Channel Island Smuggler
Hike Smugglers Cove Channel Islands
One of the best hikes in Channel Islands National Park traverses Santa Cruz Island, offering panoramic vistas and leading to a secluded cove. The 7.5-mile (round-trip) hike to Smuggler’s Cove starts at Scorpion Anchorage and ascends a singletrack trail with sweeping views of inland hills. Follow the trail as it edges along bluffs that drop straight to the crashing waves, and look for the distant Santa Susana Mountains to the east. Another thing to keep an eye out for? The island scrub-jay—found only on this island. Continue onto Smuggler’s Road, marked by an old windmill on the other side of the path. The trail draws a definite sweat with its steady, steep ascent. After about 2 miles, things level out and the neighboring Anacapa Islands come into view. Olive trees flank the final steep descent to Smuggler’s Cove, where a few picnic tables and eucalyptus trees border the slim cobblestone beach. The cove also has tide pools with sea life like green anemones and the scarce black abalone. (Head to the west end of the beach during low tide to catch the best show; be careful, there are some sharp rocks on shore.) Return the way you came: The first mile is straight upwards—but don’t rush it; a true smuggler knows how to play it cool.
Start at Scorpion Anchorage by taking the ascending road to the right of the pier. Continue for 0.2 mile until you reach the intersection at Smuggler’s Road. Cross the dry creek and begin a steep incline. After 2.25 miles the path begins a descent and then levels as it circles Smuggler’s Cove before leading to the beach. There is no water available at Smuggler’s Cove, so you must bring plenty for the road. Hiking trail maps are available at the visitor center at Scorpion Anchorage. Trails are well marked. No dogs.
Bring the Outdoors to Your Inbox
Sign up for our weekly email and stay up to date on where to explore in California.* No spam, that’s a funky food!