Santa Rosa Island Service, Channel Islands National Park, California

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14087A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Enjoy a ferry ride to/from Santa Rosa Island, with chance of sighting whales or dolphins
  • Help maintain hiking trails on Santa Rosa Island for visitors
  • Hike beautiful island trails on our day off


  • Ocean ferry ride to/from Santa Rosa Island (over $100 value)
  • Beautiful campsite near bay/ocean 
  • Delicious food/meals prepared by our cook


DatesMay 17–23, 2014
StaffTim Wernette

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Trip Overview

Please note that the trip dates have changed from what was originally published. If you have questions, please contact us.

The Trip

Santa Rosa Island, at 84 square miles, is the second largest of the Channel Islands. Sheer cliffs on the southern shore are backed by high mountains, while deeply cut canyons give way to gentle rolling hills and marine terraces. Grasslands blanket about 85 percent of the island, but groves of island oak, scrub oak, and ironwood are found among the canyons, as well as Torrey pines and closed cone pines.

There are over 195 bird species and native mammals, including the island fox, deer mouse, and spotted skunk. Harbor seals may be seen in the island’s rocky tide pools, and juvenile elephant seals lie on the sandy shoreline. Chumash Indians lived on Santa Rosa Island at least 8,000 years ago, and the island has over 160 documented archaeological sites. The trip leader will be sending you information about Santa Rosa Island and the Channel Islands in pre-trip mailings and email letters.  

In 1980, Congress established the Channel Islands as our 40th national park, and the ocean six miles out around each island as a national marine sanctuary. Channel Islands National Park is part of UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme to conserve genetic diversity and an environmental baseline for research and monitoring throughout the world.  As a result, fisheries are being restored and otters and whales are returning to the area. The Sierra Club has supported these efforts with service trips to the Channel Islands for the past couple of decades.

The Project

Our work project will help restore the island to its natural state. Santa Rosa Island has a history of abuse from sheep and cattle ranching and as an air strip during World War II. We will work with the Park Service on a variety of projects, including trail work and other projects that the park service requests.


Day 1: We'll meet at the dock in Ventura at 7:00 a.m. for our 8:00 a.m. departure, so please plan to stay somewhere near Ventura the evening before the trip startsAfter we take the ferry to Santa Rosa Island, we'll set up our campsite/commissary. It'll likely take multiple trips to haul our gear from the dock to our campsite.  

Days 2-6: We’ll work four days and have two days to hike the many trails on our beautiful island. This trip is rated moderate. Participants are expected to work as hard as (and no harder than) they want to, and free-day activities (hiking) are optional. Participants should be in good physical shape and enjoy physical activities and work.  

Day 8: We will pack up our camping gear and return to Ventura on the ferry. We can have a farewell dinner (optional) in Ventura for those interested.



Getting There

Please note: The trip price includes the $104-114 fare for boat transportation between Ventura and Santa Rosa Island.

We will be transported to Santa Rosa Island from Ventura, on the California mainland, by Island Packers. More details on how to get to Ventura and the dock will be sent to you once you’ve been accepted on our trip. Island Packers will ferry us to the island and back; the trip leader will make all of these arrangements and reservations. The boat trip will take between three and four hours. Trip members should be physically capable of climbing a 20-foot steel rung ladder when boarding and exiting the boat. Trip members prone to sea-sickness should come prepared with their own medication.  Island Packers permits each passenger to carry up to 3 bags/containers, each weighing no more than 45 lbs. We’re hoping that each participant can have one backpack with all their gear that weighs no more than 45 lbs. We’ll ask participants who are driving to the trip to bring, if convenient, coolers and/or large plastic tubs/containers with tops (no cardboard) to transport our food and commissary gear to/from Santa Rosa Island. 

You can fly into Los Angeles and then either take public transportation to Ventura or rent a car. There is also an airport in nearby Oxnard, and Amtrak has a stop in Ventura. Each participant will be responsible for getting to the Island Packers’ ferry dock; however, the leader will help everyone share travel plans to promote carpooling.

Accommodations and Food

We’ll be camping at the park service campsite near Bechers Bay on the northeastern side of Santa Rosa Island; it’s about 1.5 level miles from the dock to our campsite. We’ll have running water for cooking/drinking/showers, but otherwise our campground will be primitive. We’ll be camping in tents and cooking/eating on picnic tables. We will bring our food from the mainland and our cook will prepare it deliciously (with your help); our campsite will have food-storage containers for us to use.  Each campsite has a wind-shelter, but the wind and sun can be quite strong and harsh, so it’s important that we bring gear that can withstand these conditions. More news will be forthcoming about what gear you will need to bring.

