- About Area
- Planning Tips
- * Ferry Tkts
EPIC Adventures start at 10:15am at Santa Cruz Island -Scorpion Ranch
Choose your own AdventureUpon arrival at Santa Cruz Island, Scorpion Ranch, EPIC visitors will connect with their private CIO guide(s) and establish their very own itinerary. The beauty of the EPIC adventure is the ability for CIO guests to move quickly between activities and modify their itinerary based on current conditions and personal interests. If CIO’s EPIC guests want to snorkel at Scorpion Rock – we can do that! If EPIC guests want a guided nature hike – we can do that too! If EPIC guests want to do both – no problem!! CIO can cater to almost every desire (given proper conditions), simply advise a CIO guide and he or she will provide the ultimate national park experience.
What are the “EPIC” Differences?First of all, this is a fully private tour. You will have your own guide for the duration of your day (up until 4pm if you are camping). This is the only tour we operated where you can kayak to a remote snorkeling destination. We can also get to Potato Harbor in and have lunch, which is the Camper itinerary. And we provide you with breakfast, lunch, and snacks (some exceptions apply). Another big difference is our minimum age is only 5 years of age (all participants must be able to swim). If you want to enjoy a one-on-one naturalist guided Channel Islands Adventure, and get to snorkel at remote locations… this adventure is perfect for you.
CIO only operates 1 EPIC daily, so space is limited. Caves & Coves EPIC comes to an end 30-45 minutes prior to your ferry departure or at 5pm if you are camping.
The departing ferry arrives late in the afternoon to pick up adventurers, paddlers, and snorkelers for their return to Ventura Harbor. Ferry departure times differ each day, be sure to check your confirmation for travel details.
Explore the Santa Cruz Island, Scorpion Marine Reserve
In 2002, a 4 mile wide “no-take” area was established at East Santa Cruz Island, along with many more at other areas of the Channel Islands National Park. A no-take area is defined as a body of water where commercial and recreational fishing/hunting is prohibited year round. The area is patrolled by the National Park Service annually to educated and enforce violations.
What should I expect when I arrive at Scorpion?
Santa Cruz Island is a rustic and relatively undeveloped island wilderness. It was a sheep ranching island up until the late part of the 20th Century, but it has been under a very rapid and thorough preservation process in the past 2 decades.
There are no services at Santa Cruz Island. Water and pit toilets are the only amenities you will find. Our Adventure Base Camp is equipped with picnic tables, storage boxes, drinking water, sunscreen, and the comical muse of the guides.
We have storage boxes that are secured while we are on the water. They are shared by all clients, and are mostly for protection from the Island Foxes and the Ravens.
Places to Stay in the Ventura Area
Your adventure starts in the Ventura Harbor at the Island Packers ferry. Parking is FREE. When you arrive in the parking lot, park closest to the road that you drove in on and make sure you’re within the yellow lines. Eat light and get a good night of rest. Here are some of our Ventura recommendations.
Camping in the area
We do not recommend camping the night prior to your departure. The camping areas are not very close and you will have to get up really early to take down camp. If you have an RV or motorhome, this might be a bit easier. Here are the camping areas from closest to furthest.
- McGrath State Beach
- Carpinteria State Beach
- El Capitan State Beach
- Refugio State Beach
- Holiday Inn Express Ventura Harbor
- Four Points Sheraton Ventura Harbor
- Ventura Beach Marriott
- Comfort Inn Ventura Beach
- Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach
- Brophy Bros Restaurant Ventura Harbor– Lunch and Dinner – Harbor-side Dining and Cocktails
- Boatyard Cafe – Serving Breakfast and Coffee
- Surf Brewery – Local craft beers
- Spencer Makenzies’ Fish Tacos – Lunch and Dinner beer and wine
- Water (reusable water bottles preferred)
- Bathing suit (you will wear this under the wetsuit). It is best to have on under clothing upon arrival.
