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Situated solely 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, Catalina Island is an inhabited island that provides wonderful kelp forest diving, wildlife, and seems…some fairly epic tenting, mountaineering, and backpacking on the Trans Catalina Path.

The Trans Catalina Path is a 40-mile path that traverses all the island with wonderful beachfront tenting, some difficult climbs, continuous views, solitude (in November after I hiked), and even a few eating places alongside the best way.

I grew up going to Catalina, so after I discovered concerning the Trans Catalina Path, I knew I needed to do it. So I organized journey for Ryan, myself, and one other buddy, and we spent 5 days transversing the hillsides and coastlines of this California treasure.

It was a unbelievable journey that I’d extremely advocate for anybody who’s searching for outside journey in Southern California. Backpacking the Trans Catalina Path can also be a visit you are able to do lengthy after backpacking season is often over within the mountains. On this publish, I share every thing it is advisable to find out about mountaineering all the Trans Catalina Path.

Because it goes in all the locations we share, please apply good path etiquette and bear in mind to Depart No Hint. This implies packing out your whole rubbish, being respectful to others on busy trails, and following the established guidelines. 

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Trans Catalina Path Stats & FAQs

The Trans Catalina path runs East-West alongside Catalina Island off the coast of California. It’s a part of the Channel Islands archipelago.

  • Complete Distance: 38.5 miles
  • Complete Elevation Acquire Loss: +/-7,940 toes
  • Issue: Difficult
  • Days wanted: 2-5 days
  • Canines Allowed: Sure (aside from Two Harbors Campground)
  • Superior Reservations Required: Sure (see the following part)
  • Variety of Really useful Nights: 4 nights / 5 days (minimal)
  • Cell Service: Sporadic

TransCatalina Path Map

Backpacking on Trans-Catalina Trail with ocean views in distance
How lengthy is the Trans Catalina Path?

The complete path 38.5 miles. Hikers sometimes begin in Avalon and finish in Two Harbors after mountaineering a loop across the northwest peninsula of the island.

What number of days does it take to hike the TCT?

Most individuals hike the Trans Catalina Path in 3-5 days. See under for itinerary choices.

How tough is the Trans Catalina Path?

the Trans Catalina Path is not any stroll within the park — it’s onerous. Over the course of the journey, there’s loads of up, down, up, down – in whole over 7,940 toes in elevation achieve/loss.

There may be additionally plenty of solar publicity and no shade alongside the path, that means it will probably get very popular in peak summer season months so you should definitely deliver solar safety.

With that being mentioned, this hike throughout Catalina Island takes you thru an extremely distinctive and delightful ecosystem, and the expertise was greater than well worth the problem. There are additionally some different route choices you may take if you wish to keep away from a number of the elevation achieve and loss or for those who merely don’t have sufficient time for all the route (I share some different itineraries under).

Is the Trans Catalina Path distant?

This isn’t a conventional wilderness backpacking journey. A few of the hike is true on the street the place you’ll encounter the occasional car.

Additionally, on the Airport, you’ll discover a restaurant serving breakfast and lunch and in Two Harbors, they’ve a full-blown normal retailer, restaurant, and bar.

Is the Trans Catalina Path well-marked?

Sure, the TCT is well-marked. Nevertheless, I nonetheless advocate choosing up a map on the Catalina Island Conservancy store the place you should buy an in depth Trans Catalina Island Path map.

What course ought to I hike the Trans Catalina Path?

This one-way path could be traveled in both course, however I like to recommend beginning within the city of Avalon and ending your hike at Parson’s Touchdown (returning on the ferry through Two Harbors). On this course, the views and solitude solely enhance as you hike.

Do I want a mountaineering allow for the TCT?

Your tenting reservations will function your allow to hike the Trans Catalina Path, so you should definitely carry a replica with you. (See extra about tenting under)

You don’t want a further allow except you may be day mountaineering on the island, and in that case, you’ll must request a free allow.

How lengthy does it take to hike the Trans Catalina Path

The most well-liked TCT backpacking itinerary is 5 days/4 nights. For those who’re an skilled hiker, you may do it in 4 days. See extra about planning your itinerary under.

