This is a blog about the Trans Catalina Trail. The Trail is a hiking trail across Southern California. It is a moderate trail that is approximately 8 miles long.
The Trail is perfect for people of all ages and fitness levels. It is not a difficult hike at all, and it is great for hikers of all experience levels. It is also a beautiful trail, so it is worth the trip. The trail is open year-round, so you can visit it any time that you want!
If you enjoy hiking, the Trail is something that you should try! The entire trail is beautiful, and the views are amazing. It is the perfect way to spend an afternoon on Santa Catalina Island.
What We Will Discuss:
The information in this manual is all you’ll need to successfully backpack the Trans-Catalina Trail and have a great time doing it. I’ve divided this post into the following sections if you’re looking for something in particular:
Trans-Catalina Path Stats: All the information you need about the trail in one place. mileage, altitude increase, and more.
The trans-Catalina Trail map is a trail map that shows the elevation gain and profile of the entire hike.
When to Hike the Trans-Catalina Trail: Information on the ideal time to hike the entire Trans-Catalina Trail and what to anticipate in terms of weather.
Transportation details for the boat to Catalina Island and the island’s taxi service are provided in How to Get to the Trans-Catalina Trailhead.
Everything you need to know about booking campsites for your Trans-Catalina backpacking trip. Trans-Catalina Trail Permit & Campsite Reservations.
How to Reach Catalina Island
You must first go to the island if you intend to trek the Trans-Catalina Trail from Avalon to Two Harbors or the other way around. The following transportation providers offer a variety of departures and return to your preferred locations depending on the time of year.
Before booking your boat, it is essential to make bookings for camping along the Trans-Catalina Trail. Even so, scheduling your trip requires some ingenuity so that your departure and arrival coincide with your hiking route.
Avalon Transportation Facilities:
Ferries from Long Beach, Dana Point, and San Pedro are operated by Catalina Express
A ferry ride to Catalina Island leaving from Newport Beach
Public Transport To Two Harbors Campground:
Ferry to Catalina Express from San Pedro
Transportation In Between The Two Harbors And Avalon:
Departures for the Cyclone Power Boat are from the Isthmus Pier in Two Harbors and the Green Pier in Avalon.
Important Information about the Trans-Catalina Trail
1. Hiking Permits:
You don’t need any additional paper copies of Trans-Catalina trail permits; your campground bookings are sufficient to act as your permit for hiking or camping on the grounds.
2. Trail Length
It is about 38.5 miles long.
The highest elevation counts for 1,775 feet
4. Elevation Change:
9,600 feet in total elevation change.
5. Trail Structure:
You will find primary, and secondary roads, along with single-track trails, which are majorly composed of compacted soil and a small amount of loose gravel.
Rolling terrain with protracted uphill and downhill stretches, little to no shade. It is advised to bring sturdy hiking boots, trekking poles, and sun protection (sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat).
The same goes for having enough water to travel between campgrounds so you can restock. Trail closures may be caused by rain. For updates on conditions, call Catalina Conservancy at 310.510.2595.
American bison can be unpredictable and travel freely along several stretches of the trail. During the chilly dawn and dark hours, you might come across Catalina Island foxes. Along with Bald Eagles, mule deer, and rattlesnakes, the island’s environment also includes rattlesnakes. Never get too close to, tease, or otherwise mistreat wildlife.
It is only allowed at the Trans-Catalina Trail’s five approved campgrounds, which are Hermit Gulch, Black Jack, Little Harbor, and Two Harbors to Parsons Landing. All campgrounds, except for Parson’s Landing, offer potable water. One bundle of wood, 2.5 gallons of water, and a fire starter can be ordered in advance from Two Harbors Visitor Services for the lockers at Parson’s Landing. Lockers cost $25 each.
To get your locker number and combination, you must first visit the Two Harbors Visitor Services Center before setting out on your hike to Parson’s Landing. With camping arrangements, lockers are not included.
At Little Harbor and Two Harbors, you can order firewood, charcoal, and fire starters from Visitor Services over the phone or in person, and they will transport them to your campground. Camping at Black Jack and Hermit Gulch is not allowed with open flames.
Except for Parson’s Landing and Black Jack, all campgrounds have on-site rangers.
The Trans-Catalina Trail’s Campgrounds
There are five distinctive camping opportunities along the Trans-Catalina Trail, ranging from a private beach to a mountainside to a picturesque harbor on the island’s “backside.” Online reservations are required and are available. Your camping arrangements double as your permission for hiking. There are no additional costs.
In the summer months, the camping areas at Hermit Gulch, Little Harbor, and Two Harbors require a minimum stay of two nights on Friday and Saturday evenings. Calling Two Harbors Visitor Services at 310.510.4205 will allow walkers on the Trans-Catalina Trail to have that minimal requirement waived.
