Channel Islands National Park

This wild paradise is the Galapagos of California.
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This wild paradise is the Galapagos of California.

Often called the Galapagos of California, the Channel Islands are as wild a paradise as you'll find off the southern California coast. Visit in spring and you may see a giant coreopsis, or "tree sunflower," which blooms so big and bright it can be seen from the mainland 12 miles away. Dolphins, sea lions, and whales are easily sighted along the coastlines. And the island chain is prime breeding ground for hundreds of thousands of shorebirds. Some of the best views are found on Anacapa Island, which you can access by a 90-minute ferry ride. A short trail from the dock tours the 1-square-mile island's highpoints, Inspiration Point and Cathedral Cove.

drive time: Los Angeles: 1 hour, plus ferry ride

guides: A free visitors' guide and maps are available at the park office.

contact: Channel Islands National Park, (805) 658-5730; www.nps.gov/chis