stove fuel separate, the boat operators will make you unpack and repack if you do not. It takes about 3 hours to get there. We saw whales and dolphins on the way out and back, but our crossing was windy and choppy and more then a few people were blowing chunks off the back of the boat.

You get to the dock and everyone pitches in to get the gear off the boat and up the stairs. Then you get to start your walk to the camp site. It's about 1.5 miles from the dock and very pretty. Some people brought a rolling cooler but I do not recommend that. The path has a lot of rocks and soft sand and pulling a cooler over that looked like a huge nightmare. We brought a yeti soft sided cooler (the smallest one) which worked out perfectly and fit inside the fox box easily. The strap around your neck makes it super easy to carry.

The campsites each have a wind shelter where you set up your tent. The wind is not a joke. When we came back from hiking more than one tent was blown over. Low profile, use your steaks and we even tied ours to the shelter to keep it stable. There is water at the campsite (and indoor flushing toilets!) but it's pretty hard to drink. I brought a few lemons to squeeze in it but they don't cover the strong mineral taste. It's fine for rehydrating your food, but you probably want to bring in drinking water.

The hiking is awesome, but steep. Most of the trails are longer than you think because the distance is from the dock not the camp ground. Lobo Canyon which is a popular hike - and worth it - is way longer than you think because the distance listed is from the dock to the trail-head. It's another 2 miles to the beach from there.

There are Torrey Pines trees, which are rare. Island foxes, which are SO CUTE and a bunch of large birds.

At certain times of the year you can camp on some parts of the beach but I wouldn't try that on your first trip out there. I also recommend against bringing out a surfboard unless you take your own boat out there and can drop anchor where you chose. It's 8 miles to the nearest surf break from the dock and the waves aren't always worth it.

Santa Rosa Island an oasis in our backyard!

The perfect backpacking trip! Everything you need for the ultimate adventure in one place.

First to Review
Fantastic place. Great getaway and interesting wildlife.

I spent three days on Santa Rosa island in July 2015. I used one of the charter boat companies (Island Packers) to get there - they were great. Upon arrival, expect to haul your gear a 1/4 to 1/2 mile for even the closest campsites - but it's absolutely worth it. Some folks had gear carts, but we packed light enough that it wasn't a problem. It is absolutely important to understand that the Channel Islands isn't your usual campgrounds, it's an island with protected species that are all over the place. The Island Fox is the biggest wildlife challenge I've encountered. They are friggin adorable and very numerous (you will see dozens, if not hundreds if you stay for a day), but if they can't steal it or eat it, they will pee on it. Understanding that, it's very cool to hang out in the campground watching them interact with the campers trying to steal food. Use the "fox boxes" to store all of your food and stuff you don't want peed on and you're good.

The beach is nearby and offers great snorkeling in kelp beds, we saw numerous rays cruising nearby and got many great photos. Depending on your interests, sea kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and the like are all possible.

The island has numerous hiking trails that take you up the surrounding "mountains" that overlook the island for fantastic views. Part of the island is off limits as part of a wildlife refuge, but I never felt like that prevented us from having our fill of wandering around on the parts that were good to go.

Overall Santa Rosa is a fantastic place to visit and make sure you give yourself enough time to see what all the island offers. An afternoon visit would only give a small taste, it's well worth staying for a couple days.