Trans-Catalina Trail: From Avalon to Black Jack Camp

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Avalon, California

Trans-Catalina Trail: From Avalon to Black Jack Camp is a 13.8 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Avalon, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

Distance: 13.8 miles Elevation Gain: 3,339 feet Route Type: Point to Point





nature trips

bird watching



wild flowers


no shade

no dogs

no shade
5 days ago

Freaking brutal. Awesome sights. We saw quite a few bison, which im not going to lie, was super cool, but I did make my husband go know, just in case. All in all, I was 6 months post having a baby...and I was stopping to pump every 4 hours...I was in terrible shape..and I made it! If I can do it...anyone can.

no shade
8 months ago

I recommend getting starting early - there is no shade and the sun can be relentless. Really fun hike with some strenuous stretches. Watch out for bison about 2/3 the way in - they can be dangerous and show up out of nowhere. Also, we did the new, shorter trail, which cut about 3 miles from the beginning. If you have the time, do the full hike!

The heat was brutal!

9 months ago

Holy crap do not do the east end road starting point! 17 miles from Avalon to black jack if you do it! Regretting it big time. 39-lb pack and a crying girlfriend. This trail finally ended! This is not the actual trans-Catalina trail. All trails is wrong, you should start out on hermit gulch trail/campground. We added a lot of extra miles, albeit the views were worth it. We were so sore we were about to tap out and take a shuttle back to Avalon to get drunk.

Sat Mar 23 2019


Wed Nov 21 2018

we did the entire Trans Catalina Trail, this is day 1. Read that we can't bring fuel on the ferry, but no one ever checked. Please note that the grocery store does not have the correct fuel, you must go a block over to Chet's Hardware store. it's a fantastic building so well worth it. Walk thru town a ways before getting to the trailhead. Parts of the trail are not marked very well, so pay attention. 1st big uphill has a nice pergola at the top and a great spot to stop for lunch. YES, there is a bathroom up there but you have to walk past the pergola before you see it. Made it almost half way thru the hike before I saw a buffalo and then I seem to have one around every turn. And they love to stand on the trail so you either wait or go around them. The last 2 miles before camp seemed to be a bit newer and not marked well. camp #1 was fantastic for our 4 tents. Thunder and lightning and rain that night but we had no issues. another sight had their tents flood. next day you are off to the airport!

Fri Oct 26 2018

Brutal and Beautiful.

Wed Oct 24 2018

Hot. When I hiked on October 20th and high temp was 80, it felt like 100. No breeze, no shade. The trail was mostly fire road and sometimes the tour jeep full of people went by. We hired for our gear hauling from Avalon to Blackjack - we were so glad for that. We found that now Trans-Catalina trailhead is at Avalon center where Conservancy was and Hermit Gulch trailhead was Trans-Catalina trailhead. We decided take old Trans-Catalina trailhead where Renton Mine Rd was - 2 miles from Avalon center and few more additional miles. I wish we took Hermit Gulch trail. We ended up hiking16.5 miles to Blackjack in hot weather. I thought I would pass out one point. We saw quite few bisons on the way. I had to go around one bison because she/he was right on the trail. Blackjack camp site was very limited camp site. It seems they were trying to expand - some heavy equipments and derbies were there. I really did not love this trail except bisons. I don't think I will hike this trail again.

Tue Jun 26 2018

The Trans Catalina Trail can be extremely hot in the summer months. If you are going to be hiking in the summer and are worried about the heat and difficulty of the trail. I would highly recommend looking into gear haul services for the more strenuous portions of the trail. All your backpacking gear is delivered directly to your campsite and you can bring extra water/food/drinks/firewood. 310-913-9036 with Catalina Backcountry

Fri Jun 15 2018

excited to make the Trans Catalina Trail my official first overnight Backpacking trip. I know it will be hot and beautiful!!! Currently, doing it solo.

Tue Jan 16 2018

crazy uphills, amazing views and perfect campsites. be careful of buffalo and give them space. keep those pack weights low and glide up those hills ;).

Sun Jan 14 2018

11/21-11/24/17 This was a great hike. It was challenging because it was so hot outside. There is a lot of up-and-down on the trails also. It is a good trial run for you to see how to pack for a multiple day hike. You will learn quickly how important packing light is. You could save some food weight eating at the airport along the way or Two Harbors restaurant, general store, or cafe but it’s expensive. There are non heated outdoor showers and potable water at Black Jack and Little Harbor. Bring after shower flips flops, sharp rocks everywhere. Two Harbors has a general store and heated pay showers. Parsons Landing has no water or showers. If you have a heavy pack or bad knees trekking poles are very helpful. I will be doing this one again when it cools off.

Sun Nov 26 2017

Challenging but doable with moderate training when competed over 5 days and 4 nights. 3 of the 4 campsites were beach front with spectacular views. The entire trans Catalina trial is almost 40 miles. The 5th day from Parson's Landing back into Two Harbors was flat with breathtaking scenery. Would surely hike it again! ⛺️

Thu Sep 07 2017

Very very hot, with no shade at all and limited water source. No mile markers!! Trail can be hard to follow at times. Started at hermit and stoped at little harbors.

Mon Aug 07 2017

Amazing to camp mostly at beach-side sites after long days of hiking. My wife and I did the entire TCT and the constant vistas were breathtaking! The stop for Bison Burgers at the Catalina airport is WELL worth it. Definitely doing this again!

Sat Aug 05 2017

Though it was spring and very dry when I visited the scenery was like none I had ever seen. I hiked from the historic Airport and had the feeling like I was the only one there as it is only accessible by conservancy tour shuttle. On another day I hiked at Two Harbors after seeing the Bison thanks to my Conservancy Tour Guide. The Two Harbors side of the Island is more remote and I recommend taking the ferry from the mainland there first if possible which will save you some SS per person for the shuttle. Then if you want to hike from there you can camp at Blackjack Campground several miles away between Two Harbors and Catalina which is more commercial with cruise ships visiting that side of the Island weekly.

