Central Coast Hikes National Parks

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop – Santa Cruz Island

This loop hike from Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point takes place on Santa Cruz Island, the largest of eight islands making up Channel Islands National Park. Santa Cruz is also the largest island in California at 96.5 square miles. Starting at the Scorpion Anchorage Visitor Center, hikers will scale an ocean bluff with majestic views of the California mainland. From there, the trail follows the coastline before returning to Scorpion Anchorage via the Scorpion Ranch Campground. 

This loop hike from Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point takes place on Santa Cruz Island, the largest of eight islands making up Channel Islands National Park. Santa Cruz is also the largest island in California at 96.5 square miles. Starting at the Scorpion Bay Visitor Center, hikers will scale an ocean bluff with majestic views of the California mainland. From there, the trail follows the coastline before returning to Scorpion Bay via the Scorpion Ranch Campground.

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island


Getting There: Directions And GPS Track

  • Visitors to Channel Islands National Park must book a boat ride to the island through Island Packers. Make sure to plan your trip well ahead of your planned departure, as weekend boats can fill up early. The boat to Santa Cruz Island leaves from Ventura, CA, and takes around 60-minutes each way.
  • You can choose to visit the island for a day trip, but an overnight camping trip is much nicer in my opinion. There are a number of hikes on the island you’ll want to explore. Much like the boat ride, you’ll want to book your reservations to Scorpion Campsite early.
  • Once you’ve arrived to Santa Cruz Island via Island Packers, the trailhead for this hike will begin just outside of the visitor center.
  • Download GPX
  • See track on Strava

Hike Profile

  • Distance: 1.86 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 361 ft
  • Minimum Elevation: 41 ft
  • Maximum Elevation: 326 ft
  • Time: ~1 hour
  • Difficulty: (1/5)
  • Dog Friendly: No
  • Permit Required: No
  • Weather: The weather on the Channel Islands is pleasant, but can also be very unpredictable at times. Expect wind and bring layers, as the temperature can change quickly.
  • Trail Condition: Well graded single track
  • Cell Phone Reception: Little to none

Do you have the appropriate gear for this hike? Don’t hike unprepared!
See my current hiking gear list. 


Hike Map And Elevation Profile

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island


Hike Description:

0.0 Miles- Starting from Scorpion Bay Anchorage or Scorpion Ranch campsite, make your way towards the visitor center. You’ll see a trail sign that says “Cavern Point Loop Hike”.

Scorpion Bay and Cavern Point Hike

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

After passing by the visitor center, the trail begins climbing up past the old Scorpion outhouse. There are many historical buildings at Scorpion Ranch that are well worth visiting. My favorite is the old blacksmith shed. Continue on past the outhouse and climb the trail of wooden steps that take you out towards the bluff.

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

Spring is a great time to visit the Channel Islands. The weather is warm and usually pretty dry. Most importantly though, Spring brings wildflowers in abundance. You’ll see splashes of red, purple, yellow, and blue all over Santa Cruz Island. On this hike, we got to enjoy sparkling hills of blooming mustard just as the views of Scorpion Bay opened up.

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

As you look back to the east, you’ll see the beach of Scorpion Cove, and on a clear day, the silhouettes of Anacapa Island and the coast of the California mainland.

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

Continue on the trail heading west, and you’ll begin to approach Cavern Point.  This is a great hike to enjoy at sunset, as you’ll start to see day turning into night from this point on. We decided to pack our dinner up from the campsite and found a place to stop and enjoy the views just off of the trail.

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

1.1 Miles- You’ll reach a trail junction just after hiking for around 1-mile. Make sure to stay right at the junction to continue around Cavern Point towards Potato Harbor and the campgrounds.

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

I know this usually goes without saying, but please be very careful on this hike and mindful of your footing. These bluffs fall straight down to the ocean and onto very rocky surf. A slip here could be fatal. There are plenty of view points that don’t require hikers to take any risks or chances, so enjoy these and avoid the ledges.

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

As you leave Cavern Point behind, you’ll begin a downhill stretch of hiking with ocean views to your right hand side. The trail is rutted here with loose top soil, so make sure to plant your feet with accuracy.

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

1.4 Miles- You’ll reach a trail junction where you’ll want to take a left and head south towards the Scorpion campsite. Head downhill here past the campsite and you’ll complete this loop hike with a return to the Scorpion Bay Visitor Center.

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island


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Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop - Santa Cruz Island

I'm Drew, creator of Trail to Peak. Trail to Peak brings content to life on the web through breath-taking photography and captivating video. I launched Trail to Peak in 2014 with a goal to inspire readers to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. I have traveled to 19 countries, walked Camino de Santiago, hiked the John Muir Trail, trekked through the Andes of Peru, and am constantly seeking new adventures in my home state of California. Joining me on my weekly adventures is my partner, Julia, our son, Owen, and our two goldendoodles, Isla and Lilly.

7 comments on “Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop – Santa Cruz Island

  1. It’s been since 2015 I was last reading your post and their still very interesting and exciting

  2. Great Hike! What’s the easiest/cheapest way to get to the islands from the mainland?

  3. An inspiring read – can’t wait to try it out.

  4. Pingback: A Guide To Hiking Santa Cruz Island: Channel Islands National Park - Trail to Peak

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