The Santa Barbara coast may be just two dozen miles away, but Channel Islands National Park is a world apart. The surrounding ocean, a nutrient-rich mix of cold and warm waters, seethes with activity. From Anacapa Island's accessible Inspiration Point (above), you might see pelicans soaring overhead, sea lions and harbor seals cruising in kelp forests below, and dolphins, orcas, and blue whales surfacing in the distance. "These are the country's richest marine waters, and the abundance of life here is unique,"says Ranger John Curwen. Reach Anacapa and the other Channel Islands by concessionaire boats from Oxnard, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. (805) 658-5730, nps.gov/chis .
Summer boat trips in Oregon's Crater Lake National Park deliver hikers to Wizard Island, a 760-foot cinder cone that offers panoramic views of Mount Mazama's caldera. (541) 594-3000, nps.gov/crla .
Photography by Tom Bean
This article was first published in July 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.