What’s the water availability?

There is no such thing as a potable water on the path in between the campgrounds, however water is out there at Black Jack, Little Harbor, and Two Harbors campgrounds. For the final evening at Parson’s, you’ll must buy a locker key that offers you entry to a 2-gallon jug of water.

I like to recommend that if you hit the path every morning, you have got a minimum of 3-4 liters of water for the day.

Greatest time of 12 months to hike the TCT

Catalina Island sometimes sees greater than 260 days of solar per 12 months.

My suggestion is to hike between September via early November for essentially the most snug temperatures and the very best chance of sunshine.

Graph of Catalina Island average temperatures and rainfall
Common temperatures and rainfall on Catalina Island
  • Spring: This can be a fantastically vibrant time to hike with inexperienced hillsides and a path stuffed with wildflowers. Views could also be obscured by fog.
  • Summer time: With a scarcity of shade on the path, the summer season months could be very popular and dry. There is no such thing as a water out there between campgrounds on a majority of the path, and the path can really feel a lot hotter than the temperature may point out.
  • Fall: Snug temps and many sunshine. The one draw back of the autumn months is that the panorama may be very brown.
  • Winter: Many of the rainfall on Catalina Island happens between December and March, and when it rains in California, it will probably pour. These months are the riskiest for climate, however then once more, you may luck out.

You will have heard the saying “Could Grey, June Gloom” for California. Throughout these months, there’s an excellent probability Catalina will likely be engulfed in fog. Climbing temperatures will likely be snug, however you might not get the sunny California views you might be hoping for.

Views of Catalina Island's steep coastline from the Trans-Catalina Trail
Views from the Trans Catalina Path in November

Planning your journey

Backpacking the Trans Catalina Path does take an excellent little bit of planning between getting there, making campsite reservations, and packing all the required gear.

Beneath I dive into every thing it is advisable to find out about planning your TCT journey.

Selecting an itinerary

The Trans Catalina Path could be carried out in 3-5 days. A 3-day trek will likely be fairly difficult with plenty of elevation achieve and longer days.

We needed to take our time and benefit from the unbelievable surroundings, so we selected a 5-day itinerary, which allowed us to maneuver at a relaxed tempo and actually take within the expertise.

Listed here are three totally different Trans Catalina path itineraries:


  • Day 1: Avalon to Blackjack Campground (10.7 miles/+2,930 ft)
  • Day 2: Blackjack to Two Harbors Campground (14.5 miles/+2,526 ft)
  • Day 3: Two Harbors Campground to Parsons Touchdown and again to Two Harbors (13.6 miles/+2,289 ft)


  • Day 1: Avalon to Blackjack Campground (10.7 miles/+2,930 ft)
  • Day 2: Blackjack to Little Harbor Campground (8.3 miles/+987 ft)
  • Day 3: Little Harbor to Two Harbors Campground (5.3 miles/+1,369 ft)
  • Day 4: Two Harbors Campground out to Parsons Touchdown and again to Two Harbors (13.6 miles/+2,289 ft)


That is the itinerary we did.

  • Day 1: Avalon to Black Jack Campground (10.7 miles/+2,930 ft)
  • Day 2: Black Jack to Little Harbor Campground (contemplate neighboring Shark Harbor for extra solitude) (8.3 miles/+987 ft)
  • Day 3: Little Harbor to Two Harbors Campground (5.3 miles/+1,369 ft)
  • Day 4: Two Harbors to Parson’s Touchdown Campground through the TCT (6.7 miles/+1,773 ft)
  • Day 5: Parson’s Touchdown to Two Harbors through the street and Lion’s Head (6.9 miles/+516 ft)

Down under within the journey report, I am going into element about every day’s trek.

Backpacking hiking on ridge line trail on the Trans-Catalina Route
The TCT may be very hilly with lengthy, steep climbs. Select an itinerary that fits your health and mountaineering expertise

Crunched for time?