Our work tools will be provided by the Park Service and the cooking gear wil be provided by the Sierra Club. The spirit of the trip and the good times will be provided by you as a participant. The seas and currents are often rough and strong, so swimming and boating won’t be possible, but Santa Rosa Island has many wonderful hiking trails that we can explore during our non-work days.

The trip cook is personally an omnivore, but cooks these trips mostly vegetarian and sometimes vegan. Our meals will be international in nature; mostly Asian and Italian with a few other countries thrown into the mix. We have no stores on Santa Rosa; everything will be carried on our Island Packers ferry. We will have fresh goods for the early days of the trip only. The cook will send a questionnaire about allergies and food/drink preferences a month or so before the trip. Each participant will need to help transport a portion of our group commissary on the ferry and to our camp.

Trip Difficulty

This trip will emphasize low-impact camping and hiking (Leave No Trace), which means leaving the areas where we stay and travel better than we find them. It also means blending in with nature instead of attempting to dominate it. The leader has been trained in advanced Leave No Trace camping practices, and he sees each trip as an opportunity to learn new ways to live lightly on the land. Hopefully, we’ll all learn together.

The trip leader will also be facilitating environmental/conservation discussions and awareness during our trip. He will invite participants to share information about environmental issues in their hometown/region. He will also send pre-trip information on environmental issues in the Channel Islands and invite participants to discuss these issues during the trip. 

Please consider that you are going into the wilderness with a group of people, not on your own. There is a fair amount of flexibility on our trips, and we endeavor to allow time to enjoy the solitude of the wilderness to each trip participant who wants it. We expect trip members to be reasonably tolerant of the human frailties of fellow trip members and to be prepared to make some sacrifices for the good of the group.

Each day, cooking duties and other camp chores will be shared by all on a rotating basis. Expect to enjoy an interesting variety of nutritious foods. There are obvious limitations on the sort of food that we can prepare for a large group in a wilderness setting. However, we try to surprise our trip members pleasantly. If you have special dietary concerns, please let the cook know. If we can accommodate you, we will. Please note that we eat low on the food chain, with meat used sparingly, if at all.

One of our standing rules is that hiking on free days must be done in groups of three or more, for safety reasons. The leader will discuss with participants hiking options on our free days and participants can form groups to explore those parts of Santa Rosa Island that are of most interest to them.  Please do not expect this rule to be waived.

Each of you will be viewed by the people who come in contact with our group as a representative of Service trips and of the Sierra Club as a whole. We are proud of our reputation, not only for getting a lot of good work done in the wilderness, but also for being considerate in the wilderness and in the places we pass through on the way to it. We trust that you will help us uphold that reputation.

Accepted trip members can expect two or more pre-trip email letters as well as multiple snail mailings. These will include directions to our meeting place, a list of trip members with their transportation plans,an  emergency contact, and any other pertinent information for the trip.

Equipment and Clothing

On Sierra Club Outings, participants furnish their own personal equipment, including items such as clothing, boots, backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, a basic first-aid kit, toiletries, and eating utensils. The Sierra Club furnishes all shared group gear, including stoves, cookware and cooking utensils, a group first-aid kit, and food, unless otherwise noted in the trip brochure.  The trip leader will send you a list of recommended equipment for our trip and welcomes any questions about suitability of equipment.  


  • Lamb, Susan, Channel Islands National Park. 2000.
  • Channel Islands National Park: California a Trails Illustrated Map. National Geographic Society, September 1999.
  • Hauf, Tim, Channel Islands National Park. 1996.


The trip leader is a passionate environmentalist who will be sending pre-trip emails/attachments and snail mailings about environmental issues on the Channel Islands. During our trip we will have at least one environmental discussion when trip members can share environmental issues, not only from their hometown/region, but also from the Channel Islands and the California coast.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.

While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.

Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from Channel Islands National Park.



Tim Wernette has led Sierra Club service trips for over 30 years, and also leads Sierra Club rafting (including trips on the Green, Colorado, San Juan and Yampa rivers) and international trips to Central/South America and Asia (Nepal, Bhutan, Vietnam and in fall of 2014 to Laos/Cambodia). When Tim is not leading Sierra Club outings, he works part-time as a gender equity educator in Arizona. He and his wife enjoy hiking, biking and kayaking/canoeing.


Charlie Reimann has been leading and cooking Sierra Club service trips for more then 20 years. He also leads Sierra Club international trips in Central America. Charlie and Tim have been doing service trips together for the past 10 years, working on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Catalina Island (CA) and Grand Gulch (SE Utah). At home in Pasadena, Charlie works housing maintenance for Caltech. He and his partner Wendy travel extensively when they can get away from work. Lately they have been to Paris, New York, Barcelona and the Basque Country. They are spending the end of 2013 at Key West and the Everglades.

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