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The Seasons of Channel Islands National Park

Climate. Seasons. Weather. Your desired level of adventure. These factors will all influence when you decide to visit the Channel Islands National Park.

According to the National Park, in general, the islands have a coastal Mediterranean climate year-round. Temperatures are relatively stable, with highs averaging in the mid-60s (°F) and lows in the low-50s. However, there are seasonal differences that visitors should take into consideration when visiting the park. In addition, visitors also should be aware that ocean and weather conditions vary considerably from day-to-day and island-to-island.

Summer

Summer at Potato Harbor, Santa Cruz Island.
Summer at Potato Harbor, Santa Cruz Island.

Summer time around the Channel Islands is the peak season to visit. Thus, visitors will want to book well in advance to ensure they have a spot on the ferry (see: Island Packers), a spot on a much coveted guided kayak tour, or even campsite. Holiday weekends especially book up well in advance!

During the bustling summer months, there is typically ample sunshine and most days are around 70 degrees. Early summer can bring very gray whether (*see: may gray, june gloom) and cool, often misty conditions. Afternoon winds are common, although these winds usually don’t pick up until after most kayak tours have ended. Fog tends to diminish near midsummer. Calm winds and seas become more frequent near the end of summer and continue through October.

Ocean temperatures begin to warm, reaching the high 60s by end of summer. Underwater visibility also increases into the summer. The ocean is often the calmest summer and fall, although we experience swell from the south during the summer which influences many caves at Scorpion Anchorage.

Summer is a very busy time for tourists, swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking.

Fall

anacapa island sunset
A fall sunset overlooking Anacapa Island.

Fall brings dry, hot days and often the calmest ocean, when the Santa Ana winds are not blowing. The temperatures are often warmest in the fall months and, since it’s shoulder season, the crowds have thinned out. Late fall starts to bring swell to the region.

Fall brings the highest likelihood of warm weather, calm winds, and seas. However, beginning around October, strong east or Santa Ana winds (hot and dry winds) are possible. Ocean temperatures may reach 70°F in early fall and visibility is often best during the fall.

Winter

winter in channel islands
Winter conditions bring larger swell and sometimes blow holes!

In the winter, which we consider low season, the island conditions can be very rough. Visitors to the National Park will want to speak with the office at Island Packers (phone: (805) 642-1393) ahead of their trip and should monitor weather conditions as storms with big swell and windy conditions are frequent. Air and water temperatures are cold during the winter. The water temperatures are often in the mid- to high- 50s (°F). Most rain falls between December and March. Nevertheless, beautiful, sunny, clear winter days occur between storms.

Spring

spring in channel islands
Spring has sprung at Scorpion Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island. Endemic Giant Coreopsis flowers bloom around the island.

Spring time! With a green, lush island that is bountiful with flowers comes rain and wind.

Although spring temperatures get warmer after a cold winter, strong winds often occur during this season. Spring is most known for extreme wind events that bring rough, white-capped seas. Dense fog is common during the late spring as we approach the summer, and often into summer. Ocean temperatures range from the mid 50s to low 60s (°F). There are some nice weather windows in spring, but this shoulder season tends to result in many weather cancellations.

A gray but fun day exploring sea caves on Santa Cruz Island.
A gray but fun day exploring sea caves on Santa Cruz Island.

Another great weather forecast resource is NOAA National Weather Service. Here is the weather for Prisoners Harbor and Scorpion Anchorage.

For more information about seasonal weather at the Channel Islands National Park, click here!

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