If you wish to expertise the Trans Catalina Path however don’t have time to do the entire thing, listed below are a number of different choices:

  • Take the ferry on to Two Harbors and hike the 5-mile stretch from Two Harbors to Little Harbor and again. My mates and I all agreed this was essentially the most scenic part of the path. Little Harbor can also be rated “One of many Greatest Campgrounds within the West” by Sundown Journal. This is able to be a easy 1-2 evening getaway.
  • An alternative choice could be to take the ferry on to Two Harbors and hike to Parson’s Touchdown. This was my favourite campground of the journey and would make an important base camp for a few nights, with a day hike to Starlight Seashore.

Making campsite reservations

There is no such thing as a free/dispersed tenting on Catalina Island, so it is advisable to make campground reservations earlier than you begin your journey.

Campsites do e book up in the course of the busy summer season months, so don’t delay in making your plans, particularly in case you are headed to Catalina on a weekend. Campsites could be booked as much as a 12 months prematurely.

The 5 campsites alongside the Trans Catalina Path are:

  • Hermit Gulch
  • Black Jack Campground
  • Little Harbor Campground
  • Two Harbors Campground
  • Parson’s Touchdown Campground

You possibly can e book your Catalina Island campsites on-line. Understand that since you may be staying at a special campsite every evening, you’ll want a separate reservation for every evening.

You may as well reserve your whole campsites over the telephone. Earlier than you name, browse the official web site which has a ton of details about every campsite. When which websites you need, the reservation specialists can assist arrange your itinerary over the telephone primarily based on availability on your complete journey. To e book a reservation over the telephone, name (310) 510-4205. 

Campground Facilities: The entire campgrounds have chemical bathrooms and most have chilly water showers. The one campground that doesn’t have potable water is Parson’s Touchdown. You possibly can select to buy a key at Two Harbors Customer’s Heart which gives you entry to a locker with potable water and firewood at Parson’s Touchdown.

Camping gear set up and spread out around campsite on Catalina Island
Every campground differs in what is out there, however all of them have chemical bathrooms and a fox field. Some have chilly water showers, potable water (Parson’s is the one one which doesn’t have water), picnic tables, and fireplace rings.

Attending to Catalina Island

Attending to the island is an journey in itself with the chance to come across some massive marine life like whales and dolphins in the course of the 60-90 minute boat trip.

Remember that the seas can get tough, so in case you are liable to seasickness, plan forward. I extremely advocate taking ginger capsules for seasickness and sporting Sea Bands.

There are two ferry operators that supply each day departures to Catalina Island:

  • Catalina Specific presents each day departures to Avalon from Lengthy Seashore, San Pedro, and Dana Level. Nevertheless, they solely present service to San Pedro from Two Harbors on your return journey.
  • Catalina Flyer presents each day departures to Avalon from Newport Seashore. They don’t supply ferry service to/from Two Harbors.

An alternative choice for attending to Catalina Island is a 15-minute helicopter trip from Lengthy Seashore to Avalon which runs as much as $179 per particular person every method.

FERRY TIMINGS: There are a few choices for timing your ferry rides to and from Catalina.

Arrival: You might have two choices for arriving on the island:

  • The primary is to take the earliest ferry of the day so that you get to the island as early as potential. The earliest ferry leaves Lengthy Seashore at 6:00 am. Ferries from and San Pedro and Dana Level are later within the morning. It’s roughly an hour’s trip to Avalon, so bear in mind, you have got an 11-mile day forward of you so time is of the essence!
  • Alternatively, if can depart the evening earlier than and keep in a lodge if it’s in your price range. Avalon has a restricted variety of resorts to select from. You may as well camp for an evening within the Hermit Gulch Campground which is only a brief stroll from Avalon.

Departure: The Catalina Specific doesn’t run day by day from Two Harbors to San Pedro, so you should definitely test their schedule earlier than planning your journey.

I like to recommend getting a late afternoon ferry from Two Harbors, so you may have a pleasant chill morning at Parson’s Touchdown campsite.

For those who don’t wish to sail to San Pedro from Two Harbors, the Wildland Specific is a bus shuttle service between Two Harbors and Avalon. Reservations are required.

View from the ferry heading into the harbor on Catalina Island
The ferry trip to Catalina Island is a part of the expertise!

Navigating the path

The TCT is fairly well-marked, however I nonetheless extremely advocate stopping within the Catalina Island Conservancy store to choose up an in depth Trans Catalina Island Path map.

