If you are looking for a great hike on a day trip to Santa Cruz Island and don’t want to take on Smugglers Cove, then this is the hike I would recommend. Potato Harbor Overlook is beautiful on its own, but adding the Bluffs Trail and the Cavern Point Trail to it makes it a fantastic way to spend some time on the island. Here is all the information.
- 6 miles
- 500 feet of elevation
- This information was from my hike in 2017
- Read all about Santa Cruz Island here and Channel Islands National Park here
This hike is on Santa Cruz Island; you can read more about getting there here. To start the hike, I would recommend beginning at the Potato Harbor Trailhead near the group campground. Starting there allows you to get the elevation gain out in the beginning and then just focus on taking the beautiful coastal views in as slow as you want at the end.
The trail didn’t have a marker on it when I went, so make sure to grab a map of the hiking trails to not get lost. You will see a road that leaves right before the upper camping area, and that is the start.
The trail begins by heading uphill on a wide path.
It is relatively dull in the beginning, but you do get some excellent views of the interior portion of the island.
As you continue upward, keep your eyes peeled for foxes, I saw two on the trail when I went.
When the trail starts to flatten out, you are about a mile from your first destination.
This trail is peaceful and relaxing, and while you can’t see the coast much, it is still beautiful.
Eventually, the trail will head to the left, and you will be at the top of Potato Harbor.
This view is spectacular, and the cove it looks down on doesn’t feel like California.
I walked around the rim a little bit before starting my way back.
On the way back, look for the single track that heads off to the left and has a small sign. I highly recommend you take this, but you can always go back the way you came on Potato Harbor Road if you want.
This trail runs along the bluffs for the next mile, and it is one of those trails that you will stop at many times to get different views of the coast below you.
Here are a few shots of the different views you will see on the trail.
Eventually, the trail heads downhill to a saddle before heading back up a short and steep uphill to Cavern Point.
Cavern Point is an excellent viewpoint for the coast stretching out in front of you. It is probably the most impressive part of the Bluffs Trail, but doing it this way lets you build up to it.
It’s a great spot to stop at for few minutes and just take it all in.
After finishing admiring the view at Cavern Point, you will continue down the single track that starts to head around the hill and looks over Scorpion Beach.
This view is especially beautiful because you can see Scorpion Rock out in front of you and even the historic Smugglers Road climbing the hill ahead.
Winding around this trail, you will eventually reach a set of rough steps that help you descend the elevation you gained before arriving at the visitor center, a few minutes from the beach.
All in all, this is one of the best hikes on the Scorpion part of Santa Cruz Island, and it is probably the best if you are looking for coastal views. Let me know what you think in the comments.