Camping, Kayaking & Hiking, Channel Islands National Park
Camping, Kayaking & Hiking, Channel Islands National Park
Camping, Kayaking & Hiking, Channel Islands National Park

Camping, Kayaking & Hiking, Channel Islands National Park

Camping, Kayaking & Hiking, Channel Islands National Park

Twenty-five miles off the coast from Ventura, Santa Cruz is the largest island off the coast of California. The island is a tableland of lush grasses and wildflowers, with 77 miles of jagged, rocky coastline dotted with sandy and cobbled beaches. The Channel Islands’ largest land mammal, the island fox, can be seen frequently on Santa Cruz. Lying directly on the boundary between cold northern and warm southern waters, this island hosts unique plant, animal and marine communities’ representative of nearly 1000 miles of California coastline.

Our goal is to introduce you to Channel Islands National Park in four ways: camping, hiking snorkeling and kayaking. This trip is a great opportunity for first time campers and visitors to the Channel Islands. Our campsite is a five minute walk from the boat dock and the ocean and there are hiking trails that lead for miles beyond.


Camping, Kayaking & Hiking, Channel Islands National Park

Pre-Trip Meeting

Pre-Trip Meetings are required and are held the Monday, the week of your trip, from 6-7:30pm in the AMC rooms, right outside the ARC. You will meet the leaders and other trip members, as well as cover all details such as weather, menu, safety issues, and clothing requirements. You will also be issued all of your equipment at this time (sleeping bags, pad, tent, etc.).

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Day 1: Depart SDSU by 6 am. and we will drive approx. 2.5-3 hours to Ventura where we will take the Island Packers ferry 25 miles across Pacific to our campsite at Scorpion Harbor. Once we unload the gear at our designated campsite, we will have lunch then proceed on a 3.5 mile day hike to the nearby peak for an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean. Our campsite includes plenty of tent space, picnic table, vault toilets and animal proof boxes for storing all of our food and toiletries. Drinking water is available from nearby spigots. After returning from Smuggler’s Beach our next challenge includes cooking dinner with one burner stoves—an essential skill for all campers. After dinner, for those that still have energy, a sunset hike to Cavern Point is in order.

Day 2: Wake up early Saturday morning and cook a nutritious and filling breakfast before securing camp and loading up our daypacks for the slow, steady and scenic island traverse to Smugglers Beach. Our day will start with a gradual and then steep descent down to the cobbled beach. We will enjoy lunch and exploring before making the slow and steady ascent back to camp.

Day 3: Up early again, enjoy breakfast. Pack up one last time and make our way down to the beach to meet our kayak and snorkel guides at 9am. We will be taking one and two person “sit-on-top” kayaks along the coast exploring sea caves and snorkeling along the kelp beds. We will return at 3pm so there will be plenty of time to clean up-dry off and explore the Visitor Center/Museum before our Island Packers boat arrives at 4pm. Weather permitting the boat ride takes an hour and we should have the van loaded and on our way by 6:00pm. Plan to arrive back at SDSU by 8:30pm.

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Camping, Kayaking & Hiking, Channel Islands National Park

Packing List

We are limited on space, and the less stuff you bring, the less you have to carry around. Ask yourself…What would I want in the coldest weather or the hottest weather? Pack to be prepared for both!

Things that should be packed inside your personal day pack and kept with you inside the van:

  • Small day pack
  • Money for road meals
  • A warm layer
  • Headlamp
  • Travel size
  • Water
  • Snack food
  • Camera


  • Sunglasses w/retainer strap
  • Personal stuff- extra contact lenses, chap-stick, sunscreen, baby wipes, ear plugs baby powder, hand lotion, medications you usually take…
  • 2 durable crush proof one liter water bottles or a hydration pack
  • Toilet paper in a Ziploc bag
  • Small, light weight fast drying camp towel


  • Wide brimmed shade hat
  • Beanie/ stocking cap
  • Bandana
  • Cotton or synthetic blend hiking shirt (breathable layer)
  • Cotton or synthetic camp shirt (a clean shirt to wear at camp)
  • Synthetic Long Sleeve Top(s) – Polypro, Capilene, or polyester.
  • Fleece jacket or sweatshirt
  • Sports bra
  • Windbreaker
  • Nylon shorts
  • Light weight long pants/ cotton or synthetic hiking pants
  • Rain Pants (Aztec Adventures can provide this if you don’t have your own!)
  • Sweatpants
  • Underwear
  • Synthetic long underwear (top & bottom)
  • Bathing suit
  • Gloves
FEET: No Flip Flops!!!!
  • Tennis shoes with good ankle support
  • Hiking Socks
  • Hiking Shoes/ Boots

Personal Equipment Provided by Aztec Adventures:

  • 20˚ sleeping bag and Thermarest sleeping pad
  • Ground Tarp
  • Tent with rain fly (sleeps 2-3)
  • Head lamp
  • Camp chair
  • Rain gear (if you don’t have your own)
  • Coffee mug, bowl, and utensils
  • Trekking Poles
  • Gregory Backpack (+5500 cubic inches)

Group Equipment that Aztec Adventures will provide:

  • Expedition First Aid Kit Ground Tarp
  • Stoves, fuel and all cooking gear-pots, pans, utensils, spice kit etc.
  • Repair kit for tents, stoves, packs, etc.
  • Water bags -2+ gallon bags for camp use
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts
  • Satellite Phone
  • Wet Suits
  • Neoprene Booties (for kayaking & snorkeling)
  • Life Jackets
  • Kayaks & Snorkel Gear
Camping, Kayaking & Hiking, Channel Islands National Park

Physical Challenge

Trip Members must be comfortable camping in a primitive environment and have a desire to challenge themselves both physically and mentally throughout the weekend. Trip members should be in good physical condition for hiking on very steep terrain. All trip members must be able to swim one hundred meters unassisted and be comfortable with ocean water. From now until the trip begins, we highly encourage you to get in shape. Swimming laps at the Aquaplex is a must for enjoying the snorkeling. Locally speaking, if you can comfortably hike up and down Cowles Mountain twice in a matter of a few hours, consider yourself prepared for the hiking portion of this trip.

TRIP RATING 2 out of 3 – This is a physically demanding trip covering rough terrain. On average you will be hiking 5 miles on Friday and 8 miles on Saturday. Sunday will entail paddling a kayak upwards of five miles on the ocean as well as the opportunity to swim and snorkel.

There are numerous risks and hazards associated with Santa Cruz Island. Because of its location in the open ocean, it is subject to high winds and lots of fog. Steep rocky terrain requires extra caution when hiking. Not dressing appropriately can result in heat or cold illnesses (Hyperthermia or Hypothermia). Not drinking enough water results in dehydration and not being in adequate physical condition can result in sore muscles. Trip members must make a conscious effort to be safe. One person’s disdain for safety will always result in more hardship for the group. If we do have an accident or injury that requires medical attention beyond the scope of our leader’s experience, the trip is immediately over without refund. Our leaders are trained to administer first aid in an outdoor environment; however, while they may be able to treat injuries they cannot always prevent them.

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Camping, Kayaking & Hiking, Channel Islands National Park

Hygiene & Comfort

No showers will be available. Pit toilets are available both nights with running water. Light weight tents, warm synthetic sleeping bags, foam pads and ground tarps will be provided to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep. We will have a reserved camp ground on hard packed soil both nights on the island.

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