Once visitors have scaled the rugged cliffs using the steep trail from the Landing Cove, they will be rewarded with a campground perched on the bluffs with magnificent coastal views.
Santa Barbara lies much further south than the other four northern Channel Islands and is the smallest, measuring just one square mile. The islands' native vegetation is recovering slowly with the help of the National Park Service's restoration efforts. This recovery, along with the removal of nonnative predators, has aided in the reestablishment of nesting land birds and seabirds. The island is one of the most important seabird nesting sites within the Channel Islands, with 11 nesting species, including western gulls, California brown pelicans, three species of cormorants, three species of storm-petrels, and one of the world's largest colonies of Scripps's murrelets. The rocky shores of Santa Barbara Island also provide resting and breeding areas for California sea lions, harbor seals and northern elephant seals.
With five miles of hiking trails, ocean access nearby the campground and generally good weather, Santa Barbara Island offers a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, swimming, snorkeling, diving, kayaking and wildlife/wildflower viewing. Since Santa Barbara Island is a cliff island, access to the water is only at the Landing Cove via a dock. There are no other accessible beaches unless you have a watercraft. There are no services on the island, so all gear has to be brought to the island. For more information about recreational activities in the park, visit https://www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/index.htm
Santa Barbara Island Campground offers 10 campsites (4 persons per site). Camping is primitive and campers must bring their own food, equipment and water. Picnic table, food storage box and pit toilet are provided. Distance from landing to campground is a quarter-mile and includes a 200-foot climb. Access to the island is by Island Packers Cruises or by private boat. Due to the Island Packer boat schedule, minimum stay is generally three days.
Steep cliffs on this small island rise above rocky shores and give way to a grassy mesa flanked with twin peaks. The highest point, Signal Peak, is 635 feet in elevation.
The Landing Cove near the campground is an ideal place for swimming, diving, snorkeling and kayaking, but there are no lifeguards on the island.
The island is also home to just over five miles of trails that meander over gentle slopes and low mountain tops to dramatic overlooks and magnificent coastal views. All hikers must stay on the trails for visitor safety and to protect fragile vegetation and nesting seabirds. No off-trail hiking is allowed. Portions of trails are subject to closure when pelicans are nesting from January through August.