Mon Jul 24 2017 For the actual current trail information and permits.

Sun Jun 18 2017

Beautiful scenery (five star worthy). Downside are the sections of really unfun grades with loose/gravelly terrain. Would not attempt this trail without trekking poles. I usually wear trail runners on multi day hikes and found myself wishing I had something with more ankle support on this trail. Would stop by the Catalina Conservancy in Avalon to pickup one of their great maps. I did the Avalon trailhead to Black Jack on day one, Black Jack to Two Harbors day two, Two Harbors to Parsons (set up camp/dropped some gear) to Starlight back to Parsons day three, then walked the West End Road back to Two Harbors (about 8 miles along the island coast) and got the ferry day four.

Wed Jun 14 2017

Hard hike...54 miles if you start in Avalon and hike to mile 0 and then hike the whole trail to Starlight and then back to Two Harbors to ride the boat home. Great experience...Get a breakfast burrito at the airport if you can!

Sun Apr 23 2017

Great experience! Camped right up front in Little Harbor for the beach experience and then in Blackjack for a forestry escape. The up and downs in 80 degree weather was a bit of a challenge, but lots of rewarding views!

Mon Dec 12 2016

Met some great people on the trail, both locals, hikers and tourists.

Wed Aug 24 2016

As others have mentioned in previous reviews, the Trans Catalina Trail is 37.2 miles according to the conservancy. Though, I would say we hiked about 50 miles total on this trip. 5 days to complete Day 1: Hiked to Blackjack campground Day 2: Blackjack to Airport in the Sky to get a buffalo burger and stock up on water. Continued hiking to Little Harbors. *Stay at campground #12, the best! Closest to water Day 3: Little Harbors to Two Harbors (only passed through this city to recharge, ate at the restaurant, had drank buffalo milk, and replenished our bladders) Hiked to Parsons Landing. *If you think day 1 was hard, wait for this 6mile hike.. up and down, bring trekking poles if possible). Day 4: Camped at Parsons Landing in campground #1, the best one since you're secluded from the others. Hiked at Starlight Beach and back, enjoyed a fire and a dip in the ocean. 2 nights here Day 5: Hiked to two harbors, taking the trail hugging the ocean, easier. From Two harbors we took a safari bus to Avalon, which was nice to see where we've been). From Avalon took the boat out.

Sat Jun 25 2016

I had to give this 5 stars Even though I wanted to give it 3 HAHA!!! I Backpacked this trail in four days! Avalon to Blackjack... Blackjack to Two Harbors... Two Harbors To Parsons Landing... Parsons Landing Back To Two Harbors. First things first at least the mistakes and mishaps I made. -BRING TREKKING POLES!!!! please just trust me on this one. I will never go anywhere with out them now because of this trip!! HAHA -We did not realize that Avalon to blackjack would be about 17.5 miles.not including walking around avalon to check into the campsites... Almost everyone we talked to that had completed the TCT include the shortcut near the golf course that takes about 6 or 7 miles off the first day so PLEASE BE READY FOR AN INSANE FIRST DAY if you start from mile 1!!!!It was a lot with full packs -On the First Day We ran out of water and luckily found water at a little playground near the reservoir not AT the reservoir. It really saved us but we wasted about 30 min looking for a spout at the viewing area and around the reservoir. -Make sure to have a map and a compass we where pushed off trail a couple times because of an "Occupy TCT" by the bison and having basic compass and map skills really came in handy. Day1 Avalon TO BJ -17.5 miles. -Awesome Views -Toilets Smell... But are better than packing out waste!!! Day 2 BJ to TH 13.6 miles -Get lunch at the airport!!! Great pick me up! -Wished we had stayed an extra day at Little Harbor -AMAZING VIEWS probably the best of the trip Day 3 TH to Parsons -We Did not add the extra 9 miles RT to Starlight due to injury =( but Parsons is worth it so =) -Big inclines bring trekking poles -Big Declines BRING TREKKING POLES -Amazing ridgeline views -Fenceline trail is Crazy -Parsons is So Beautiful Day 4 8.1miles - Take the coastline trail back towards emerald bay boy scout camp -So Much Easier than Fenceline Trail and awesome coves and harbors

Fri May 20 2016

Wow! Beautiful, challenging-BISON!!! This trail is forever etched in my brain.

Wed Apr 27 2016

First and foremost this trail is listed at 37.2 miles, not 16. I would describe this trail as between difficult and moderate depending on the shape your in and time of year your hiking it. That being said, this trail is awesome. The views and camp sites are hard to beat here in SoCal. Me and my friend did the trail in 4 days in April. What makes the trail so hard is there are next to zero switchbacks, and the elevation gain and loss is pretty gnarly. I wouldn't recommend doing this trail in the summer because there's almost no shade either. I plan to do this trail at least once a year because it's so cool.

Thu Oct 08 2015

Gorgeous views. Felt safe by myself as I wasn't too far away at any point from the "civil world". No phone connection so couldn't make a recording. Saw a huge deer and some birds. Nice variation in the path. Loved it.

Tue Jul 07 2015

This was an amazing hike and backpacking trip I started out in Avalon and hiked to two harbors in three days there's plenty of water along the trail and the campsites are very well-maintained and beautiful! While on the trail I saw deer, bison, Fox and many different birds.

Fri Jun 19 2015

I backpacked this in 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 Starlight Beach and back Day 5: Parson's to Two Harbors It was amazing!

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