11 Photos That Will Make You Want to Hike Channel Islands National Park

Take in some amazing views of one of our national parks.

By: Katie Y + Save to a List

If you're like many nature lovers, then you probably have on your bucket list to see all the national parks in the U.S., like I do. That means lots of research, time-consuming planning, and mapping out all the routes, hikes, and epic spots you must see to really take in as much as possible with the weekend trips and vacation hours from work. Here is where I make it a little easier for your research by showing you some of the best things to see while visiting the Channel Islands. 

Start by making your reservations for the ferry ride at IslandPackers.com. From there read about the hiking on some of the trails that have been posted here, here, and here on The Outbound. Don't forget to bring that camera and tripod when packing!

Channel Islands National Park is one of California's most scenic ocean cliff sides and picturesque overlooks that offers amazing views year-round. It's about an hour ferry ride from either Ventura harbor or Oxnard harbor, depending on which island you choose to visit. Choosing which island to visit is up to you. The ferry only goes to one per day at each harbor, so keep that in mind when planning out your trip. Be sure to keep that camera out during the ferry ride over. We saw 2 gray whales (with tail flips!), tons of dolphins, and sea lions! 

Anacapa Island is known for its iconic overlook, Inspiration Point. 

The best time to photograph this spot is sunset, as expected, since the sun sets directly behind the overlook, where the other islands can be seen on a non-cloudy day. This will require you to camp at the island, as the ferry leaves with day trip people at 3pm. There is also a beautiful lighthouse that is excellent for sunrise shots, as it is on the eastern side of Anacapa Island, making it an ideal location. There isn't any hiking besides this small 1 mile trail, however, there are hundreds of gull birds that are also fun to do some action shots while at this island. Unfortunately, there isn't always enough time to squeeze in more days to trips. This island would be my choice to day trip to, if I had the option to only camp at one of the islands. I'd save my one camp day for Santa Cruz, one of the other Channel Islands.

Your next stop should be Santa Cruz Island for any kind of photography, hiking, camping, kayaking, etc. There's so much to do on this islands and see that it makes it ideal for a multi-day trip. 

There's a loop that starts at the drop off point for the ferry at Scorpion Anchorage/Ranch called Cavern Loop Trail that will take you along the coast line and runs into Potato Harbor Trail to see Potato Harbor overlook; it can be seen here. That trail will slowly descend back to Scorpion campgrounds for a total of 5 miles loop. 

Potato Harbor is known for its incredible sunset views. I suggest getting there early and hanging out a couple hours before sunset. I ate my dinner here and had this all to myself. Mainly because it's a little bit longer of a hike to get back to the campground and in the dark. Bring that headlamp, and you'll have no problem walking back after seeing this view!

Being on an island means you will have some major wind and cloud action that can change at any minute and create tons of different compositions for photography. You won't want to miss these.

Drag yourself out of that comfortable sleeping bag and hit up the eastern side of the Santa Cruz island at Scorpion Anchorage to get some awesome sunrise views that are bound to awe you. 

Along the way you'll notice some extremely cute foxes. They are very humanized and will have no problem with your big camera and long lens to take some great action shots of them. Do not feed them! These foxes may be adorable, but they are super cunning and can use that tiny nose to unzip your pack and/or tent and take all your food! They even leave a little mound of a something special in your tent to let you know who visited you. Sharing is caring! ;) 

The ranger on the island will give you tips on how to prevent this from happening. Cover your packs, zip your zippers at the top of the doors to the tent, etc...

Remember when visiting any of the islands that you will need to pack in and out all trash and gear. Venture out to all the islands for some unique places each one offers. Really focus on hitting those early mornings and afternoons for the best light and least amount of haze that most California is known for. You'll be bound to have at least a dozen beautiful shots you'll want to frame!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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