Guide to Camping in Channel Islands National Park on Santa Cruz Island

So you want to camp at the Channel Islands? Here’s how!

1) Start by booking your campsite reservation with the National Park Service. You will want to stay at Santa Cruz Scorpion, part of Channel Islands National Park. The campground has an Upper Loop and Lower Loop. All the group sites are in the Upper Loop and this area is further to hike to. Print out your confirmation and take it with you on your trip. All campers are required to have camping reservations prior to their departure from the mainland. Island camping reservations can be made up to 5 months in advance.

Campground Information:
Scorpion Campground is ½ mile from the dock (the Upper Loop is further). The hike to the campground is along a flat, dirt trail and takes approximately 10 minutes. Visitors must carry all gear to the campgrounds. Camping conditions are primitive, and users must camp within designated areas. All campgrounds are equipped with picnic tables and pit toilets. Potable water is available and we will provide a water container for you to fill up at the site. No trash containers are provided; campers must pack out their own trash. No fires are permitted. To prevent scavenging animals from entering your site, please store all food in food boxes provided.

2) Make your Ferry Boat Reservation with Island Packers (805-642-1393). You will want to book your ticket from Ventura Harbor to East Santa Cruz (Scorpion).

3) Lastly, if you want to do a guided sea cave kayak tour while you’re out there you can make a reservation online or give us a call (805-884-9283). Whether you want to kayak on the day you arrive, day you depart, or some day in between, is up to you! If you decide to do a kayak tour on the day you arrive, you just need to must make sure you have a 9am or earlier ferry to the island. If you choose to do a tour on the day you depart, you would need a 3:30pm or later ferry from the island.

Please book all of these 3 reservations as far in advance as possible as there is often limited space for camping, ferry boat seats and kayaking tours.

camping in the Channel Islands National Park

You can find a printable PDF with additional camping information here.

Things to do on Santa Cruz Island:

1) Sea Cave Kayaking
The most popular activity at Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island is our Sea Cave Kayak Tour. We have three different sea cave kayaking tour options to fit your needs and ability. The tours range from 1.5 – 5 hours of kayaking. Our knowledgeable guides will share marine life, geology, cultural, & historical information along the way. This is an unforgettable trip – highly recommended for beginners to advanced paddlers for their first time out to the Channel Islands. Children under 12 will need to be escorted by an adult in one of our double kayaks.

2) Hiking
Several trails and roads traverse eastern Santa Cruz Island, providing visitors with spectacular hiking opportunities. These trails and roads range from the maintained, relatively flat, signed trails of Scorpion Valley to the unmaintained, rugged, mountainous paths of the Montañon area. You can print out an Eastern Santa Cruz Island hiking map from the National Park Website.

3) Snorkeling
In order to experience all that the Channel Islands have to offer, you need to take a peek below the surface. California sea lions, and the Garibaldi, which resembles a giant goldfish, playfully lurk in the kelp forests, and sightings are almost guaranteed. Excellent snorkeling exists directly off the beach at Scorpion Anchorage where the ferry lands on Santa Cruz Island. You can rent snorkeling gear on the island from our Channel Islands Adventure Company Storefront or book a Snorkel Tour.



Hello- We are interested in snorkeling but have read about sharks in the waters around the Channel Islands. Is this an issue? thanks

Will Adams

While we cannot guarantee that you won’t encounter any sharks while snorkeling at Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island, we can assure you that sightings of concerning sharks, such as great whites, are not common. The marine life in the area is diverse and vibrant, and our guests typically encounter a variety of fascinating creatures, such as fish, sea lions, sea stars, sea anemones, and other marine animals. It is worth noting that during the summer months, you may spot Leopard sharks, which are common in the area and pose generally no harm to snorkelers.


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