- Warm clothing (for the ferry ride in the morning)
- Water shoes that cover the whole foot or that have a heel strap
- Hat or Visor
- Synthetic layer for extra warmth such as rash-guard, polypro top or other synthetic top
- Sunscreen/Lip Balm
- Sunglasses w/ safety strap (example: Chums or Croakies)
- Waterproof camera or dry case for camera
- Personal medication
- Waterproof Headlamp/s
Lodging in the Ventura Harbor Area
(Listed by closest to Island Packers in Ventura Harbor)
Food and Beverages
Santa Barbara Area
If you are traveling from the Santa Barbara area, please depart 1.5 hours prior to the departure time on your itinerary. We ask that you arrive 45 minutes prior so that we can check you in and board the ferry for a prompt departure. The driving time from Santa Barbara to Ventura harbor is 30-40 minutes. Traffic is unusual but check upon waking to make sure you don’t get stuck in a jam!
Suggested Packing List for Day Adventures
If you have other questions or need assistance in finding something in the area, you can call us anytime. Your guide will also be able to help you with local favorites as well.
Camp at Scorpion Ranch
Spending a night or two at Santa Cruz Island is a very unique California experience. The campground is settled in a eucalyptus grove, with fairly good wind shelter. There are two camping areas.
Camping adventures are available year-round and are subject to ferry and campsite availability.
What to Know about Camping on Santa Cruz Island We like to refer to it as “primitive car-camping”. This means you can bring the two-burner stove and a cooler, but you should keep the other gear minimal. There are no facilities at the islands other than pit-toilets and running water from spigots. A suggested packing list is sent to you with your trip confirmation. No camp-fires are allowed year-round, so propane cooking is the only option.
Great Hiking: We highly suggest a hike to Potato Harbor (3.5 miles round trip), Smugglers Cove (7 miles round trip), and/or Montanan Ridge (6.5 miles round trip, 1,800 foot ascent). Our guides will be available to assist you in finding trail heads and selecting routes.
When to go? To avoid crowds, mid-week and non-summer months are the best, however, there is a very special feeling at the islands in the summer where watching the sunset from Cavern or Potato Harbor is quite possibly akin to the evening entertainment.
Camping gear is available for rent*
- 2-3 Person Tent = $15/night
- Comfy 2-inch thick Paco Sleeping Pad = $6/night
- Sleeping Bag = $10/night
- Camp Kit for up to 6 (Includes cooking pots, pans, cooking utensils, sharp knife and meal kits for up to 6 people. Meal kits include plates, bowls, cups, and eating utensils. 8 oz of coffee and drip filter included. Table cloth, napkins, cleaning supplies, trash bins, and lantern also included) = $30/night
- 2 Burner Stove with propane = $10/night
- Camp Chair = $4/night
*Camping gear is available for adventurers with pick-up and delivery accompanied by guide. For all others (people who are not on an adventure with us) we charge $50 for pick-up and delivery of camping gear to Island Packers ferry. Please call to make a reservation, camping gear is not currently available online.
We have partnered with Channel Islands Provisioners to provide organic, local, yummy food for your trip. Food is delivered dockside in health department approved, temperature-controlled containers with a reusable water bottle. Our deluxe food package include breakfast, lunch, & a snack for everything your need to fill you hungry belly on a island.
Box Lunch Delivered to You!We deliver a breakfast and box lunch to you at the ferry the morning of your departure. You will be responsible for your box lunch throughout the day. If you are camping, and not taking the morning ferry the day of your departure from Ventura, we will reduce the price of your adventure by $15.
