Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park

RV Rental Dates


Located off the coast of Ventura, California, the park encompasses five islands: San Miguel (covering 14.5 square miles), Santa Rosa (spanning 82 square miles), Anacapa (occupying 1 square mile), Santa Barbara (covering 1 square mile), and Santa Cruz (extending over 95 square miles). Access to these islands is possible only by boat or plane. These islands have a long history of human habitation dating back over 13,000 years, with Native American communities, such as the Chumash, leaving behind significant cultural artifacts and archaeological sites.

The park’s natural occurrences contribute to its unparalleled beauty and ecological significance. The isolation of the islands, their unique geography, and the convergence of warm and cold ocean currents have led to the development of distinct ecosystems, making Channel Islands National Park a haven for endemic species found nowhere else on earth. It is often referred to as the “Galapagos of North America.”

For RV renters planning to visit Channel Islands National Park, there are a few precautions to keep in mind. Since the islands are not accessible by vehicles, there are no RV-friendly campgrounds within the park itself. However, Venture Ranch KOA, located seven miles north of Santa Paula, offers suitable RV camping opportunities. It’s essential for RV renters to ensure their vehicle is well-maintained and equipped for the journey to the nearby campground.

Despite the lack of RV camping within the park, there are plenty of activities to enjoy once on the islands. RV renters can explore the islands’ unique ecosystems, observe wildlife, and hike scenic trails. Additionally, they can indulge in water-based activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, and whale watching.

At Venture Ranch KOA, RV renters can expect amenities and facilities such as full hookups, showers, restrooms, laundry facilities, and Wi-Fi, making for a comfortable stay during their Channel Islands adventure.

Park Alerts (2)

Starting this summer, on July 24, pier construction will take place at Scorpion Ranch on Santa Cruz Island. The pier will remain open with modified closures, and certain water-based activities north of the cove will be restricted. Visitors with limited mobility are advised to contact the Visitor Center for updates.

Until emergency repairs can be completed on the Nidever Canyon Trail, all trails and facilities on San Miguel Island, except the sandy beaches of Cuyler Harbor, will be closed to the public. Anticipated completion of the repairs is set for summer 2024.

During this nesting period, visitors will encounter seabird rookery conditions, including guano, strong odors, constant noise, bird carcasses, and territorial birds. Those who find these conditions unfavorable are advised to consider visiting another island.

During the winter and spring seasons, visitors should be prepared for wet creek crossings at Canada del Puerto in Prisoner’s Harbor. Additionally, the footbridge at Water Canyon on Santa Rosa Island has washed out, requiring a wet creek crossing as well.

While Scorpion Anchorage remains open for day and overnight visits, the nearby off-trail Scorpion Fire burn area, covering approximately 1,411 acres, will be closed for restoration until further notice. Hiking is still permitted on the Smugglers Cove Road.

Certain trails on Santa Barbara Island will be temporarily closed to the public to safeguard breeding populations of California brown pelicans. Due to dock damage, Island Packers is not currently operating trips to the island, and access is limited to private boats only.

RV Rentals in Channel Islands National Park


Visitors can access Channel Islands National Park by boats departing from Ventura and Oxnard, or planes flying from Camarillo Airport. The mainland Visitor Centers in Ventura and Santa Barbara are accessible by vehicles. However, there are no transportation options available on the islands. Boat docks have varying rig size restrictions, with some accommodating up to 65 feet, while others limit to 25 feet. Weight limits apply for planes, so visitors should check with specific air services for details. The Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center is situated at the end of Spinnaker Drive in Ventura Harbor, while the Santa Barbara Visitor Center can be found on Harbor Way in Santa Barbara Harbor.

At Channel Islands National Park, there are no designated RV parking areas on the islands. The islands are not accessible by vehicles, so RVs cannot be driven or parked there.Parking is provided at both park visitor centers for visitors’ convenience.

Both visitor centers are accessible via public bus and rail services. Additionally, year-round public boat transportation is available to reach the islands.

Campgrounds and parking areas in Channel Islands National Park

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Top Campsites in Channel Islands National Park

Ventura Ranch KOA

Located just seven miles north of Santa Paula along California’s Highway 126, presents a delightful camping experience at the base of Topa Topa, Ventura County’s highest mountain. The site features 148 pet-friendly campsites, offering a range of choices such as tent camping, group camping, RV camping, safari tents, and cabins. Activities at the campground encompass hiking, exploration of the nearby Los Padres National Forest, and reveling in picturesque landscapes. For RV campers, the site provides full hookups (electric, water, and sewer), along with restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, and a playground. Guests can also enjoy Wi-Fi access, picnic shelters, and firewood. Ventura Ranch KOA welcomes visitors year-round, and RVs up to 60 feet in length are permitted.

