Caves and Coves for Campers
CAMPERS AND GROUPS ONLY
You must be camping at Scorpion Ranch Campground the night before and be a group larger than 4. Box Lunch is NOT provided, sorry.
- About Area
- Planning Tips
- * Ferry Tkts
Arrival and Departure times will vary on a daily basis.
Kayak from Scorpion AnchorageFor those who camp at Channel Islands National Park’s Scorpion Campground, this kayaking trip is a MUST!
Caves and Coves for Campers takes about 5 hours and covers 6-8 miles round trip. A Channel Islands Outfitters guide will act as naturalist and cave expert, providing an amazing experience to adventurous paddlers. Participants must be camping at Santa Cruz Island’s Scorpion Campground on the evening prior to this trip due the activity’s early start time.
3.5 Miles West of Scorpion RanchMeet with a Channel Islands Outfitters guide at the CIO base camp located at eastern end of Scorpion Beach at 8:30 in the morning of your scheduled adventure to gear up for kayaking. The CIO guide places all lunches into a dry bag for duration of kayaking, so that groups may enjoy lunch at a secluded beach which is only accessible by kayak or small boat. Paddlers will travel west past the Cavern Point cave system to Split Rock and Surging-T cave systems.
Carved from a highly erosive rock formation, Potato Harbor is an amazing cove with a sandy beach at the termination of the cove. Upon arrival, CIO guides and adventurous paddlers will land and enjoy some time relaxing as well as a bite to eat. If time permits and the group is up to is, there is a Sea Lion colony at the West end of the harbor entrance that is a great place to view pinnipeds hauled out on the rocks for a sun bathing of their own. On our way back we usually get a nice tail wind and our journey home can be much faster and easier. Sweeping views of the volcanic cliff called Cavern Point marks this gorgeous paddle home.
COMPLIMENTARY SNORKELING:At the completion of a CIO Adventure, paddlers may retain their kayaking wetsuit for the remainder of the day to go snorkeling in the Scorpion Marine Reserve if desired. Within the day’s free time, CIO provides masks, snorkels, and fins so that guests may snorkel in the nearby kelp forest and marine reserve. Full 5mm dive wetsuits can be added for $25 more and because CIO equipment is sent to and from the islands as ordered by guests, wetsuit upgrades must be reserved in advance.
Eastern Santa Cruz Island
The Eastern side of Santa Cruz Island is most likely where the name of Santa Cruz Island came from. The Chumash called the island “Limuw” which translated to “In the Sea”. Santa Cruz was given post Spanish contact when supposedly a Spanish Captain left a cross in the sand at the beach which was returned by a Chumash native. However, looking at the photo to the left, it is more likely that the name was given due to the crossing North/South Range of Montanon and the East/West range that separates the valley.
The geology of the East end is a combination of volcanic and sedimentary rock. The volcanic rock is fairly erosive which leads to the formation of the sea caves. As we paddle from the East to West towards Potato Harbor we’ll explore these volcanic tubes, one of which is called “surging-T”.
Places to Stay Prior to Your Ferry Trip
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)
- 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 (optional, just for fun!)
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.
Plan Your Camping Trip
Spending a night or two at Santa Cruz Island is a very unique California experience. We don’t run camping trips in the traditional sense where we cook you food and set up your tent… sorry 🙁 But we CAN offer you information and assistance with some of the planning aspects along with camping gear rentals and carts to move your gear.
Camping is available year-round and are subject to ferry and campsite availability.
The campground is settled in a eucalyptus grove, with fairly good wind shelter. There are two camping areas;
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 best evening entertainment in California.
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.
Ferry tickets must be purchased to get to Channel Islands National Park
|Check Ferry Availability|
Day Tickets: $59/adult | Camping Tickets: $79/adult
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.