I went to one of California’s least-visited national parks and it was magical

2 April 2021

We are hiking through Cherry Canyon, a dusty trail popping with red, yellow and purple wildflowers on Santa Rosa Island within Channel Islands National Park, and we are looking for one of the world’s smallest foxes. We might see a tiny head peeking out of tall grasses on the hillside, or one of the brazen little creatures could even approach us, a ranger said. But on these warmer spring days, they like to crouch and cool off in their dens, awaiting kits. So far, the only trace of them is abundant scat.

The Channel Islands themselves are a bit like island foxes — little-known, utterly fascinating and ultimately pretty easy to see, if you’re willing to make the effort. A springtime visit is particularly rewarding, thanks to the wildflower-painted hillsides, frequent whale sightings and end-of-the-world ambiance. Of the five islands that make up the park, Santa Rosa offers some of the best hiking, and it’s only 50 miles off Southern California’s Ventura Harbor.

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