Dockside Breakfast Options
Yogurt and Fruit Market berries and fresh seasonal fruit, nuts, seeds, greek yogurt, san marcos farms honey [veg]
Fruit and Granola Provisioner’s granola with organic seasonal fruit, nuts, seeds, dried fruit [veg, lactose free, gluten free]
Veggie B-fast Bun Warm breakfast bun with pastry, eggs, mushrooms, spinach, and mozzarella [veg]
Ham B-fast Bun Warm breakfast bun with pastry, eggs, ham, spinach, and mozzarella
Cueva Chicken Sandwich or Salad: herb marinated char broiled organic chicken breast, apple slaw with cilantro-yogurt dressing, sharp cheddar cheese, baguette or organic mixed greens tossed with extra virgin olive oil [salad is GF]
Orizaba Italian Sandwich or Salad: dry italian salami, mortadella, smoked ham, provisioner’s giardiniera, dijon aioli, provolone, mozzarella, baguette or organic mixed greens tossed with extra virgin olive oil [contains tree nuts, salad is GF}
Kale Salad: spiced white bean and dried tomato spread, char broiled eggplant, seasonal greens with lemon and EVO, heirloom carrots, Persian cucumbers, kale tossed in extra virgin olive oil [vegan, GF]
Pesto Roasted Sweet Potato Sandwich: goat cheese, basil pesto, pickle red onion, baguette [vegetarian]
Roasted Turkey on Flatbread: spice-rubbed turkey, tomato-onion chutney, arugula, muenster, flat bread
Seafood Salad Sandwich: conserved local catch, capers, cured olives, spinach, smoked paprika aioli, ciabatta [lactose free]
Ham ‘Sandy’: “nueske’s applewood smoked ham, hardboiled egg, house mustard, bread & butter pickle, manchego, baguette
Roasted Chix Wrap: chipotle roasted chicken, roasted corn, black beans, cherry tomato, romaine, cilantro-lime dressing, whole wheat wrap [lactose free]
Meatball Banh Mi: ham pate’, cucumber, jalepeno, daikon pickle, carrot, napa cabbage, chili aioli, baguette [lactose free, contains pork]
Chopped Salad: salami, roast turkey, provolone, chick peas, cherry tomatoes, olives, cucumber, red onoin, celery, radish, sweet peppers, romaine, lemon, olive oil [gluten free]
Grilled Chix Salad: jidori chicken breast, roasted heirloom carrots & beets, kale, quinoa, golden raisin, honey-sriracha vinaigrette [lactose free, gluten free]
Rice Noodle Salad: w/ marinated tofu, shitake mushroom, napa cabbage, daikon, carrot, cilantro, mint, peanuts, chili-lime dressing [veg, vegan, lactose free, gluten free, contains peanuts]
Included in Lunch Bag Provisioner’s trail mix w/ ginger [veg, vegan, lactose free, gluten free, contains nuts], fresh whole fruit, savory snack, water bottle with chilled filtered water supplied. Packaged in lunch bag in reusable containers and cloth napkins.
Add a Sweet Treat – $8/each
Cookies Assortment: chocolate chip w/ walnuts, snickerdoodles, oatmeal molasses raisin [contains tree nuts]
Double Fudge Brownie: w/ walnuts [contains tree nuts]
Black Rice Coconut Puddling: w/ seasonal fruit [veg, vegan, lactose free, gluten free]
Day Tickets: $59/adult | Camping Tickets: $79/adult
*Round trip. Youth, senior, military rates available. A $5 convenience fee is added to Island Packers ferry tickets booked through Channel Islands Outfitters (this fee is waived for groups of 6 or larger)
The Channel Islands are the least visited National Park due the Park Service’s management plan to reduce human impact. Since only a limited number of people can travel each day, we suggest you plan several months in advance. Island destinations range in distance from 11 to 40+ miles away from the mainland. With modern high-speed, hydrofoil assisted catamarans, the journey across can take less than 60 minutes…. depending on the marine wildlife sightings! Almost all of our island adventures depart from Ventura Harbor, but please look for the departure location in the Adventure Details or ask an Outfitting Specialist by phone.
Ferry’s are not operated by CIO. Each visit to the Channel Islands is unique, which is why we keep ferry tickets separate. This allows you to choose your own itinerary. Island Packers is the ferry company that takes us to East Santa Cruz Island, Scorpion ranch. You can purchase tickets through CIO, or you can contact Island Packers and reserve with them. If you have already purchased your own ferry tickets to Scorpion Ranch, simply let us know in the comments box upon check out.
Camping Tickets: Tickets for camping cost a little bit more since the ferry will be transporting camping gear for you. If you would like to camp, you will need to check the National Park Service’s campground availability. If sites exist, and the ferry has availability, you are set for your camping adventure. If you have trouble with this process, or would just prefer to have us do this for you, please call our office. 805-899-4925.