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.
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
- 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
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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7 thoughts on “Hiking Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point Loop – Santa Cruz Island”
It’s been since 2015 I was last reading your post and their still very interesting and exciting
Great Hike! What’s the easiest/cheapest way to get to the islands from the mainland?
You’ll have to go with IslandPackers, as it’s the only option.
An inspiring read – can’t wait to try it out.
Thanks! It’s a great hike.