Island Adventure: Camping on Channel Islands National Park


My latest adventure took me off the road and onto a boat, traveling to the Channel Islands National Park. Specifically, I went to Santa Cruz Island (Scorpion Campground). Santa Cruz Island is one of five islands in the national park, off the coast of southern California. Island excursions by boat are operated by Island Packers.

NPS Map of Channel Islands National Park

Helpful Map Resource from National Geographic

My trip began with checking in at Island Packers at 7:00am, where my reservation for the boat and campsite were verified. The campsite was booked months ahead of time on There are only 22 campsites on the island, so it is recommended that you book ahead of time, especially in the busier season.

Island Packers in the Ventura, CA Harbor
Island Packers’ “Island Adventure” awaits its departure

If camping, keep in mind that you may have to hike in up to a half mile, so your gear should be in packs for ease of transport. Also, review Island Packers’ gear restrictions for contents and weight before going on the trip. Potable water is available, so you need to only pack containers and/or a water bladder for hikes. Separate fuels (propane, butane, etc.) for transport in a special box on the boat.

Once set up in campsite 15, I was greeted by one of the 1500 Island Fox residents. This is the only place on earth where you will find this specific species of fox. Be careful, they will open zippers, steal from you, and potentially leave gifts in your tent. If camping, place the tent zippers at the top to prevent them from entering. These sly foxes will wait for you to turn your back and then steal anything (food, money, keys, etc.). The park service has installed “fox boxes” to help protect items.

Campsite 15, complete with “fox box”
An Island Fox quickly made an appearance. They are small, nearly the size of a cat.
Two-month old Island Fox pups I found on a hike. Fun Fact: a group of fox is called a Skulk.

The Island Fox was nearly extinct until efforts to build the population were enacted. The extinction of the Bald Eagle from the Channel Islands (caused by DDT pollution dumped in the Pacific Ocean, creating soft egg shells) allowed the Golden Eagle to take over the area. The Golden Eagle is a predator to the Island Fox, causing the fox population numbers to plummet. The re-establishment of Bald Eagle on the island, then replaced the Golden Eagle, allowing the fox population to flourish.

Island Activities

Although you can kayak and snorkel, I spent my time hiking to various areas of the island. Two days was not nearly enough time to do everything.

Some left over wild flowers from the super bloom near Cavern Point
Sunrise at Scorpion Beach
Scorpion Canyon Loop Trail
Potato Harbor Overlook
Potato Harbor Overlook
Cavern Point in late afternoon

Santa Cruz Island has a rich history in terms of the people occupying the land. The land was originally occupied by the Chumash people, who extended to the California central and southern coast. They also occupied Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands. It has been reported that they constructed canoes to travel to the islands. This is an incredible act, considering the often formidable conditions of the Santa Barbara Channel.

Later on, the island was occupied by ranchers, although this did not last, due to the lack of profit from crops and a sheep herd. Many artifacts remain from the ranching era.

Farming equipment is left on display
A windmill still stands

Channel Islands National Park is a great camping or day trip. Although close to the California shore, the act of planning and booking a trip makes this a park one with few visitors. There is a visitor’s center on the mainland, but I could not visit due to the timing of my boat from the Island Packers.

I hope you find a chance to visit this beautiful place.

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