1. 1.5 miles from the Avalon Conservancy Trailhead is HERMIT GULCH
Avalon’s lone campground is approximately two miles from the town’s restaurants and stores tucked away in the picturesque Avalon Canyon. This is the best campground to get a headstart on your Trans-Catalina journey.
40 tent campsites and 7 tent cabins, as well as coin-operated hot showers, restrooms, picnic tables, and BBQs, are available as amenities. No blazing fires. BBQs may use wax logs and charcoal fires. an on-site ranger
2. 10.5 kilometers from the trailhead to BLACKJACK CAMPGROUND
The island’s highest campground, at 1,600 feet, provides expansive views of the steep valleys and undulating hills. 10 sites, potable water, cold outdoor showers, and chemical restrooms are available as amenities. No open flames are allowed. No ranger is present. Two miles up the route, at Airport-in-the-Sky, there is a restaurant.
3. 19 miles to Little Harbor from the Trailhead
Little Harbor, located on Catalina Island’s tail, with an ocean view, offers 26 sites, beach access, potable water, cold showers, chemical restrooms, and a few shade shelters for visitors.
4. Twenty-four miles from the trailhead, TWO HARBORS
Situated on a picturesque hill with an ocean view just a short stroll from Two Harbors hamlet. There are 47 tent sites, beach access, cold water outdoor showers, restrooms, picnic tables, fire pits, BBQs, and sunshades among the amenities. At the campground in Two Harbors, there are twelve tent cabins with picnic tables, lights, fire pits, and 2-burner propane stoves.
The community of Two Harbors is home to the Catalina Cabins, which are 21 in number and are accessible seasonally. They come equipped with power, heaters, refrigerators, twin bunk beds or one full-size bed, and a common kitchen. Visitors can also find coin-operated hot showers and facilities in the town.
5. 30.8 miles to PARSON’S LANDING from the trailhead
Only accessible by foot or kayak, this campground is located right on the beach. 8 sites, beach access, and chemical restrooms are available as amenities. No water is accessible. No ranger is present. In authorized fire rings, fires are permitted. Through Visitor Services, you may purchase lockers with water, wood, and a starter. The Locker key must be picked up in Two Harbors.
Trail Map Trans-Catalina
This trail may be hiked in four or five days, however, you can choose to complete it in three days. You can trek the “official” trail out to Parsons Landing and return to Two Harbors.
It would take some extra time in your schedule if you choose to hike all the way out to Starlight Beach as some people prefer to extend their trip in this way. I’ve based the itineraries in this post on the assumption that you’ll just trek to Parsons Landing.
Itinerary For 3 Days:
Day 1: Travel 10.7 kilometers by foot from Avalon to Black Jack Campground.
Day 2: Travel approximately 14.5 kilometers by foot from Black Jack Campground to Two Harbors Campground.
Day 3: Walk approximately 14.6 miles from Two Harbors Campground to Parsons Landing and then return to the campground.
Itinerary for 4 Days:
Avalon to Black Jack Campground on Day 1
Black Jack Campground to Little Harbor Campground on Day 2
Day 3: Two Harbors Campground to Little Harbor Campground
Day Four: Two Harbors Campground, Parsons Landing, and Two Harbors Campground
Itinerary for 5 Days:
Initial day: Black Jack Campground to Avalon
The following day, from Black Jack Campground to Little Harbor Campground
Three-day: Little Harbor Campground to Two Harbors Campground
The fourth day: is from Two Harbors Campground to Parsons Landing Campground.
Parsons Landing Campground to Two Harbors Campground on Day 5
What to Pack:
One of the most difficult tasks, even for seasoned travelers, is deciding what to pack. You won’t need to carry as much because the Trans-Catalina Trail provides options for food and water along the way. You can also purchase those small items you might forget in Avalon and Two Harbors. Bring the stuff listed below to enjoy your adventure without any hassle.
Hiking Boots: A lot of hikers wear trail runners on the Catalina Trail. However, if you hike an additional few miles on top of the full 38.5 miles, you may wind up covering over 50 miles. And for such long stretches, you better treat your feet right with hiking boots.
Backpack: If you don’t want to drag all your stuff from one campsite to another, you might consider taking a medium or large backpack with a sturdy lightweight frame to carry everything you’ll need.
Sleeping Bag: The primary thing to think about when it comes to sleeping bags is weight.
If you have a sleeping pad, you’ll probably get a better night’s sleep and wake up feeling more refreshed, thus the weight increase is justifiable.
Trekking Poles: The Trans-Catalina Trail features a lot of difficult ascents and descents. Trekking poles will relieve some of the weight from your knees while also making such areas easier to manage.
