Posted by: James Wapotich | February 26, 2011

Trail Quest: Smuggler’s Cove

If you’re looking for a secluded beach in Southern California the hike to Smuggler’s Cove on Santa Cruz Island may just be the answer. Because the island was privately owned until 1980 when it became part of the Channel Islands National Park, it offers a rare glimpse of what California might’ve looked like a hundred or more years ago.

"Santa Cruz Island" "Channel Island National Park" Hike "Smuggler's Cove"

Smuggler's Cove

The hike from Scorpion Anchorage to Smuggler’s Cove on Eastern Santa Cruz is about 7 miles round trip. And while it is possible to do this hike on a day trip, because there is so much to see and explore on Santa Cruz you may want to consider spending a night or two and camp there. 

There are several ways to get to Eastern Santa Cruz Island. Probably the easiest is with Island Packers out of Ventura as they offer regularly scheduled boat trips to all five of the islands within the Channel Islands National Park. For camping you will need to make reservations through the Channel Islands National Park.

"Anacapa Island" "Santa Cruz Island" "Channel Island National Park" "Smuggler's Cove"

Anacapa Island in the Distance

From Scorpion Anchorage you’ll notice a road climbing out of the valley along the Southern side of the canyon, this is the trail to Smuggler’s Cove. From the beach continue inland to just past the Ranch House and turn left to catch the trail. This trail takes you through rolling hills along the eastern side of the island and offers numerous views of nearby Anacapa Island. 

At the 2-mile mark you’ll come to the trail juncture for the Scorpion Canyon Loop. The trail to Smuggler’s Cove continues along the road. However, one option for the hike back is to take the Scorpion Canyon Loop, it will add an additional half mile, but you’ll get see a little more of the island along the way.

At the 2.75-mile mark, the trail begins its descent towards Smuggler’s Cove. Be aware that not only will you have to hike back up this hill, so pace yourself, but there is also no shade along the entire length of the trail and the only available water on the island is at Scorpion campground so make sure to bring plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen.

"Santa Cruz Island" "Olive Grove" "Channel Islands National Park" "Smuggler's Cove"

Olive Grove near Smuggler's Cove

This last part of the hike is probably the most magical as the trail passes through an olive grove that was planted in the late 1800s as a part of the Caire family’s efforts to fully utilize the island and arrives at Smuggler’s Cove. There you will find several picnic tables underneath the shade of a small grove of eucalyptus trees and an idyllic California beach. 

This article originally appeared in section A of the February 26th, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

If you have a trail report, I’d love to hear it.

"Coast LIve Oak" "Santa Cruz Island" "Channel Islands National Park"

Coast Live Oak

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