Trans-Catalina Trail
Trans-Catalina Trail
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The Trans-Catalina Trail stretches 37.2 miles from the Renton Mine Trailhead on the East End to Starlight Beach on the West End. It winds up hills and down valleys offering spectacular views across the 43,000-acre Nature Preserve of the Catalina Island Conservancy known as Catalina's wildlands. The picture is of Parsons Landing.
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4.5
23 reviews
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seibert4dc
Sandy, UT25 contributions
Aug 2022
Not exactly glamping, but close enough. If you like to hike, but don't want to rough it too much, the Trans Catalina Trail is an experience well worth the effort. It does require that you spend a bit of money in order to get there, in reality it's part of the adventure. If you are coming from outside Souther California, you have multiple airports to fly into. I recommend Long Beach. Once you are in Southern California, you can catch ferries from Long Beach, Dana Point or San Diego. If you want a bit of fun, spend the first night in the beach town of Avilion. It has many great hotels, restaurants and a campground near the trail head. The trail circumnavigates Catalina Island. Each of the campgrounds are unique with three of them right on the ocean. Some of the special features of the hike include a restaurant at about the halfway point at Catalina's airport, free roaming buffalos (you do need to keep an eye on them), the village of Two Harbors' amenities, and slack pack services for your gear, food, water and firewood. It should be noted most of this is ridgeline hiking and a challenging 38 miles. Give yourself at least three to four nights on the trail. It's a one-of-a-kind hike, great trail for a group or to go do solo. The best and most complete review of the Trans Catalina Trail I have read is by Alison on her She Dreams of Alpine blog.
Written September 29, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Stephanie K
19 contributions
Oct 2021
Amazing trail. We did it in 5 days, 4 nights. Stayed at Blackjack, Shark Harbor, Little Harbor, and Parsons. The beach camping was amazing! Fun to get meals at the airport and in Little Harbor. Unlike many other reviews here I thought the trail was pretty easy - it all depends on your experience level and comfort.
Written October 5, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Lindy Y
3 contributions
Jun 2021 • Friends
I took 2 years of research to plan this hike with 3 friends. Done correctly, you only have to have 2 dinners and 2 breakfasts plus lunches. We went north bound and used Catalina Backcountry to support us in transporting equipment. We also stayed in hotels in Avalon and Two Harbors.
Day 1 Avalon to Black Jack Campground. 10.7 miles. Breakfast in Avalon
Day 2 Black Jack to Airport in the Sky to Little Harbor campground. 8.2 miles plus detour to see a herd of Bison. Brunch at Airport Grill.
Day 3 Little Harbor to Two Harbors 5.2 miles. Lunch and Dinner at Two Harbor Grill
Day 4 Two Harbors to Parsons Landing to Two Harbors via road. High winds kept us from taking the shorter but steeper ridge route. 15.4 miles

View are amazing and change with each valley. We saw desert scrub, scrub oaks, meadows, lush oasis and forests. The ocean views turned blue green as we approach Emerald Bay.

Hardest segment is probably the first day to get to the top of the ridge.

Bear boxes are affectionately called fox boxes but should be named squirrel boxes as they chewed through one of our backpack pockets.

We thoroughly enjoyed the hike!
Written June 23, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Richard H
Los Angeles, California, United States7 contributions
Jun 2019
Catalina has very scenic vistas and very satisfactory campgrounds, but lack of shade and the
the vertical challenges makes this a challenge to even the most experienced hikers. The experience in totality was great, but make sure you are prepared for the sun and some serious elevation variations. The buffalo tacos at the Catalina Airport are great!
Written July 2, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Michele K
portland, United States3 contributions
May 2019 • Friends
Just returned from completing the trail on Mother's Day weekend 2019. I read quite a bit before we made our reservations and hiked the trail, but there were still things I wished I had known.

1) Hiking Permit is now electronic - just save it on your phone or carry a paper copy (no one asked to see it)

2) It was well worth it to stop and camp at Little Harbor!

3) The showers: Hermit Gulch has coin operated Hot showers. The shower house closest to the Ranger station has appropriate water pressure. The other is a trickle. It takes a minute or two for the water to turn hot. Black Jack/Little Harbor/Two Harbors campgrounds have only a pole (no privacy) with cold water; think of the showers at the beach to rinse the sand off! Parson's Landing - no showers.

4) Definitely stop where you can to eat. It is less food to carry. Airport & Two Harbors have places to eat.

5) The safest way to complete the leg of the trail from Two Harbors to Parson's Landing is to take the West End road out to Parson's Landing and then hike the overland trail back to Two Harbors. The trail is crazy steep in parts of the 2 miles from Parson's to the top, but it is doable. It is then 4 miles down to Two Harbors from the top. Yes, you did read correctly from other reviews that there are no switchbacks! I'm not sure how you come down the steep sections if you came from Two Harbors overland to Parson's! We ran into a Ranger at the top who told us that they prefered to hike the overland trail the direction we were doing it from Parson's to Two Harbors vs. Two Harbors to Parson's. Now we know! Also there is no shame in taking the West End Road both directions. The other groups that hiked at the same weekend all took the West End Rd both directions.
What is not on the map is that there is a new covered picnic table near the top, but no vaulted toilet on this section of the trail.

