Catalina Island is located 30 miles from coast of Southern California, making it a great option for a spectacular weekend getaway. Most visitors arrive in the main city of Avalon to enjoy the island’s beaches, restaurants, hotels, and water activities. What many visitors don’t know is that Catalina has a network of trails that cover the 22 mile long island. The most popular is the Trans-Catalina Trail that give hikers a chance to see the island in it’s entirety. At 37.5 miles, the hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail is no easy feat. Luckily, you can section hike it and enjoy shorter hikes out of Avalon, Little Harbor, and Two Harbors. I hike in California just about every weekend, and few places compare to Catalina. On these island trails you’ll see bison, island foxes, ocean views, and rolling green hills for miles on end. Here are 20 photos from my hikes that I hope will make you want to get out and enjoy the trails of Catalina Island!
1.) Waking up early to hike on Catalina Island usually means spectacular views of the morning inversion. With trails that offer up nonstop views of the Pacific Ocean, you can watch the inversion burn off and then roll back in as the sun begins to set.
2.) In 1924, 14 bison were brought to Catalina Island for the shooting of a movie. When the movie crew made their final cut, they left the bison behind. At it’s peak, the heard of bison roaming the island reached a number close to 600. In 1972, the Catalina Island Conservancy was formed. They now manage a herd in the range of 150-200 bison to keep the island optimal for all native and non native species.
3.) Little Harbor is my favorite place to camp on Catalina Island. From campsite 11, you can exit your tent and walk right out onto the sand of the harbor.
4.) The trail between Little Harbor and Two Harbors is my favorite on the entire Trans-Catalina trail.
5.) For those looking to take a nice day hike from Avalon, the Hermit Gulch Trail is one of my favorites. This trail climbs out of Avalon, providing views of the city and ocean with every step upward.
6.) Part of my hiking ethos has been to “never miss a sunrise”. It started for me while hiking Camino de Santiago for practical reasons like avoiding the heat of the afternoon and maximizing the time in each day. What I quickly realized is that few moments in a day capture the beauty of life quite like daybreak.
7.) Parson’s Landing is a stunning primitive campsite on the northwest tip of Catalina Island. There are only 8 sites on this stretch of beach, giving campers a sense of solitude as they look out towards the coast of California.
8.) Two Harbors is the main town located on the northwest side of the island. It’s much smaller than the well known Avalon, and receives fewer visitors. This is a great place to camp if you want access to a restaurant, beaches, small shops, and water activities. You can pick up the Trans-Catalina Trail from Two Harbors, or walk along the coastal dirt road to Parson’s Landing.
9.) Camping at Two Harbors is a lot of fun. The Catalina rangers drop the firewood off at your site, making it easy to get camp started. From this campsite on the hill, we had ocean views from our tent.
10.) In 2015, I hiked the entirety of the Trans-Catalina trail. When I reached this 36 mile marker, I knew there was only one mile left until I reached the final destination of Starlight Beach.
11.) Most of the time the Catalina bison can be spotted from far away. On this hike, I stumbled across this bison near Haypress Station. I was foolish and got close for a picture. The branch in the foreground made a snapping noise as I stepped on it, and the bison gave a feigning charge. Lesson learned. Keep your distance.
12.) Watching the sunset from your tent while camping at Little Harbor.
13.) In the early stages the Trans-Catalina trail, you’ll get views of Avalon. In this shot you can see the morning inversion hovering over Avalon on the right.
14.) On a few spots on the island, the trail gives hikers views to both the east and west coasts.
15.) Life can be harsh on the island. This was taken during a severe year of drought.
16.) Sometimes you just have to pinch yourself.
17.) Many people don’t know that Catalina has an airport. The Airport in the Sky was opened in 1946 after leveling two mountain tops and filling in a canyon to create a 3200ft runway. The Trans-Catalina Trail takes hikers to the Airport in the Sky just after visiting the historic Catalina Island soapstone quarry.
18.) If you’re going to be hiking to the Airport in the Sky, you have to step inside and visit the DC-3 Gifts & Grill. You can check out the menu here, or take my advice and go with the bison burger!
19.) With coastal cholla and prickly pear, the cacti on the island are abundant.
20.) Hiking from Little Harbor to Two Harbor on the Trans-Catalina Trail takes some serious uphill hiking. Once you’ve reached this rest area, you’ll know that all of the hard work is behind you, and you only have a downhill stroll to the harbor in front of you.
Make sure to check out my guide to hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail!