Infant (Must Reserve)
At 84 square miles, Santa Rosa Island is the second largest of the eight Channel Islands. There are two relatively high mountains on the island; Black Mountain, 1298 ft (396 m); and Soledad Peak 1574 ft (480 m).
Most of the island is covered by rolling hills. Steep and dramatic canyons, such as Lobo and Water Canyon, cut through the hills and open up to beautiful white sand beaches. Many miles of trails and roads are available for hiking exploration.
Santa Rosa Island Trip Options
A trip to Santa Rosa from the Ventura Harbor takes approximately two hours if the boat takes the northerly route, two hours and 15 minutes via the smoother and preferred southern route. If the boat is stopping at Scorpion Anchorage, or Prisoners Harbor, Santa Cruz Island, you can add an additional 30 minutes to the crossing.
Our preferred route takes a track along the south side on Santa Cruz Island because waters are usually much calmer there, however, the channel between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa can be rough.
The longer ocean crossing provides an greater opportunity to view dolphins and in the summer months Blue & Humpback whales.
Landing at Santa Rosa is via a pier at Bechers Bay. Passengers will step from the boat to a landing and then climb a short flight of stairs to the top of the pier.
Santa Rosa Island has potable water for day visitors and campers. Water along with picnic tables and flushing toilets are located on the Coastal Road at the electrical buildings and in the campground area. Picnic tables are also located in the ranch area on the lawn. The buildings in the ranch area are closed to the public as they are research facilities for Cal State Channel Island.
Water Canyon Campground has 15 five person sites with wind barriers.
Archaeological discoveries include the remains of an ancient species of pygmy mammoth. Discovered in 1994, the fossil skeleton comprises the most complete specimen ever found.
Over 13,000 years of human habitation has also left its mark on the island. Until approximately 1820, a large population of Chumash people called Wima (Chumash name for Santa Rosa) home. In subsequent eras, European explorers, Aleut sea otter hunters, Chinese abalone fishermen, Spanish missionaries, Mexican and American ranchers and the US military have all left their mark on Wima. Remnants of these island inhabitants are still being found.
Santa Rosa lies just beyond Point Conception, so the weather is more like the Big Sur Coast than that of Southern California. Visitors should be prepared for cool and foggy days even in the summer. Strong winds are common year-round.
About 500 plant species have been identified on Santa Rosa, including six endemic species found nowhere else in the world, including a subspecies of Torrey Pine. Santa Rosa also hosts over 100 bird species, three mammal species (the largest being the endemic island fox), two amphibians and three reptile species.
February – March
December through mid- February, southbound migrating Gray whales can often be observed during Channel crossings. Gray whales often pass near the islands and traverse the channels between them as they travel south, bound for the warm waters of Mexico. During the northbound direction of their journey, they frequently pass closer to the mainland.
During a normal year of rainfall wildflowers are best viewed in late winter and spring. Some plants like gum plant, buckwheat and poppies continue to bloom during the summer.
In Spring months, the grasslands of Santa Rosa are green and the native flowers in bloom. The Cherry Canton trail is an excellent places to see wildflowers. For Campers, Carrington Point is an excellent place to view the bloom on Santa Rosa Island. Intensity and duration of the bloom differs a bit each year due to varied rainfall and temperature.
Photo by Doug Mangum
June – September
Sea conditions during summer and early fall are often ideal for visiting Santa Rosa. Sea temperatures during warmer months may reach the upper 60’s. Endemic island wildflowers including island buckwheat and asters are in bloom.
During summer and fall, Island Packers offers regular transportation to Santa Rosa, departing 3 times per week. During summer months, there is a heightened chance of seeing Blue or Humpback Whales in the deep water, during crossings to and from Santa Rosa Island.
October – November
A late “Second Summer” season is often enjoyed on the Channel Islands. Sea conditions are generally agreeable, crowds are fewer and pleasant weather is the norm. Locals often wait for October to head out to the islands.