Hike to Chinese Harbor on Santa Cruz Island

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Hike one of the least travelled trails on Santa Cruz Island. Witness unforgettable views and walk along a rocky coastline. 

The hike to Chinese Harbor is a 14.2 mile out-and-back hike from Prisoners Harbor on Santa Cruz Island or a much more manageable 8 mile out-and-back hike from Del Norte backcountry campground. If you are spending the day on the island curtesy of Island Packers, a trek to Chinese Harbor might be difficult to manage since you will only have from 11:00am to 4:00pm on the island. This hike is best if you are taking your own boat or staying at Del Norte campground. The hike will take 6 - 7 hours depending on pace. 

From Prisoners Harbor take the Navy Base Road 1.5 miles to the Del Norte trailhead. Continue along the Del Norte trail for 3.8 miles. You will pass over mountains and through canyons overlooking the northside of the island. Eventually you will see the white coastline of Chinese Harbor off in the distance. After passing theDel Norte campground you will eventually reach another trail junction. Take a left and continue to follow the trail down towards Chinese Harbor. This section of the trail is not as well maintained as the Del Norte trail and wild flowers spring up in the middle of the path. Eventually you will come upon a breathtaking view of the harbor and see the trail wind down to the shore. It is another 1.8 miles downhill until you reach the beach. As you approach the bottom of the trail look to the right for a hidden path down to the shore. 

The beach has a rough surf that pounds into the rocks along the shore. You can hear the stones rolling back into the ocean as the tide carries them out. Bright yellow and pink rocks scatter the shoreline, along with piles of drift wood and items washed up from the sea. It is almost untouched. This is a true example of protected national park coastline.

After lounging on the beach and hanging out in the waves head back up the trail the way you came. The first leg of the hike back can be difficult as you now must climb the 750 ft you just descended. Make sure to bring enough water and a snack as it can be hot later in the day.

Pack List

  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Water
  • Snack
  • Towel
  • Swimsuit
  • Hiking boots
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RT Distance 14.2 Miles
Elevation Gain 750 Feet
Activities Swimming, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Beach
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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