Posted by: James Wapotich | May 30, 2011

Trail Quest: Anacapa Island

If you only have one day to visit the Channel Islands and are hoping to see some wildlife than a trip to Anacapa Island may be the answer. Anacapa is actually comprised of three separate islands, but hiking and access is limited to East Anacapa. To hike the length of the trails on East Anacapa Island is about 2.5 miles and is suitable for almost all ages.

Channel Islands National Park Coreopsis Anacapa Island

Western Gull on Coreopsis

Anacapa takes it name from the Chumash word anyapakh, which means mirage or ever changing as the islands can often appear as a single island or multiple islands from the sea depending on conditions.

There are several ways to get to Anacapa Island. Probably the easiest is with Island Packers out of Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard as they offer regularly scheduled boat trips to all five of the islands within the Channel Islands National Park. The boat ride is about an hour and often includes dolphin and whale sightings depending on the time of year.

Your actual time on the island if visiting for the day is about 4 hours, which is more than enough time to leisurely walk around the island. You’ll want to bring a lunch and plenty of water, as there is no water available on Anacapa and no concessions except for on the boat ride over. There are restrooms at the Visitor Center and at the campground.

Channel Island National Park Anacapa Island lighthouse

Historic Anacapa Island Lighthouse

You’ll also want to bring protection from the sun, as there are no shade trees on the island; it can also be windy at times. If you are planning on camping you will need to make reservations through the Channel Islands National Park,

From the landing cove, it’s about a quarter mile to the Visitor Center. From there the trail makes a sort of figure eight with an extra spur trail towards the lighthouse, giving one an opportunity to see most of the island. The campground is near the middle of the island where the figure eight crosses.

Channel Islands National Park Anacapa Island Western Gull Eggs

Western Gull Eggs

Probably the first thing you’ll notice this time of year is the sea gulls nesting all over the island. Earlier this year, the Western Gulls found mates and built nests and are now tending to their eggs, some of which are just starting to hatch. The hatchlings have the same green with dark spots coloring as the eggs. It is okay to walk around the island, but please stay on the trails and remember that the birds were here first.
Channel Islands National Park Anacapa Island Western Gull

Western Gull Hatchling

The hike from the Visitor Center around the island passes Pinniped Point along the south shore where one can see sea lions sunning themselves down on the beach. At the half-mile mark one arrives at the campground. From here the trail continues west and loops out towards Inspiration Point. Along the way you’ll pass a Chumash midden, recognizable by its broken shells, from when the Chumash used to visit the island.

The trail then passes through the so-called forest of Coreopsis plants, which are part of the sunflower family. The best time to see Coreopsis in bloom is from March to April.

Channel Islands National Park Anacapa Island Inspiration Point

View towards West Anacapa from Inspiration Point

At about the one-mile mark one reaches Inspiration Point, which offers some great views looking out towards Middle and West Anacapa Islands. From here the trail returns back through the campground and towards Cathedral Point on the north shore, which also offers views of sea lions frolicking in the waters and basking on the rocks.

The trail then returns to the Visitor Center near the landing cove. From here one can also make a quick side trip to the historic lighthouse, built in 1932. Interpretive hikes of the island are also available through the National Park.

Regardless how long you stay you’ll get to experience some of the beauty and peacefulness that can be found on Anacapa Island.

This article originally appeared in section A of the May 28th, 2011 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.


  1. […] the opportunity to visit Anacapa Island the week before last and watch while an underwater webcam was installed. Also got to go for a short […]

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