Whereas a lot of the path was effectively marked, there have been a number of areas the place we acquired confused on the route, so having a tough copy of the map completely got here in useful.

The map additionally signifies the situation of water sources, loos, meals, and different facilities alongside the path.

My TCT Journey Report

I hiked the Trans Catalina Path in 5 days. Right here’s my detailed journey report.

Day 1: Avalon to Black Jack campground (10.7 miles)

  • Potable Water Availability: In Avalon and at Black Jack Campground
  • Greatest Campsite at Black Jack: #1 (most secluded)

We opted to take an early ferry from Lengthy Seashore. As soon as we acquired to Avalon, our first cease was the Catalina Conservancy workplace (it’s on the best way to the trailhead). There, we grabbed a map, discovered somewhat bit concerning the wildlife and island, and requested our last-minute questions concerning the route. (Notice that they don’t open until 8:00 am).

Subsequent, we crammed up water on the town at certainly one of a number of spigots. Additionally, for those who want any last-minute forgotten gadgets there’s Vons Specific proper down the street from the ferry terminal. Nevertheless, it’s not like a giant grocery retailer on the mainland and it’s costly, so that you’ll wish to deliver most of what you intend on consuming with you. Take a look at this publish on Light-weight Vegan Backpacking Meals Concepts for my favourite simple path meals.

We took our time strolling alongside the waterfront and grabbed breakfast, which meant we acquired a late begin on the path.

To shave off somewhat little bit of mileage, we hiked up above Avalon alongside Stage Street and met up with the Trans Catalina Path close to Haypress Reservoir.

It was a steep ascent alongside a reasonably well-traveled street. As soon as we lastly linked with the path, it was up-down-up-down-up.

Woman standing behind large welcome sign that says "welcome to Santa Catalina Island. You are entering the protected lands of the Catalina Island Conservency. Treat the land with care and respect"

This a part of the path is the longest stretch you’ll go with out seeing the ocean. It’s additionally very popular and dry. I used to be glad to have trekking poles, solar safety, and loads of water.

We arrived at our campsite (Black Jack #1) proper at sunset after 5 straight hours of mountaineering.

On the time of our go to, no campfires have been allowed as a result of extreme drought circumstances. Nevertheless, at different instances of the 12 months, you may pay for a locker stuffed with firewood earlier than you permit Avalon.

If campfires are allowed when you’re there and also you determine to have one, be certain you perceive protected campfire practices.

Camp gear set up at Blackjack campsite on Catalina Island

Day 2: Black Jack to Two Harbors (8.2 miles)

  • Potable Water Availability: At Black Jack Campground, the Airport, and Little Harbor
  • Greatest Campsite at Little Harbor: LH12, SH 8, SH 9, SH 10
  • For Firewood at Two Harbors: Name 310-510-4205 the day earlier than your arrival and place an order. It’s $10 per small bundle (which burns for roughly 1.5 hours).

Rise and shine! Among the finest components of at this time’s hike is that you just get a fast break after a brief 2.25 miles if you arrive on the Catalina Island Airport.

The Airport within the Sky Restaurant (within the airport) opens at 8:30 am and is open year-round for breakfast burritos, freshly baked cookies, and extra.

Interior of the Airport in the Sky Restaurant on Catalina Island
Cease on the Airport within the Sky Restaurant for lunch or a deal with

From the airport, it’s somewhat greater than 5 miles to Little Harbor. Alongside the best way, you’ll discover a VERY inexperienced patch of land, which is definitely dwelling to the Santa Catalina Island Winery. Don’t get too excited…they don’t supply tastings, however it’s nonetheless a fairly distinctive sight to see.

You’ll additionally discover some very good buildings which comprise the El Rancho Escondido – the former working Arabian Horse Ranch owned by the Wrigley household (as within the founding father of Wrigley’s gum). The household that owns the winery and vineyard is working to revive the ranch.

When you begin strolling downhill, you’ll know you might be getting near Little Harbor which consists of two beautiful tiny coves – Shark Harbor and Little Harbor – your property for evening two.

