Catalina – Trans-Catalina Trail

Location Santa Catalina Island, CA
Distance 38.5 miles


The Trans-Catalina Trail is a hot, beautiful, strange, and surprisingly lonely trail. I took three days to hike the length of it, but would definitely recommend taking four. The heat and hills are unforgiving. The trail itself is very easy to follow once you get out of Avalon, but winding your way out of the city can be confusing. After you get to the other end of the trail, you’ll have to double back to Two Harbors to catch a ferry back to the mainland.

The campsites are unbeatable. Black Jack campground was completely deserted, except for some foxes, when I stayed on a Friday night in late October. Parsons Landing is a stupid beach paradise that you’ll never want to leave.

You’ll see a lot of bison on the trail. You might even sneak up on some. They’re not native. They were supposedly brought in during the ’20s for Hollywood western films. Regardless, they’re everywhere and definitely don’t care about you. Just give them a wide berth, even if that berth takes you in to a cactus patch.

The towns on either side of the trail are awesome places to hang out. Avalon has more going on, but Two Harbors is also very pleasant. If you’ve got the time, I recommend staying one night in Avalon to explore.

  • Hiking permits are required, but free! Recently the Catalina Island Conservancy has even made applying for them available online!
  • Print out the map before you go! I went to the Conservancy building when I got to Avalon and they were out of maps! Luckily a coffee shop owner I talked with had a copy to give me.
  • Little Harbor is beautiful! Try to get a campsite there.
  • When some people in a truck tell you you’re going the wrong way to Parsons Landing and redirect you down a road that takes you to a run-down Boy Scout camp, you should reconsider how trusting you are. Then shamefully turn around and trudge back up the hill.

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