Santa Rosa Island

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Torrey pines on Santa Rosa Island, with Santa Cruz Island in the distance
Limestone formations on the beach, Santa Rosa Island

Santa Rosa Island

  • Location:  Channel Islands National Park, off the Ventura coast.   Island Packers is the main travel provider to the Channel Islands National Park.  Visit their site here for schedules, fares and other information.   Santa Rosa Island is also the only one in the park that can be reached by plane.   Click here for more information.
  • Agency:  Channel Islands National Park/National Park Service
  • Distance: 6.5 miles (semi-loop)
  • Elevation gain: 450 feet
  • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season:  April to October (pending boat availability)
  • USGS topo map: “Santa Rosa Island North” and “Santa Rosa Island South”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock; Dramamine (boat ride)
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 8

If you have Monday off as part of the holiday weekend, why not celebrate Independence Day with a trip to one of California’s national parks?  I was going to write about the most popular Channel Island, Anacapa, in this blog, but unfortunately there is no access to the island because of damage to the landing area, so instead, I offer Santa Rosa Island for your consideration.  Note that the Channel Islands are remote and undeveloped.  None of them have trash collection (pack out what you bring in), and most of them don’t have running water.  Oh yeah, no gift shops, either.  Make sure you check out the informational links I’ve provided before making the trip.

Santa Rosa Island is the second largest island in the Channel Islands National Park, and one of the three “outer islands”, meaning it is only reachable by a long (3-4 hours each way) boat ride over rough water.   Once you are there, however, you are rewarded with great views that few in So-Cal get to see.  Santa Rosa is noted for its Torrey Pines, which are only found there and in San Diego (of golf course fame).

From the landing area, head southeast on a dirt road, past some historical farm buildings.  The beginning stretch is a little monotonous, but you do get nice views of the ocean on the left and the inland hills and canyons on the right.  Several trails—such as those leading to Cherry Canyon and Water Canyon–branch off to the right.  After about two and a half miles, you arrive at the base of the Torrey Pines loop.  From here, the trail gets much more interesting–and challenging, wasting no time in climbing up onto the hill.  As you ascend, the views of the pines and the ocean get better and better.  Finally, you reach the ridge line and then descend back to the main trail.  There are a few spots on the way where you will need to be careful, as the trail winds in and out of some tight corners.   The loop trail ends back at the main road, which you follow back to the landing dock at Becher’s Bay.  (Make sure to check out the interesting limestone formations on the beach).

Depending on how quickly the boat makes the trip–variable depending on ocean conditions–you may or may not have enough time to do the whole loop.  I was able to do it but I had to maintain a pretty brisk pace.  If your time and energy are short, consider just making the 5 mile round trip to the base of the Torrey Pines trail, which will still give you nice views of the trees and the ocean.

Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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