Season-specific experiences in Channel Islands National Park


Hiking is a rewarding activity for RV campers and visitors. The islands offer a variety of hiking trails suitable for different skill levels, showcasing stunning viewpoints and unique landscapes. Provides excellent opportunities, with trails ranging from easy to challenging. Safety is encouraged by avoiding wildlife interactions and cliff edges. With cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, it’s an ideal time to explore the islands’ trails and observe wildlife, including migratory birds. Carrying water during hikes is essential. Dressing appropriately and following Leave No Trace principles ensure a safe and enjoyable hike in this peaceful season. Winter hiking allows visitors to connect with nature and appreciate the tranquility of the park.

Sunset at Potato Harbor (Santa Cruz Island)

Experiencing the sunset at Potato Harbor on Santa Cruz Island during the fall is a breathtaking activity in Channel Islands National Park. The picturesque cove with its dramatic cliffs and turquoise waters provides a stunning backdrop for the vibrant sunset. RV campers and visitors can enjoy the serene atmosphere and connect with nature as they watch the sun dip below the horizon, painting the sky with beautiful hues. It’s essential to dress warmly and bring a flashlight for the hike back after sunset. Respecting the environment and wildlife is crucial during this experience. Sunset at Potato Harbor offers a unique and unforgettable opportunity to appreciate the natural beauty of the Channel Islands in the national park.

Marine Life

The fall season in Channel Islands National Park brings opportunities to observe diverse marine animals that breed on the islands and in the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel. Visitors can encounter a variety of marine mammals, including seals, whales, sea lions, and dolphins. While exploring the islands on boats, it’s common to witness dolphins playfully riding the bow waves. Additionally, between December and March, the park’s waters often become a haven for gray whales, offering spectacular sightings during their migration.

Wildflower Viewing

With more than 800 flora species calling the park home, each island in the park boasts a unique array of flowers thriving under specific conditions. Factors such as island size, distance from other islands and the mainland, topographic diversity, elevation, and local climate contribute to the variety of wildflowers. Exploring the islands during the fall allows visitors to witness a diverse and colorful display of beautiful wildflowers.

Camping at Santa Rosa Island

Summer is a popular time for RV campers to camp on Santa Rosa Island. The pristine beaches, clear waters, and diverse wildlife make it an unforgettable experience. Two campgrounds, Water Canyon and Bechers Bay, provide primitive camping with pit toilets. Summer weather is mild and ideal for various outdoor activities, such as hiking and exploring secluded beaches. Visitors should practice Leave No Trace principles and respect the island’s wildlife. Reservations and transportation arrangements through authorized boat concessioners are required for camping on Santa Rosa Island. Proper planning ensures a memorable and enjoyable camping adventure in this beautiful park.


Picnicking is a delightful activity for both RV campers and day visitors. The islands, except San Miguel, offer picnic tables, with Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands providing potable water for convenience. Visitors should bring their own food and water, as there are no food services on the islands. Picnickers can choose scenic spots, such as beaches and bluffs, to enjoy their meals. Responsible picnicking and adhering to park regulations are essential to protect the environment and wildlife. Visitors should be prepared with sunscreen, hats, and water bottles for a pleasant picnic experience amidst the stunning island landscapes. Picnicking allows people to connect with nature and create cherished memories in this beautiful national park during the summer season.

Boating and Kayaking (Various Islands)

Boating and kayaking activities provide a wonderful opportunity to explore the pristine marine environment surrounding the islands. With milder weather and calmer seas, this season allows RV campers and visitors to enjoy guided boat tours or private boating, spotting diverse marine life such as whales and dolphins. Kayaking offers a more intimate experience, allowing paddlers to explore sea caves, kelp forests, and hidden coves. Safety measures and respect for the environment are crucial for a secure and enjoyable experience.


A rewarding activity for RV campers and bird enthusiasts. The islands become a nesting ground for various seabirds and shorebirds, including western gulls, California brown pelicans, Scripps’s murrelets, and Brandt’s cormorants. Birdwatchers can spot these unique species along the coastlines and from hiking trails with binoculars and a camera. Guided tours and boat trips are available for a comprehensive birding experience. Respecting wildlife and following Leave No Trace principles are essential during birdwatching to protect the delicate ecosystems. Spring birding offers an enriching opportunity to connect with nature and observe the diverse birdlife of the park.