We had campsite LH10, which was proper on the seaside. One of the best web site, in my view, was LH12, which was beachfront and had extra privateness.

For optimum solitude, snag one of many spots subsequent door at Shark Harbor – LH Shark A, B, or C. I’m undecided what the water state of affairs was over there, so you might wish to deliver a big reservoir so you may carry it again to your campsite.

Tent set up under palm tree in Little Harbor on Catalina Island
Shark Harbor on Catalina Island
Shark Harbor

Apparently, the snorkeling and fishing on this space are among the many finest on the island. At a minimal, it is best to strip off your boots and soak your toes within the sand and water.

That is additionally the final place you’ll have a sundown view on the TCT because it’s the final campsite that faces west.

Little Harbor Campground on Catalina Island cast in a golden glow from setting sun
Views from above Little Harbor

Day 3: Little Harbor to Two Harbors Campground (5.3 miles)

  • Potable Water Availability: At Little Harbor Campground/ at Two Harbors Campground, you should buy a 2.5-gallon jug from the ranger (we have been instructed the faucet water right here is mineral-rich and doesn’t style good)
  • Greatest Campsite at Two Harbors: 11, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  • For Firewood at Two Harbors: Buy if you test in on the Two Harbors Guests Heart

After leaving Little Harbor, the hike to Two Harbors is not any joke — it’s a tough vertical climb, however you’ll be rewarded with a number of the finest views of all the journey.

two backpackers hiking up trail on Trans-Catalina route on Catalina Island with ocean and harbor behind them
The hike from Little Harbor to Two Harbors is barely 5.3 miles, however it’s difficult!

As you might be approaching Two Harbors you’ll be capable to stand on high of the ridge and actually see either side of the ocean encompassing the western finish of the island. 

We additionally encountered a big herd of bison up on this ridge.

View out over mountainous island peninsula on Catalina Island in California

Once you hit Two Harbors head to the lovable little grocery retailer for a reward deal with. Whether or not that’s hand-scooped ice cream or a granola bar, you’ll have loads of time to take a break right here and even seize lunch if you’d like.

You’ll see the small pier that you just’ll return to 2 days later when you’re able to board the Catalina Specific again to the mainland.

Checking in for the Two Harbors campground could be accomplished on the little constructing hooked up to the pier.

IMPORTANT: That is additionally the place you’ll want to verify your Parson’s Touchdown campsite and get your Parson’s storage key for water/firewood. As a reminder, there isn’t any potable water at Parson’s so it is advisable to be sure to buy the suitable variety of keys on your group so that you have sufficient water for the remainder of the journey. Every locker comes with 1 bundle of wooden and a couple of gallons of water. Keys should not a part of your Parson’s Touchdown tenting reservation, so you will have to buy one prematurely or if you get to the Two Harbors Customer Heart. It’s really useful that you just plan for 1 gallon of water per day per particular person.

We had Website #11 at Two Harbors, which had a unbelievable view and felt pretty personal. It was a small web site nonetheless with solely sufficient flat house for 1 small tent.

Coin-operated sizzling showers can be found in Two Harbors for those who really feel such as you want a little bit of a clean-up! (There are chilly showers out there without cost).

Tent set up in Two Harbors campground on Catalina Island
Website 11 at Two Harbors Campground
Two Harbors Campground // Plan a backpacking trip on the Trans-Catalina Trail on Catalina Island with this trail guide with tips on the best campsites, water availability, gear & more
Websites 1-4 at Two Harbors Campground

Day 4: Two Harbors to Parson’s Touchdown campground through the TCT (6.6 miles)

  • Potable Water Availability: For Parson’s Touchdown, you’ll must buy a locker key at Two Harbors earlier than you begin the hike which comes with 2 gallons of water and 1 small bundle of firewood
  • Greatest Campsite at Parson’s Touchdown: 1, 2, 8

Leaving Two Harbors, you have got two totally different choices. The primary is to hike via Cat Harbor and proceed up and over the steep Silver Peak Path, which is the official TCT route.

On this route, you’ll achieve 1800 toes of elevation in 3 miles after which drop proper again all the way down to sea stage the place you’ll attain Parson’s Touchdown.

