This backpacking trip may be the best you'll find anywhere in Southern California. From sweeping ocean views to mountains, Santa Cruz Island has it all.

To get to Santa Cruz Island you will need to book a ferry with Island Packers.  On their website you can only  book roundtrip tickets in and out of the same location so for this trip you will need to call and book a ferry in to Prisoner's Harbor and out of Scorpion Anchorage. You can call them at (805) 642-1393.  The roundtrip cost of the ferry is $79. You will also need to reserve the campsite(s) which you can do at https://www.recreation.gov.  If doing this as a one night trip you will just need to book a campsite at Del Norte Campground, but if you want to do two nights you will need to book the second night for Scorpion Campground.

I would recommend getting a ferry that leaves to go into Prisoner's Harbor around 1 pm which will put you on the island anywhere from 2:30-3:30 pm.  From the harbor follow the road for around one mile until you reach a junction pointing you in the direction of Del Norte Campground.  From here you can either continue to follow the road or take the trail to the campsite.  The route via the road ends up being around .5 miles longer. The trail is fairly strenuous with a fairly continual uphill climb.  As you go over several ridges there are a few steep downhills followed by steep uphills which can be tough.  You'll eventually reach another junction after about 3.5 miles where you will turn off to go to the campsite.  Follow the trail for a couple minutes and you'll be at the campsite.  This portion took around 2.5 hours with minimal breaks. There are only 4 campsites here and so it should be fairly quiet! Make sure to keep all your food and scented products in the bear boxes at the campsite as there are lots of foxes on the island.  Additionally, the ranger told us to keep our shoes and backpacks in the tent as the foxes will get into that as well. 

The next day is a fairly long trek so I would recommend getting an earlier start.  Hike back out to the junction where you turned to go to the campsite and follow the sign for the trail.  From here the trail continues mostly flat before another large uphill push.  You'll find yourself on the road again which you will follow for a while.  After continuing flat on the road for a couple miles you will leave the road and begin another ascent up the trail to Montañon Ridge.  From here you can see down into Scorpion Harbor.  The remaining four miles of the trail are primarily downhill or flat with only a couple small uphills. After making your way down the ridge you will come to a junction where you will need to decide if you want to take the Scorpion Canyon Loop or take Smugglers Road to the pier. If you want to make this a two night trip, you can camp at Scorpion Campground which is along the Scorpion Canyon Loop.  This is a much larger campsite with 39 sites, however it is closer to some shorter trails that lead to great views such as Potato Harbor and Cavern Point.  From Scorpion Campground follow the signs the last half mile or so to the pier where you will catch your ferry home.  Hiking from Del Norte Campground to Scorpion Anchorage took approximately 5.5 hours with a detour up to Cavern Point (which I would highly recommend).

For a shorter version of this trip, check out this adventure.  However, I would highly recommend making the longer trek from Del Norte to Scorpion.  The views more than make up for the additional milage! 

There are also ticks on the island so make sure to check yourself when you get home! 

Pack List

  • Hiking boots 
  • Long pants 
  • Warm clothing
  • Sun hat 
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Stove
  • Lighter
  • Food 
  • Tent
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag 
  • Camera
  • Mosquito repellant
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RT Distance 15 Miles
Activities Chillin, Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Point-to-Point
Features
Beach
Family Friendly
Picnic Area
Romantic
Scenic

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