Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park photo by Narrow Window Photography via Shutterstock.

Channel Islands National Park, off the coast of California, encompasses five rugged islands that harbor rich biodiversity. With a wealth of natural and cultural resources, it’s an isolated haven perfect for nature and history buffs.

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Fast Facts

State(s): California
Area: 249,561 acres (1,009.94sq km) – 27th largest national park of 63
Highest Elevation: Mount Montanon – 1,812 ft (552.30 m)
Lowest Elevation: Sea level
Date Established: March 5, 1980
Annual Visitors: 323,245 visitors in 2022
Nearest Town: Santa Barbara, California

Recommended Day Hikes

Park Tracker considers a “day hike” to be a hike under 10 miles. Below we provide our top five recommendations inside the park, along with AllTrails links to the hikes.

  1. Scorpion Loop Trail (4.5 mi, Moderate) – Offers coastal views, canyon hikes, and the chance to see island foxes.
  2. Santa Cruz Island Kayak (Variable, Moderate) – Sea cave kayaking offers a unique way to explore the island’s coastline.
  3. Potato Harbor Trail (5 mi, Moderate) – A scenic coastal hike with views of Potato Harbor.
  4. Smuggler’s Cove Trail (7.5 mi, Strenuous) – Crosses the island to a remote beach and historic site.
  5. Torrey Pines Trail on San Miguel Island (1 mi, Easy) – Leads to one of the world’s rarest pine trees, only accessible when the island is open and with a ranger.

🧗🏻‍♂️ Popular Activities in Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands is about more than just hiking. See below for some of the best non-hiking activities to do in Channel Islands National Park.

  1. Kayaking along the coast and sea caves
  2. Wildlife spotting (e.g., seals, sea lions, dolphins)
  3. Snorkeling and scuba diving in kelp forests
  4. Whale watching during migration seasons
  5. Attending ranger-led programs on marine ecology

🛎️ Where to Stay Near Channel Islands National Park Park

While there are ample camping and vacation rental options near most US national parks, I personally highly prefer staying at Hilton-branded properties when traveling to national parks. As such, below are the five closest Hilton properties to Channel Islands National Park.

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🍔 What to Eat Near Channel Islands National Park

After hiking and exploring Channel Islands National Park, odds are high you’re going to be hungry. Here are five of the best restaurant options within and near the park.

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