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Santa Rosa Island

Take a plane or a boat to this windswept island

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California’s second largest isle, Santa Rosa Island measures a whopping 84 square miles—if you’re looking for isolation and adventure, this is the place. It’s a 3-hour boat ride each way from Ventura, so day trips aren’t practical.

"If you’re looking for isolation and adventure, this is the place."

Your best bet for exploring this expansive wilderness is to pitch a tent and stay at least one night at Water Canyon Camp, located near a 3-mile-long beach, and conveniently outfitted with showers, flush toilets, and wind shelters (a noted necessity in a place where strong winds are commonplace). So snug down the tent stakes before you head off to explore.

One must-do hike is Lobo Canyon, with its native flora, eroded sandstone formations, and embedded pygmy mammoth fossils. Pygmy mammoth? It sounds like an oxymoron, but a miniaturized 5-foot-/1.5-meter-high mammoth once roamed here. Other ambles lead to sandy beaches and a rare stand of Torrey pines (this island and San Diego are the only two spots where these wind-sculpted conifers grow).

Getting to Santa Rosa Island requires a 3-hour boat ride, or Channel Islands Aviation flies here in a mere 25-minute flight. It’s pricey, but if you’re prone to seasickness, it could be a worthy investment.

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