Earlier this spring, hours of good whisky and better conversation with strangers at a hot spring outside of Mammoth led to the offer of a few days on Santa Rosa island—a part of Southern California's remote Channel Islands National Park. An early morning a few weeks later found our group of friends old and new departing Ventura Harbor for the distant islands, located some 26 miles off the coast of Santa Barbara.

Channel Islands National Park is uniquely isolated, requiring a several hour sail to access. As a result, the islands are remarkably devoid of human activity, with Santa Rosa being the most isolated of the lot—and the second largest, at over 53,000 acres. Once home to the ancestors of the Chumash Indians thousands of years ago, Santa Rosa has since played host to a USAF radar base during the Cold War, extensive oil exploration by Mobil, and, until 2011, a cattle ranching operation.

Upon arrival we found the island practically deserted. While hiking, we seemed to have the whole island to ourselves, and only encountered other people once at the campground—tucked away in a valley and dotted with lean-tos. The swirling fog and light rain added to the beautifully isolated vibe as we roamed over the island’s beaches, cliffs, coves, meadows, and forests. Only barking seals and squawking birds punctuated the stillness.

Head over to the Channel Island National Parks site for information on camping permits and seasonal restrictions.