Santa Cruz Island

Photo by Michele Wassell - The View from Cavern Point Trail

Trips to Santa Cruz Island Available during Pier Construction Closure

As read the boxed information below, you may think that Santa Cruz Island is closed.  It is not closed.  Only a portion of the island is closed.  Prisoners Harbor, one of the prettiest areas on Santa Cruz Island, remains open to the public.  Prisoners Harbor offers a wetlands area not available at Scorpion as well as the most beautiful hike on Santa Cruz Island that is open to the public, the Pelican Bay trail.  The moderate to strenuous hike takes you through several micro-ecosystems and offers beautiful elevated views of the Santa Cruz Island.  A trip to Prisoners Harbor may also offer the opportunity to visit Painted Cave. Click the links below for more information on the destination.

Scorpion Anchorage Closure During Pier Construction

Alert 1 , Severity ,closure , Scorpion Anchorage Closure During Pier ConstructionBeginning November 1, 2019, there will be no public access to Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island due to the construction of a new pier. Construction is expected to take 6-8 months. Public access will be available from 12/21/2019 through 1/5/2020.

Scorpion Anchorage Available During Winter Holiday Break

During the Winter Holiday Break, Scorpion Anchorage will be open for Day Trips and Camping

from Saturday, December 21, 2019 to Sunday, January 5, 2020

To View the Boat Availability Click the Month Buttons below.

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At over 96 square miles in size and the largest island in California, Santa Cruz contains three mountain ranges; the highest peak on the island (rising above 2000 feet); a large central valley/fault system; deep canyons with year round springs and streams; and 77 miles of craggy coastline cliffs, giant sea caves, pristine tide pools and expansive beaches.

Photo by Diane Edmonds

These varied land forms support more than 600 plant species in ten different plant communities from marsh and grasslands to chaparral and pine forests.  There are 140 land birds and 11 land mammal species; three amphibian and five reptile species; a large colony of nesting sea birds, breeding seals and sea lions and other diverse marine animals and plants.

The island is also rich in cultural history with over 10,000 years of Chumash Indian habitation and over 150 years of European exploration.

Visitors Center at Scorpion on Santa Cruz Island

Owing to millions of years of isolation many distinctive plants and animal species have adapted to the island’s unique environment, including the island scrub-jay and eight plant species found only on Santa Cruz Island and nowhere else in the world.

Photo by Joel Barrett
Photo by Doug Mangum

Remnants of the ranching era also can be seen throughout the landscape of the island.  Adobe ranch houses, barns, blacksmith and saddle shops, wineries and a chapel all attest to the many uses of Santa Cruz in the 1800 and 1900s.

Seasonal Highlights

December through mid- February, migrating Gray Whales can often be observed from Cavern point on East Santa Cruz or the bluffs of Mid Santa Cruz as the whales pass near the island.

Photo by Doug Mangum - Gray Whale Group

From about February through April the grasslands of Santa Cruz Island are green and native flowers are in bloom. Scorpion Canyon and the Potato Harbor trail are excellent places to see wildflowers. The Prisoners Harbor to Pelican Bay trail has some of the best wildflower displays on the island. Intensity and duration of the bloom differs a bit each year due to varied rainfall and temperature.

Photo by Doug Mangum
Photo by Dan Harding

You can view the endemic Santa Cruz Island Scrub Jay year round: an easy stroll up the dirt road to the old stream bed at Prisoners Harbor or a rugged hike up Scorpion Canyon should provide a viewing opportunity.

Photo by Doug Mangum

In summer through fall, the ocean conditions are usually ideal for kayaking and snorkeling. Endemic island wildflowers including island buckwheat and asters are in bloom.

During summer there is also a chance to see Blue or Humpback Whales in the deep water, during travels to and from Santa Cruz Island.

Photo by Michele Wassell

Slide Show

  • Photo by Michele Wassell - Approaching Scorpion Anchorage
  • Photo by Andrea Mills
  • Photo by Doug Mangum - Prisoners Harbor
  • Photo by Tim Hauf - Del Norte Campground
  • Photot by Tim Hauf - Prisoners Harbor Sign Posts, Santa Crus Island
  • Photo by Tim Hauf - Del Norte Camp Site
  • Photo by Tim Hauf
  • Photo by Andrea Mills