Posted: Tuesday, Aug 23rd, 2022

By Ken McAlpine

Channel Islands National Park: Where the Wild Things Are

     “Let the wild rumpus start!”

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak 

Where the Wild Things Are

Island Fox Santa Cruz island Ventura California

They’ve been called the Galapagos of North America, but frankly, that’s selling them short. Five islands – Santa Barbara, Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel – that are the loveliest step back in time; a wondrous world where housecat-size foxes scamper through fields of Seuss-like flowers, and moon and sun shine down on, well, nothing. 

Escape to Alone

Camping Santa cruz island
Sean Dougherty

Solitude? At night, from certain island campsites, you can see the pinprick lights of civilization flickering like the campfires of some tremendous army. While you breathe in silence, the stars, and the sea. 

Outdoor Adventure? 

kayak at santa cruz island

What adventures will you find on the Channel Islands? Best to start by taking a deep breath. There’s remote camping, sea kayaking (paddling into a sea cave is like descending into the throat of some softly breathing beast), snorkeling and world-class scuba diving (Jacques Cousteau called the Channel Islands one of the world’s best dive spots), and bird-watching. If not for the Channel Islands, there would be no seabirds in Southern California, and some of the birds on the Channel Islands — the Island Scrub Jay, for one — are found nowhere else in the world. 

Oh Right, Don’t Forget the Hiking. Most of it Meandering into Emptiness 

Father son hiking Santa Cruz Island

Countless miles of trails, many wending atop spectacular sea cliffs, lace the five islands of Channel Islands National Park. Hiking here is, in all likelihood, like nothing you’ve ever seen, starting with vast, breathtaking 360-degree ocean panoramas. In certain seasons, migrating gray whales pepper the seascape with their misty spouts, phantom sails hanging briefly in the air. Extraordinary views are everywhere. From the stunning canyon loveliness of Lobo Canyon (Santa Rosa Island) to aptly named Inspiration Point (Anacapa Island), which offers one of the best sunset seats on the planet; paint spilled in the heavens and daubed, perfectly imperfect, across the sky. 

Stand transfixed and alone. Or maybe with another hand in yours.

Like Nothing You’ve Ever Seen

Island packers california

Unique life? True, the impossibly cute island fox (the kids will jump for joy) is the most famous of the islands’ wholly unique animals, but the Channel Islands are also home to over 2,000 plant and animal species, of which 150 are found nowhere else in the world. Hence “The Galapagos of North America.” 

And that’s just life on dry land. The Santa Barbara Channel and the waters that surround the Park islands are rife with life; from the largest animal on Earth (did you know that the Blue Whale’s tongue is the size of an African elephant?), to scores of whale and dolphin species, to orcas and elephant seals. In short, on the islands — and on the boat ride out — you never know what you’ll see.

And It’s Easy

Are the Channel Islands easy to get to? For the most part – yep. The closest of the five islands of Channel Islands National Park – Anacapa Island and Santa Cruz Island – are just a 70-minute boat ride from Ventura Harbor, courtesy of Park concessionaire Island Packers Cruises. Leave in the morning and be back in time for dinner (and trust us, after a day of adventuring on the islands, dinner never tasted so good). 

Sure, there’s a fee for the boat ride. But the price of Park admission? 


“There should be a place where only the things you want to happen, happen”                                                                             – Where the Wild Things Are

Yes, the entrance fee to Channel Islands National Park is precisely nothing. And nothing matters greatly. A trip to Channel Islands National Park is your chance to step away from the world. Nothing allows you to feel the sun on your skin. Nothing allows you to smell the hint of brine in a cool sea breeze. Nothing allows you to hear your child’s laughter, pure and true. Nothing allows for moments you’ll treasure forever. 

Precisely the nothing offered by one of America’s least visited National Parks.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” 

That was Helen Keller. But why can’t it be you?                            

So come visit Channel Islands National Park. So many ways to feel the pounding of your heart.

And isn’t that what life’s about?

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