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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.

All trips returning from Santa Rosa Island stop at Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. If sea conditions allow, the boat will enter the cave and visitors will experience one of the world’s largest sea caves from the inside out. For many, this event is a major highlight of their day and is free of charge on Santa Rosa returns.

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The Crossing

A trip to Santa Rosa from the Ventura Harbor takes approximately two hours if the boat takes the northerly route. The preferred southern route takes two hours & 15 minutes. This route can be smoother.

When the boat is stopping at Scorpion Anchorage, or Prisoners Harbor, Santa Cruz Island, you can add an additional 30 minutes to the crossing.

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.


This island lies just beyond Point Conception. 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.

Cultural History

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 also left its mark on the island. Until approximately 1820, a 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.

Flora & Fauna

About 500 plant species have been identified on Santa Rosa. There are six endemic plant species found nowhere else in the world.

This includes 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.