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Top 10 national park beaches

10 scenic spots to swim, float, and soak in the sun at the West's amazing national parks

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Channel Islands beach
Photo by Lisa Vander Meulen

Best escape from reality: Channel Islands National Park, California

It takes your catamaran roughly an hour to cross the Santa Barbara Channel from the Southern California mainland to Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island. And during that time, the world with all its worries falls away.

The pretty cobbled beach is just a launching point: From here, you can snorkel in the diverse kelp forest just off the beach or paddle a kayak farther out, past the island’s dark cliffs and sea caves.

Don’t miss: The short hike from the beach up Smugglers Road to the high bluff and the stand of cypress pines known as Delphine’s Grove, where you’ll fall under the spell of a sweeping ocean view and the sound of the wind in the boughs.

Get there: Island Packers boats leave from Ventura Harbor ($48 round-trip; 805/642-1393); nps.gov/chis or 805/658-5730. –Ken McAlpine

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