You’ll need a tiny backpacking burner and a can of propane to prepare your supper. NOTE: You cannot take propane on ferry vessels to Catalina. At Chet’s Hardware in Avalon, you can purchase a canister. If you’re starting in Two Harbors, the Two Harbors General Store sells propane.
Food: There are a few places to eat along the path (Harbor Reef Restaurant in Two Harbors, Airport-in-the-DC-3 Sky’s Grill, and Airport-in-the-West Sky’s End Grill), allowing you to significantly reduce the amount of food you carry.
REI sells hot-water-only backpacking meals. On the island, the General Store sells protein bars, fresh fruits and vegetables, almonds, and other trailside refreshments.
Staying hydrated is essential because the Trans-Catalina Trail may be hot and taxing. Thankfully, all campgrounds—except Parson’s Landing—have running water, so you only need to carry what you need while moving between campsites. You can purchase a locker at Parson’s Landing when you make your camping reservation that includes two liters of fresh water, firewood, a starter, and other camping essentials.
Clothing is a matter of personal taste. Wearing long trousers may help you avoid coming in contact with sharp plants on your legs along the trail’s more confined sections. A beach costume/tank suit is highly recommended for the three campgrounds beside the sea. And a sun-guard is a must-have. Aside from that, your best option is to travel light and bring as little as you can.
A light or torch for those late-night bathroom runs, plenty of sunscreens, toilet paper, a first aid kit for all kinds of emergencies, a little bag for garbage collection while hiking, and a power bank for your phone as you won’t find any electrical outlets on the trail.
Naturally, this is just a sample list. The website of the Catalina Island Conservancy is only one of the several blogs and online resources devoted to backpacking the Trans-Catalina Trail. Your readiness for this great, bucket-list vacation will increase with the amount of study you complete.
Making Your Travel Plans
The Trans-Catalina Trail can be enjoyed in many different ways. The average person starts at the Conservancy Trailhead in Avalon and finishes in the west-end community of Two Harbors over three to five days.
How many miles you want to log each day and how much you want to explore the nearby trails at each campground determine the route you follow and the number of days you spend there.
The adventure described here starts in Avalon and ends in Two Harbors over five days and four nights.
Conservancy Trailhead to Black Jack Campground, 10.5 Miles, Day 1
If you spend the night in Hermit Gulch Campground in Avalon and leave early in the morning, depending on the time of year, you should have plenty of time to go to Black Jack. Consider climbing Mt. Orizaba (2,102′), Catalina’s highest peak, for some spectacular vistas if you’re feeling up to the 3-mile round-trip hike. Refill your water supply before you depart Black Jack for Little Harbor.
Day 2: 8.5 Miles from Black Jack to Little Harbor Campground
Black Jack to Little Harbor is a short and generally flat climb on the island’s backside. It could be a good idea to set out in the late morning and take a break for lunch at Airport-in-the-Sky a few kilometers down the trail. Although they have a strong kick, you could have a chilled Buffalo Milk here.
On Day 4, you must begin a challenging 1,500-foot ascent up Silver Peak Trail. There is a nature exhibit maintained by the Conservancy that you can visit. Additionally, Little Harbor’s DC-3 Grill dishes up delicious Buffalo burgers and amazing pastries to tide you over till dinner.
DAY 3: Two Harbors Camping is 7 Miles From Little Harbor
You will quickly forget the strenuous climb out of Little Harbor as you make your way downhill into Two Harbors and take in the expansive coastal vistas. To wash off the path dirt, the town has hot coin-operated showers.
An excellent place to grab something quickly is West End Galley. Or stop by Harbor Reef Restaurant for a great seated lunch. The key to your Parson’s Landing locker, which contains firewood, a starter, and two freshwater gals can be obtained by stopping by Visitor Services.
Day 4: Seven Harbors to Parson’s Landing in Seven Miles
Drop your load and take a refreshing dip in the Pacific after completing what was likely the toughest part of the entire journey. It’s about a 9-mile round trip across hilly terrain to Starlight Beach, the unofficial end of Catalina Island if you still have the stamina and daylight after that.
This hike might potentially be done early in the day before leaving for Two Harbors. While you wait, take advantage of the amazing starry sky from the privacy of your oceanfront campground.
DAY 5: Parson’s Landing Back to Two Harbors
The finest part of hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail from Avalon to Two Harbors is finishing with a 7-mile stroll along the winding West End Road, which circles several picturesque coves and some of the most breathtaking coastline Catalina has to offer.
You won’t take long to return to Two Harbors, where you can take a hot shower, relax with a Buffalo Milk, and swap trail tales as you wait for the ferry back to the mainland.
Well, there you go, that’s your 5-day itinerary for the Trans Catalina Trail. Enjoy!!
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