Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park

Camping

Camping

Camping is available year-round on all five islands in Channel Islands National Park in National Park Service-managed campgrounds. There is currently one established campground on each island:

  • Above the landing cove on Santa Barbara Island
  • On the east islet of Anacapa Island
  • At Scorpion Ranch on Santa Cruz Island
  • At Water Canyon on Santa Rosa Island
  • Above Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel

No camping is allowed on The Nature Conservancy's western 76% of Santa Cruz Island. Limited backcountry camping is available on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands. Please refer to the Backcountry Camping section for more information.

Camping Transportation
Because concession boats fill to capacity much faster than campground limits are met, campers must first secure transportation for an overnight trip to Channel Islands National Park. Visit Island Transportation for more information on park concessionaire boat and plane transportation.

Camping Reservations
Advanced camping reservations are required for all of the campgrounds. There are no entrance fees to visit the park. However, a reservation fee is charged for camping on the islands. The $15.00 per night-per site fee includes both the National Park Service fee that supports the operation and maintenance of the campgrounds and the reservation fee charged by the contractor that manages the National Reservation Service.

Reservations can be made no more than five months in advance. Information required for the reservations includes: camping dates, transportation information, and number of campers. Reservations can be made by calling (877) 444-6777 or through the National Recreation Reservation Service. A confirmation notice will be mailed to campers. This notice needs to be presented to the island ranger upon arrival.

Campground Facilities
All campgrounds are located away from the boat landing areas. Visitors must carry all their gear to the campgrounds. No on-island transportation is provided. Please see the table below for more information on campground distances from landings.

Camping conditions are primitive, and users must camp within designated areas. All campgrounds are equipped with picnic tables and pit toilets. Water is not available at campgrounds and must be brought with you except at the Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Island campgrounds. No trash containers are provided; campers must pack out their own trash.

Outer island campgrounds (San Miguel and Santa Rosa) have wind breaks for each campsite. Campsites are generally located close to one another.

No fires are permitted. Use only enclosed, gas camp stoves.

Since the mice do carry hantavirus, some basic precautions should be taken: do not feed any wild animals; keep food and drink in rodent-proof containers; and prevent entry of mice into your tent by keeping it zipped up at all times. Click here for more information on hantavirus.

Due to scavenging animals (including birds), campers are required to store all food and trash in animal- and bird-proof containers. National Park Service food storage boxes are provided at campsites, but coolers, plastic Rubbermaid-type boxes or other types of containers with sealing lids may be used as well. On Santa Cruz Island, further precautions are needed due to scavenging pigs: 1) do not store any food or trash in tents; 2) if not using food storage boxes, secure pig-proof containers to picnic tables or trees with straps or rope or place food and trash in duffle bags and/or backpacks and hang from trees.

 

Weather
Campers should be prepared for a variety of weather conditions, especially on the outer islands. Thirty-knot winds are not uncommon on Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands. Sturdy, low-profile tents, stakes, and line for securing tents to ground, table, or wind shelters are recommended.

Fog can occur on the islands during any season producing cool, damp conditions.

All of the campgrounds, except eastern Santa Cruz, are located away from trees and shade. Overexposure to the wind and sun can be a serious problem.

Visitors are advised to bring supplies for an extra day in case boats are unable to pick up campers due to sea conditions.

For the most current weather forecast, please visit Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary's Internet Weather Kiosk.

Suggested Camping Gear
Campers must be prepared for the primitive campground facilities and weather conditions. Supplies and gear are not available on the islands. Gear must be transported up ladders at most landing areas, and carried some distance to the campgrounds.

Packing your gear in backpacks, duffle bags, and containers with handles makes transportation easier. The boat concessionaire requires that items weigh no more than 45 pounds each.

On some islands, visitors may get wet during loading and off-loading, so waterproof your gear. An extra pair of shoes packed in waterproof material is recommended.

Campers should plan to layer clothing, as weather conditions tend to change from cool and damp in the mornings to bright, warm, and windy during the afternoons. Clothing that protects against wind is advisable year-round. Hiking boots are recommended for most island trails.

Additional "needed" gear includes:

  • hat/visor/cap
  • sunglasses
  • windbreaker/light jacket
  • shirts and pants that can be layered
  • normal clothing needs
  • food
  • sturdy tent
  • campstove/cooking gear
  • water (1 gallon per person, per day)
  • sunscreen
  • flashlight
  • sleeping bag
  • matches
  • first aid kit

"Suggested" gear includes:

  • bathing suit
  • gloves
  • poncho/rain jacket
  • sneakers/light footwear
  • towel
  • seasick pills
  • garbage bags
  • camera/film
  • binoculars
  • toiletries
  • sleeping pads

Backcountry Camping

Backcountry camping is available year-round at the Del Norte campsite near Prisoners Harbor on Santa Cruz Island. Also, during certain times of year, backcountry beach camping is allowed on Santa Rosa Island. The National Park Service opened these islands to limited backcountry camping in recognition of their rare wilderness values. As you explore these wild areas by kayak or on foot, please take the responsibility to help us protect and preserve these delicate natural resources for future generations.

WARNING: While backcountry camping is an incredible experience, it is not for the inexperienced backpacker or kayaker. Due to difficult weather, rugged terrain, and off-trail hiking, backcountry camping is an arduous endeavor and should be undertaken only by experienced, well-conditioned backpackers and kayakers.

Santa Cruz Island
Del Norte is currently the only backcountry campground on Santa Cruz Island. It is nestled in a shaded oak grove, about 700 feet above sea level, and provides scenic views of the island's pristine coastline. The hike to the site is 3.5 miles from Prisoners Harbor and 12 miles from Scorpion Anchorage. The campground has four primitive campsites (4 persons per site) and users must camp within these designated sites. A picnic table, animal-proof container, and pit-style toilet are provided (campers must bring their own toilet paper). Water is not available.

Santa Rosa Island
Backcountry camping on Santa Rosa Island is currently limited to certain beaches between June 1st and December 31st. Hiking is along the beach and rugged, unsigned dirt roads or unmaintained animal paths. The closest beach for camping is 10 miles from the boat/plane drop-off location. Water is available year-round in some of the island's canyons.