When I think of California National Parks, I tend to think of Yosemite, or Sequoia, or the Redwoods. I never even knew that there was a park so close to Los Angeles, and so completely different than any other national park I’ve ever been to. Channel Islands National Park is located just off the coast of Ventura, about 90 minutes away from Los Angeles. The park consists of 5 islands and their surrounding waters. Between the land adventures and the sea, this is one amazing and unique park.
To get to Santa Cruz island (the biggest of the five) we took the Island Packers Ferry ride, which in itself was a really cool experience. About five minutes in, we saw a huge school of dolphins. They seemed to be EVERYWHERE! They rode up right next to the boat and leaped in and out of the waves behind us. Then I got an awesome first, a humpback whale! It took a while to surface once it was spotted but then I got to see the full tail come out!
The island itself is stunning! A quick ferry ride from the coast and you feel like you’re in some tropical destination! The water is a gorgeous turquoise color and the rolling hills are awesome. One thing I love about this park is that they really protect the land and water by keeping it remote. There is no food or water on the island so you must pack in and pack out everything you bring. Chanel Island Provisioners set us up with an incredible day’s worth of organic and sustainable food.
As soon as we departed the ferry, we were given quick instructions from the park rangers about what to do and not do on the island to protect the land and ourselves. The national park service does a great deal to protect the island’s habitat and species. The island fox is unique because it’s native to the islands and not found anywhere else in the world. When non-native bald eagles threatened the fox and landed it on the endangered species list, the NPS began a recovery program in 1999 to protect these animals and today it’s numbers have returned. The islands are considered the American Galapagos because the have so many unique species; protecting them is extremely important and keeps this park one of a kind.
We began our day with a hike on the Potato Harbor trail which is a 4 mile out and back trail with incredible ocean views. Well…sometimes. We ended up with quite a bit of fog the day we went but a little patience went a LONG way and waiting out the fog for a few quick views had QUITE the payoff!
After getting a good intro to Santa Cruz Island’s land adventure, we took to the waters and went snorkeling with Santa Barbara Adventure Company. After sweating it up on the trails the cold water was refreshing and gorgeous! The clear blue water and beautiful fish were an awesome sight to see. Such a relaxing way to end the day.
The thing that kept blowing me away about this beautiful park is that it’s SO close to such a huge city and yet felt a world away. Our day trip felt like a relaxing weekend somewhere in Europe. Between the activities both on land and sea, Santa Cruz really was two amazing parks in one! Have a look at the entire episode and be sure to go to www.visitventuraca.com to learn more!