Backcountry beach camping is available mid-August through December along Santa Rosa Islands extensive, beautiful, and undeveloped 55-mile coastline. This coastline is reminiscent of California in days gone by. The rocky coast and sandy beaches are much the same as the ones the Chumash Indians, Spanish explorers, and early ranchers may have known. This remote, fragile environment is critical for sea and shorebirds, marine mammals, and plant communities.
In 1992, the National Park Service opened the island to backcountry beach camping in recognition of its rare wilderness values. As you explore these wild areas by kayak or on foot, please take responsibility to help us protect and preserve these delicate natural resources for future generations. The following information will help you enjoy your visit while leaving the smallest impact on the island.
WARNING: While backcountry camping is an incredible experience, it is not for the inexperienced backpacker or kayaker. Due to difficult weather, rugged terrain, and off-trail hiking, backcountry camping is an arduous endeavor and should be undertaken only by experienced, well-conditioned backpackers and kayakers. Less experienced visitors to the island should consider frontcountry camping at Santa Rosa Island Campground in Water Canyon, which also offers advance reservations with some amenities (e.g., pit toilet, picnic table, water).
Backcountry Beach Camping Dates
January 1 - August 14 Backcountry beach camping is closed to protect pupping seals/sea lions and nesting seabirds.
August 15 - September 15 Only East Point to South Point Beaches (Southeast Quadrant) are open to backcountry camping for boaters, kayakers, and backpackers.
September 16 - December 31 Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest Quadrant beaches are open to backcountry camping. Beaches around Sandy Point, at Lobo Canyon, and Northeast Quadrant beaches (between Carrington Point and East Point) remain closed to camping.
Weather conditions are generally best from August through October, with relatively calm wind and sea conditions and virtually no rain. Backpackers and kayakers should be prepared for strong northwest winds throughout the year, with the possibility of strong east or Santa Ana winds from October through January. The average wind speed is 15 knots, although speeds of 40 to 50 knots are not uncommon. Occasionally, the south side of the island (South Point to East Point) offers protection from these strong winds. Dense fog is common making chart and compass navigation mandatory. For the most current weather forecast, please visit Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuarys Internet Weather Kiosk.
Kayakers may encounter strong ocean currents around the islands. Intense wave and surf conditions exist around the Carrington Point area. Sheer cliffs rise out of the ocean, reflecting incoming waves back out to sea, creating a washing machine effect. In this turbulent area there are no places to land, even in an emergency. The first landable beach is Lobo Canyon, five miles west of the ranch area pier. Rounding Skunk Point may be tricky as well because of merging currents. The wind often increases in the afternoon, and the prevailing northwesterlies can make paddling back to Water Canyon difficult. During the summer months, large swells often pound the south side of the island, making landing and launching from the beaches extremely challenging, requiring advanced skills. Ocean water temperatures range from the lower 50s (F) in the winter to the upper 60s (F) in the fall.
Boat and Airplane Drop Off Points. The park boat concessionaire, Islan