Channel Islands National Park, California

1901 Spinnaker Dr., Channel Islands National Park, California

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Robert J. Lagomarsino Channel Islands National Park Visitors Center

Before trekking through the wilderness, families are encouraged to stop by the Robert J. Lagomarsino Channel Islands National Park Visitors Center. The center is a great place for families to get their bearings when first arriving at the park, and provides kids with a brief park education. Featuring a bookstore and a display of marine aquatic life, the center provides much vital information. Parents and kids can read up on biology and learn about the species that inhabit the park. For further education, the Visitors Center also offers a 25-minute park movie entitled “A Treasure in the Sea,” which screens throughout the day in the auditorium. The Robert J. Lagomarsino Channel Islands National Park Visitors Center is more than just a quick stopover to pick up a few brochures, it is a thorough park introduction.

Address: 1901 Spinnaker Dr, Channel Islands National Park, California 93001

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URL: http://www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm
Hours: Mon-Sun 8:30 am - 5 pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas
Price: Free

Santa Cruz Island

Often described as a "Mini California", Santa Cruz Island has a vast amount of flora, fauna and geological features that resemble the state. It is the largest of the Channel Islands, and its landscape reaches great heights and depths, with mountain peaks rising above 2,000 feet and deep canyons covering its surface. Families may be overwhelmed with so much to explore, as the island features 77 miles of coastline cliffs, sea caves, tidepools and expansive beaches. One of the first natural wonders to visit would be Painted Cave, one of the largest and deepest sea caves in the world. While roaming the landscape, families may come across over 600 plant species and 11 land mammal species, as well as 140 different types of birds (not to mention the vast amount of sea life.) As the host of over 10,000 years of American Indian habitation, Santa Cruz Island also offers families a trip back in time. Remnants of the Chumash people as well as remnants of the Ranching Era, place history at families' fingertips.

Address: Pacific Ocean, Channel Islands National Park, California

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URL: http://www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/santa-cruz-island.htm
Hours: Year Round
Price: Free

Anacapa Island

Anacapa Island is full of rare sites and sounds. The calls of seabirds and the barking of sea lions can often be heard, as both prefer the peaceful beaches of this island. Rich kelp forests also call out to visitors, asking to be explored through kayaking, snorkeling or diving. The geology of the island has been shaped by a natural architect. Volcano activity has created towering cliffs, sea caves and natural bridges. One of the more famous features of Anacapa Island is Arch Rock, a 40-foot high natural bridge. All of these elements await visiting families. Anacapa Island is the perfect place to educate the kids on sealife, geology and the Native Americans who settled this land.

Address: Channel Islands National Park, California

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URL: http://www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/anacapa.htm
Hours: Year Round
Price: Free

Santa Rosa Island

Santa Rosa Island is home to some exceptionally unique plants and animals. On the island, there are six species of plants that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Included in these ranks is a subspecies of the Torrey pine, considered to be one of the rarest pines in the world. Certainly, the island is a naturalists dream, but will the kids enjoy it? Well, its beaches are sure to enchant all. Cold nutrient-rich waters sustain much marine life, including pelagic fish, a variety of marine mammals and an extensive kelp forests. The whole family should enjoy exploring these waters. Kids will especially love pointing out all the aquatic and land animals they spot. Santa Rosa Island is a special place filled with special creatures.

Address: Channel Islands National Park, California

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URL: http://www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/santa-rosa-island.htm
Hours: Year Round
Price: Free

Santa Barbara Island

Although the smallest of the Channel Islands, Santa Barbara Island is surprisingly packed with life. Only one-square-mile in size, this island is a popular nesting ground for birds and a breeding area for sea lions, harbor seals and northern elephant seals. Every year, thousands of gulls come to nest. In the steep cliffs the endangered California brown pelican even finds a safe, secluded spot to raise its young. Visiting families can view plenty of wildlife. The overlooks of Sea Lion Rookery, Webster Point and Elephant Seal Cove give the kids great views of sea lions and seals. For a closer look at the waters, families can also snorkel in the Landing Cove, where sea stars, sea urchins and Garibaldi fish can be spotted. Santa Barbara Island provides a quaint space to experience nature, just big enough for the whole family.

Address: Channel Islands National Park, California

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URL: http://www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/santa-barbara-island.htm
Hours: Year Round
Price: Free

East Anacapa Loop Trail

On the East Anacapa Loop Trail families will walk through nesting grounds, sea lion hangouts and a breathtaking vista point. The 1.5 mile loop trail, circling Anacupa Island, begins at the Visitors Center. Here, families can browse through information packets describing the island's features. After this education, the adventure begins. Hikers climb up a small hill, decorated with sea fig and crystalline iceplant, and through a Western Gull nesting area. Next, the trail winds towards Pinniped Point, a haul site for sea lions and harbor seals. Finally, weary travelers can stop for a family picnic at Inspiration Point. Looking down on the island, families will be able to see the arrow strait separating East and Middle Anacapa. Normally the landscape is somewhat barren, but when the flowers are in full bloom, the trail is full of vibrant colors. Providing exercise and family photo-ops, the East Anacapa Loop Trail is a practical hike that explores the ever changing scenery of Anacapa Island.

Address: Channel Islands National Park, California

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URL: http://www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/hiking-anacapa-island.htm
Hours: Year Round
Price: Free

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