To improve the capacity of multi-hop wireless networks, protocols based on spatial reuse of frequencies with multiple orthogonal channels have been studied earlier. This paper focuses on the design, implementation and analysis of multiple-channel based wireless sensor networks (WSN). The objectives of the paper are two-fold. The first objective is to identify the sensor node bottlenecks in implementing multi-channel MAC protocols. In particular, a control channel based MAC protocol is implemented and analyzed. The analysis shows the gap between reality and simulation models due to system overheads in implementing these protocols. The second objective is to understand the capacity limits of multi-hop paths in a WSN with multiple channels. A generic channel allocation scheme based on k-distance coloring technique is developed. The protocols and mechanisms were implemented on a testbed consisting of Crossbow MicaZ and TelosB motes using IEEE 802.15.4 compliant radios. Throughput and delivery ratio measurements from the testbed are reported. Some of these measurements are incorporated in a discrete-event simulator model, based on OMNET++ 4.0 with Mobility Framework, for more detailed throughput analysis. The results show that it is possible to achieve 90 % delivery ratio over paths consisting of as many as 18 hops, in a 10 × 10 grid topology using 16 channels. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.