Prisoner’s Harbor Pier to Del Norte Campground plus Navy Road loop
(10 miles, +2,700/-2,000 feet).
MixMaster, BarnFinder, and I have had some tough luck getting a trip together lately. Trips on the John Muir Trail and PCT were both cancelled due to at least two of us being injured or sick! So this time we thought we would try something completely new: hiking an island!
The ferry left from Ventura Harbor and took about an hour to get out to Santa Cruz Island.
The first stop is Scorpion Cove, but we stayed on the boat to go to Prisoner’s Harbor. Our plan was to walk from one to the other.
The National Park Service only lets you camp in two places on Santa Cruz Island, Del Norte Campground and Scorpion Ranch. There are no natural sources of water, and there is no water available at Del Norte, so we each had to carry nearly two gallons (16 pounds!) to the campsite for our first two days on the island. Fortunately it was only about 4 miles to get there.
We slowly climbed up above the harbor on the not-so-scenic Navy Road, which is still used to get to a functioning Navy Base with communications towers at the top of a ridge.
Trudging with our water-laden packs, we eventually made it to our trailhead.
We passed some departing campers on the way who gave us advice on which site had the “million dollar views.” When we arrived at camp we were the first ones there, so we chose the spot they told us about and set up our tents.
We then ditched everything but a couple of liters of water and some snacks for a day hike. We felt great!
As we climbed higher, the trail got greener and the views bluer.
Soon we were back at the Navy Road, but it was actually pleasant to walk on higher up. There wasn’t too much gravel and the recent rains kept dust to a minimum. We cross-country climbed a knoll above Mount Pleasant and got our first views to the south and out to the open ocean.
We continued looping around past the Navy Base and back down the Del Norte trail to our campsite.
We made it back to camp and had dinner while enjoying our view of the darkening sky. It dropped to 40 degrees shortly after sunset, and even though it was just 5pm we each ducked in our tent and called it a night.