6) There are coin operated hot showers in Two Harbors. They even provide shampoo/conditioner and soap! The bathrooms are clean! I would recommend taking a shower before heading to the Two Harbors Campground because . . . it is uphill!

7) There is potable water along the trail at identified location, rest covered picnic tables and vaulted toilets. Still good to carry more than 1 litre of water, despite the weight. I didn't think that 3 litres is needed unless it is really HOT or you drink ALOT.

The hike is difficult! It is worthwhile.

We took 4 days: Day 1: Avalon to Blackjack; Day 2: Blackjack to Little Harbor; Day 3: Little Harbor to Parson's Landing; Day 4: Parson's Landing to Two Harbors.
Written May 17, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Stephanie C
Vista, CA7 contributions
Mar 2019 • Family
This hike is gorgeous! It is also really, really hard and should not be taken lightly.

My family enjoys hiking, does it often, and I would rank the 4 of us as fit for a middle age couple, and super fit for our 12 & 14 year old.

We took a shuttle to the airport, had a nice meal, and hiked back to Avalon in 1 day. Distance 11.5 miles. The first ~6.5 miles are extremely hard - constant up and down w/ ~1700 feet of incline. The next ~2.5 miles were pleasant. At that point we took the road long, steep road down into town.

Saw buffalo, a fox, hawks, squirrels, countless wildflowers.

We went on a mild day (mid 60s) in March after the most rain in years, and it was green and lovely. Spectacular views everywhere you look!

But again - this hike is very, very hard. If I would have truly known how hard it was, I probably would have done something else - we are hikers, but not particularly on a hiking vacation. So I am telling you the truth 😉 - there is no shade. There are almost no breaks, it is up and down nearly the whole way. If you do it, do the usual smart things - sunblock, water, solid footwear, etc.

As a point of reference, my spouse and teenager recently hiked 72 miles on the High Sierra Trail, and they both thought this was very hard. We also all enjoyed it.

Happy trails!! 🥾
Written March 28, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Tammy W
Baltimore, MD2 contributions
Dec 2017
A quality backpacking trip for all, but especially for beginners who are a bit nervous about leaving civilization. Since you pass by Airport in the Sky and Two Harbors, you aren't all that far from civilization but out on the trail you feel like it! It's also nice to rent a kayak in Two Harbors. Since the island is mostly a preserve its quite pristine. Elevation gains are large but the views are worth it!
Written September 17, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

BluewaterGypsy
Avalon, CA224 contributions
Aug 2016 • Friends
Easy 37.2 mile trail across Catalina. This trail has fantastic vista views along a well planned out rolling path.
Camping is situated every 8-10 miles. Plan a head and reserve space.
Watch out for vechiles traveling the same roads in many places. Slow done and move over or get dusted.
Bring plenty of water. It is hot and dry desert like on the trail with few places to refill your water supply. Consult Catalinaconservancy.org for detailed conditions and permits.
Written August 14, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Rachel S
Denver, CO41 contributions
Jun 2016 • Couples
We attempted to backpack the section of the trail from Two Harbors to Parson's Landing. So we were doing this with 35-40 lb backpacks--I'm sure it's easier with day packs, but even without this trail is STEEP.

This section of the trail was marked as "moderately strenuous", but it was extremely difficult and mislabeled. We are from Denver, hike a lot, and backpack quite a bit at much higher elevations and this was too much. The trail is difficult because it goes straight up inclines for multiple miles: no switchbacks or flat sections to recover. The view is nice, but there is also very little shade and since the elevation gain is so steep, you quickly lose those cooling ocean breezes.

After about two miles, we called it quits and got to Parson's Landing via the West-End Highway: much easier, beautiful views, and flat all the way.
Written June 23, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

adcjones
Indianapolis15 contributions
Dec 2015 • Couples
My wife and I have never hiked. We hiked a portion of this trail during our stay in Two Harbors. Some parts were rough, but not impossible. We are not in shape, either. We did the leg from Goat Whisker's Trail end to Goat Whisker's Trail beginning including the Goat Whisker Trail. This hike shows on papers to be about 3-4 hours; we stopped at regular intervals and took our time, completed in 5 hours. We would not have been able to do more hiking that day; took all we had, but worth it. Goat Whisker Trail portion is very difficult due to steepness- goes up to 1500 feet at one point.
Written December 31, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Trans-Catalina Trail (Catalina Island) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go

Frequently Asked Questions about Trans-Catalina Trail