Summary: This is a good climb up to a mountain ridge. Make sure to bring a good amount of water if the day is hot, and be prepared for wind and weather if clouds are around, or at any time. It can get mighty cold in the coastal mist and fog or rain.
Take the Smuggler's Cove Road from Scorpion Harbor and follow it to the well marked branch that leads to the Historic Oil Well and Montanon Ridge - take the route up, up, up to High Mount and continue for another mile or so to Montanon. You'll know when you get there, because the radio towers are hard to miss. The actual summit is to the southeast, so you may want to climb to it and get all the views you can, because they are stunning. The hike along the ridge is pleasant and fairly easy compared to the rest of the hike, so make sure you take time to enjoy the scenery.
Return back along the trail and take the spur to Scorpion Canyon, or choose your own adventure. See my other hikes on the island.
Trailhead: There are many ways to the ridgeline of El Montanon, the easiest is to follow the road leading up from Potato Harbor, see my hike to Potato Harbor for that information. You can also reach the summit by a little off-trail hiking (allowed) from Smuggler's Ranch - also a great trip, but strenuous - we did all three routes.
Here is the trail as mapped - take the road east from Scorpion Campground to the Smuggler's Canyon trail/road that leads up the south hillside from Scorpion Harbor.
The park info booths provide excellent maps and trail guide with topo info, but real topos are better.
The road is clearly marked. Anything off-trail is not, so pay attention to where you are, where you've been and where you are going, if you choose another route. (Lat:34.01838 Lon:-119.57622)
Trail Guides for Santa Cruz Island - El Montanon and High Mount:
Best Seasons: Year-Round
User Groups: Hikers,
Ranger Contact: Channel Islands National Park (805)658-5730
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Allen Riedel, who has posted 123 other hikes on this site. To visit this reporters web site, click here.
Trail Reviews Submit your own review
Reviewed by H.A. on 11/7/2008
We hiked from Scorpion to Prisoners in July 2008. Actually, the plan was to visit San Miguel, which had to be abandoned due to poor weather conditions. The hike was long & rocky. Some neat views & flowers just before the ridge. Missed the trail near Chinese harbor & ended up on the South side of the island. It was a long way back. The rangers may not like the "fennel alleys" near the Del Norte Campground, but I think they are quite neat. The character of the island is very different from the Scorpion & Smugglers areas. We did not find the hike specifically difficult, but the loose rock made it sometimes slippery, so caution is advised.
Reviewed by Charly GLS on 5/18/2008
I scouted the hike 3/1/2008 to Montanon Peak from Scorpion Bay. The boat ride to the island was cold but I was prepared. We did not see any marine mammals on the way to the island but we did see some whales on the way back. The temp's and weather at the bottom were perfect for a day hike at the lower elevations. The trail up to the oil rig was great. The scapes were covered with wild flowers and greenery. The trail got a little harder was you approached the area where the marine layer caused the expansive soil (clay) to become slick. Once on Montanon Ridge the visibility was about 25ft and the winds were about 25mph. The temp's droppped to the high 30's. Cold, windy & not good footing. Better luck in May!
Reviewed by DeaconBlues on 7/22/2007
Made my fourth visit to Santa Cruz Island on July 22 with the expressed purpose of going to the Montanon Ridge. The trail is well maintained until just past the oil rig and then it becomes rockier. It looks like it sustained serious damage from a rainstorm. If you are there on a sunny day, the views make it worthwhile. I went as far as the sign post indicating a distance of four miles from Scorpion Cove and a 10-mile hike from Prisoner's Harbor. The cloud cover over the ocean and northern part of the island (the area with the ridge was clear) didn't make it worthwhile going further as the view wasn't going to improve. Still, it was worth it for the views that I did see. And I even spotted the Island Fox during the hike.
Reviewed by Derek on 2/21/2007
Choose your own adventure indeed. You can make this an even bigger loop hike. When you reach Montanon (I think the rangers call it FBI peak because of all the antennas on it), you can continue to follow the ridge back down, heading south (instead of turning around and retracing your steps). Several times you'll need to choose the right fork or the left fork, and make sure you choose the left fork. The terrain on this side of the ridge is loose scree, so hiking poles will help. There is no trail to speak of, you'll need to pay contstant attention to where you're going. When you reach the grasslands again, head towards Smugglers Cove. Once at the cove, follow the well marked road back to Scorpion. I think it's about 12 miles total / 5.5 h
Reviewed by EJR on 8/3/2004
If you are in good condition and don't mind jogging the return, this can be completed in 2:45 which means you can take the 1 pm Island Packers departure and return to the dock on Santa Cruz in time for the 5 pm departure which is the last of the day. I made it to High Mount, the last peak before El Montanon, in 1:35 and jogged return to dock in 45 min. leaving much time. The weather is gorgeous on the island, low 70s, and brisk breeze as you gain altitude. However, boat ride is $42 RT from Ventura harbor.
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