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Plan a Trip to the Beautiful Channel Islands

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Summer is a great time to take advantage of our national parks and monuments. Many offer free or low-cost admissions and programs perfect for families. So this summer we will be featuring one of our country’s public lands every week and highlighting things you and your family can do there.

The Channel Islands

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Image description: One of the many coves on the Channel Islands. Photo from the National Park Service.

The Channel Islands sometimes referred to, as the “North American Galapagos” is an incredible national park off the coast of southern California.  Comprised of five distinct islands, this park offers a one-of-a-kind experience because of wildlife not found anywhere else in the world.

Each island in the park offers something unique that you can discover:

Anacapa Island: A great place to view the Winfield Scott shipwreck from land, also one of the best islands to snorkel through the beautiful kelp forests.

Santa Cruz Island: A fantastic place to visit if you like to swim, kayak or dive. Lucky bird watchers may be able to spot the scrub jay, only found on Santa Cruz Island!

Santa Rosa Island: Whether you decide to hike through Black Mountain or stay along Water Canyon Beach, Santa Rosa provides breathtaking views no matter where you decide to go.

San Miguel Island: This island contains an abundance of wildlife. Harbors are bountiful with gulls, pelicans and auklets. You can also watch the western meadowlark, rock wren and sound sparrow in their natural habitat.

Santa Barbara Island: An island in recovery, Santa Barbara is home to a number of different rare plant and animal life. If you dive off the coast of this island you may just find sea stars, sea urchins and gorgeous Garibaldi fish.

The Channel Islands are a great place to visit during the summer because of the many whale watching opportunities. Throughout the summer you can view the largest animal in the world, the endangered blue whale, off the coast of the islands! Other whales, such as the humpback and the orca, can also be seen in the summer months.

You can see the marine animals from on high points throughout the islands as well as through telescopes located outside the visitor’s centers.

Whale watching boating trips are also available if you want a close-up view. For more information, please check out island transportation. You can find a full list of guided tours on the schedule of events.

Whether you are visiting the islands for the wildlife or for the number of outdoor activities, the Channel Islands provide a rare insight into the southern California landscape.

Image description: Prehistoric granaries along the Colorado River above Nankoweap in Marble Canyon, Grand Canyon.  
The oldest human artifacts found within Grand Canyon park are nearly 12,000 years old.  Take 360 degree virtual tours of Grand Canyon archaeological discoveries or watch a video about archaeology along the Colorado River.  
Photo by Mark Lellouch, National Park Service

Image description: Prehistoric granaries along the Colorado River above Nankoweap in Marble Canyon, Grand Canyon.  

The oldest human artifacts found within Grand Canyon park are nearly 12,000 years old.  Take 360 degree virtual tours of Grand Canyon archaeological discoveries or watch a video about archaeology along the Colorado River

Photo by Mark Lellouch, National Park Service

Enjoy National Parks with an Annual Pass

If your vacation or weekend plans include visits to national parks and recreation areas, consider getting a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

Benefits of the Pass

The pass provide entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites across the United States. Entrance covers:

  • Pass owner and accompanying passengers in a single private vehicle where per-vehicle fees are charged.
  • Pass owner and three accompanying individuals ages 16 and older where per-person entrance fees are charged (children under 16 are admitted for free).


Types of Passes

  • Annual Pass - It’s $80 (ages 16 years and older) and valid for one year.
  • Annual Pass for Military - Members of the U.S. military and their dependents are eligible for a free Annual Pass. 
  • Senior Pass - It’s $10 and valid for the lifetime of the pass owner. You must be 62 years or older and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Access Pass - It’s free for the lifetime of the pass holder with documentation of a permanent disability. You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Volunteer Pass - You can earn this pass with 250 or more hours of volunteer service on public lands. The pass is valid for one year.
Image description: A Sun Dog in Denali National Park in Alaska.
A Sun Dog is a ring of light that is sometimes visible around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals.
Photo from the National Park Service

Image description: A Sun Dog in Denali National Park in Alaska.

A Sun Dog is a ring of light that is sometimes visible around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals.

Photo from the National Park Service

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From the Department of Interior:

In the shadow of 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, 5,000 year old bristlecone pine trees grow on rocky glacial moraines. Come to Great Basin National Park to experience the solitude of the desert, the smell of sagebrush after a thunderstorm, the darkest of night skies, and the beauty of Lehman Caves. Far from a wasteland, the Great Basin is a diverse region that awaits your discovery.Photo: Ken Koenig, NPS

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From the Department of Interior:

In the shadow of 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, 5,000 year old bristlecone pine trees grow on rocky glacial moraines. Come to Great Basin National Park to experience the solitude of the desert, the smell of sagebrush after a thunderstorm, the darkest of night skies, and the beauty of Lehman Caves. Far from a wasteland, the Great Basin is a diverse region that awaits your discovery.

Photo: Ken Koenig, NPS