Wild California – Channel Islands National Park, CA

For a state that is blessed with many of America’s most spectacular national parks, California does not make much noise about its little islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. But if you take the boat out to Santa Cruz or its smaller neighbour Anacapa, you will enter an environment that is distinctly un-Californian, and for me felt quite Mediterranean In fact the landscape reminded me of hiking on Gozo in Malta.

Santa Cruz, where we hiked for the day, is uninhabited, as are all the islands. Reaching the peaks requires no more than a modest climb, although even the warm winter sunshine left us thirsty and glad that we had overloaded on water in the rucksack. The island is scattered with evidence of old pioneer life – disused mines and ranches dot the valleys, while the sheltered Scorpion Cove suggests a rich and colourful history (it is also a decent hike to reach and well worth the effort for the lovely peaceful spot where you can rest for a while).

The limited boat schedules mean that the islands will never be over-run with visitors. The fact that most visitors stay within a half-mile of the harbour allow hikers to have the array of well-defined paths all to themselves. We walked for around 5 hours and saw no more than a handful of people along the way. If you like great sea views and good hiking terrain, these islands are only an hour from LA and make a great day trip.

(Nov 2008) Link to the National Parks Service Channel Islands site

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