Gulls Getaway

Wildlife Trip to Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park

The Anacapa wildlife spectacle begins almost as soon as you pull away from Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. First up are playful common dolphins, and if you’re lucky, humpback and migrating gray whales. As you approach, you’ll see (and hear) noisy California sea lions and harbor seals. (Watch also for Anacapa’s iconic Arch Rock.) When it’s time to set foot on the island (which is actually three islets, all part of Channel Islands National Park), well, watch your head: You’re in the midst of the world’s largest protected colony of western gulls! More than 10,000 of the seabirds gather on East Anacapa for nesting season, May through July. Not enough bird life for you? West Anacapa’s protected rocky cliffs are home to one of just two breeding colonies of California brown pelicans in the western US—some 4,600 breeding pairs.

Upon arriving, visitors climb a steel rung ladder from the boat to the dock, and then ascend 157 stairs to reach the top of the island. Anacapa has just one hiking trail, but it’s a beauty: a 2-mile loop around the perimeter with spectacular views of the rugged coast, the mainland, the Anacapa lighthouse, the other Channel Islands, and of course, wild wildlife everywhere!

Reach Anacapa aboard an Island Packers ferry out of Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. The trip takes about an hour, and costs $59 for adults for a day trip, $79 for overnight. For a more immersive adventure, nab one of the island’s seven primitive campsites, for which you’ll need to bring water. No matter what, come prepared for chilly wind, and dress in layers. No dogs.

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Up Umunhum

    Rising from the Santa Cruz Mountains, Mount Umunhum is one of the Bay Area’s highest points, reaching an impressive 3,486 feet. With the new 7.4-mile (round-trip) addition to the Bay Area Ridge Trail, locals can finally step up to its peak.

  2. Cross It Off Your Bucket List

    Crosstown Trail San Francisco may be one of the most beautiful city walks in America, passing through less-visited nooks and crannies while also taking in greatest hits, including mosaic stairways.

  3. Kirby Your Enthusiasm

    Just west of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin is one of the Bay's most-accessible secluded beaches. Kirby Cove is accessed by hiking or biking a 1-mile fire road down to the beach, where the reward is an all-time classic Golden Gate view.

  4. Napa's Wild Side

    It’s wine country’s Amazon. Cutting 50 miles through the famous Napa Valley and emptying into San Pablo Bay, the gentle Napa River is an ecological—and recreational—delight. And Napa Valley Paddle helps you enjoy it.


Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Sponsored

    Weekend Sherpa Podcast: Take it Outside

    Adventure for your earbuds. What's new in the world of the outdoors? Listen to Weekend Sherpa co-founders discuss local hikes, beaches, bike rides, camping spots and all kinds of travel and adventure in California and beyond!

  2. Secret Trail at Torrey Pines

    Find cliff climbs, sandy strolls, and secret hikes throughout “America’s finest sandy stretch" at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego County.

  3. Secluded Royale

    Panoramic coastal views and a killer leg workout combine on this 2.7-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike to secluded Coast Royale Beach in Orange County

  4. Border Field State Park

    Border Field State Park is the southernmost point in California as well as one of the last beautiful undeveloped coastlines in the state. Visit this natural refuge for a 4.5-mile hike featuring important history and wildlife habitats, plus stunning SoCal beach scenery.