Trail signs on ridge line on the Trans-Catalina Trail on Catalina Island in California

The opposite possibility is to take the cruisy route – 8 miles alongside a dust street that hugs the shoreline all the method. That is the route we selected in each instructions. It felt somewhat like dishonest, however it meant we had extra time to loosen up and revel in our wonderful campsite at Parson’s Touchdown. Plus, we heard the descent from the excessive route was a killer on the knees.

We hiked the street on a Thursday and solely encountered a few automobiles. Alongside the best way, you’ll cross a number of kids’s camps, however in any other case, it was fairly quiet in November with continuous views.

There are solely eight primitive beachfront campsites at Parson’s so you’ll really feel that you’re at a personal seaside.

We acquired fortunate with web site 1 which had essentially the most safety from the wind and was very personal. It was additionally the shadiest, which is sweet or dangerous, relying on the time of 12 months and the way a lot solar you need.

Text set up in secluded cove at Parson's Landing Campground on Catalina Island
Parson’s Touchdown Campground Website 1
Parson's Landing / Plan a backpacking trip on the Trans-Catalina Trail on Catalina Island with this trail guide with tips on the best campsites, water availability, gear & more
Parson’s Touchdown Websites 4-8

Non-obligatory Hike to Starlight Seashore

From Parson’s, it’s 5 extra miles to Starlight Seashore – 10 miles roundtrip. For those who’re into bragging rights and you’ve got the vitality, you may proceed on to the very far finish of Catalina Island.

We didn’t do that, however BFT Contributor Kim Vawter (who wrote the unique model of this path information) did. We talked to a few other people on the path who made it to Starlight and mentioned it was good, however they weren’t certain it was price the additional 10 miles.

For those who do determine to go, be sure to retailer your whole meals and water in your fox field at Parson’s earlier than you go and take a headlamp.

I’d additionally solely advocate this in the summertime months when the times are longer or for those who plan to spend two full nights at Parson’s.

Day 5: Parson’s Touchdown to Two Harbors through the street and Lion’s Head (7.7 miles)

You’ve formally accomplished the Trans Catalina Path! Congratulations. Now you simply need to hike the 7.7 miles again to Two Harbors to catch your ferry. One of many highlights of this part is passing the picturesque Emerald Bay.

Emerald Bay / Plan a backpacking trip on the Catalina Island Trans-Catalina Trail with this guide including the best campsites, gear, water, and more.
Emerald Bay on Catalina Island

Be sure you time this final leg of your journey proper so that you don’t miss your ferry in Two Harbors.

I extremely advocate arriving on the town with a minimum of an hour’s buffer earlier than your ferry boarding so you may get pleasure from a chilly beverage on the Harbor Reef Restaurant. Seize a seat exterior on the patio bar and let all the stress in your muscle tissues soften away.

In case you are feeling you want a while within the precise water you can too camp one other night at Two Harbors and hire snorkel gear or kayaks for the day.

Backpackers on the Trans-Catalina Trail with ocean in background

Depart No Hint on the Trans Catalina Path

There are a number of essential issues along with your typical Depart No Hint suggestions when backpacking the Trans Catalina Path:

  • There may be wildlife throughout Catalina Island, together with the island fox, bison, and a few pretty aggressive ravens. By no means depart your meals unattended. Many of the campsites have fox containers (the identical as bear bins) the place you may safely retailer your meals and water.
  • The bison are harmful! Don’t method them for images or every other motive. They will run 35 mph and are totally able to taking you down. They’re on the path and within the campgrounds, so keep alert and hold an eye fixed out for any aggressive conduct.
  • There are loos. Please use them! And if nature calls when you’re not close to a toilet, you should definitely observe Depart No Hint pointers for going to the toilet and pack out your rest room paper.

Trans Catalina Backpacking Gear

Begin with this 3-day backpacking guidelines. Beneath I additionally advocate some particular items of drugs that will likely be useful in your TCT hike.

With the fox containers on the campsites, you don’t want a bear canister.

Notice that in November, evenings have been very chilly. I used to be glad to have a beanie, lengthy pants, and a heat jacket for the evenings.

Photo from inside tent out onto rocky beach on Catalina Island in California
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