Hiking on Catalina Island is an extraordinary experience, nowhere else can you access such an abundance wildlife and scenic beauty. Catalina is an exceptionally well-maintained nature preserve with some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in the world.
With the fact that it is only an hour across the channel from the port of Los Angeles, the many various trails and campgrounds offer a very valuable and easily accessible resource to nature enthusiasts.
There is a wide variety of trails and campgrounds on Catalina Island, ranging to relative easy to access, such as Hermit’s Gulch just on the outskirts of the island village of Avalon, to more remote sites such as Parson’s Landing on the west end of the island, or Black Jack campground at an elevation of 1600 ft.
Trans Catalina Trail:
The trans Catalina trail is the most popular trail, it can be said to be the main trail that runs the breadth of Catalina Island, from the east end to the west. A total of 37.2 miles long, the trans Catalina trail begins in Avalon and ends at Starlight Beach on the extreme west end of island.
There are many smaller trails people do which are segments of the trans Catalina trail, to do the entire trail from beginning to end takes a dedication of several days and is only for the most avid and serious backpackers.
Although most parts of the trail have been blazed for decades, the trail got its official status only as recently as 2009. A good portion of the trail is well-used dirt roads, but other segments are relatively new.
Most people who do the full trail begin in Avalon and do the most challenging leg first, which is a 15 miles trek to Black Jack campground, which is nearby the highest point on the island, Mt. Orizaba. The next day could easily be Little Harbor or Two Harbors. The third day you can make it all the way to Starlight Beach. Day four can involve hiking back to Two Harbors and taking the ferry from there or catching a bus back to Avalon.
Hermit Gulch Trail Loop:
Just beyond the Hermit Gulch campground turn right to follow the signs towards the Hermit Gulch trail. This trail is 11.75 miles long and offers breathtaking ocean views and a broad range of biodiversity; the top of the trail is a panoramic view over Avalon and the channel.
Two Harbors to Little Harbor Campground:
This stretch of the trans Catalina trail is 5.6 miles long, and runs right along coast of the back-end of the island, offering amazing scenery. This is a relatively easy stretch of the trail and perfect for the beginner to intermediate ranged backpacker.
From Two Harbors walk up the road leading to the Banning House, but instead of turning up the driveway to the bread and breakfast just continue along the road until you come to the trail head, which is noticeable because it departs the main road and follows the edge of the coast line.
Arriving at Little Harbor is an experience unto itself; it looks like a tropical oasis with short stubby palm trees and lots of green grass. The atmosphere at Little Harbor is very relaxed and charming, it feels like you’re on the opposite side of the world!
For those planning a more leisurely holiday and want to bring along more gear for outing, a bus runs multiple times a day from Little Harbor, tickets can be purchased from the visitors center at the base of the pier.
The fact you can take a bus to Little Harbor also means you can leave from there on your hike to reach even more remote destinations on the island, such as Ben Weston, a popular but very secluded island beach.
Two Harbors to Parsons Landing or Starlight Beach:
Another popular is to follow the main dirt road out of town from Two Harbors towards Emerald Bay. Once you get to Emerald Bay continue following the dirt road towards Parsons Landing. There is a campground there, or you can continue on the trans Catalina trail towards Starlight Beach.
Hiking and camping on Catalina Island requires a permit, which can easily be acquired from the visitor’s center in either Two Harbors or Avalon. In even the most remote campgrounds, your reservation guarantees you access to a locker with a cord of firewood and 2.5 gallons of drinking water.