Explore the most popular trail running trails near Avalon with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

backpacking
4 days ago

Great backpack trip if you park your solitude and wilderness expectations at the door and just enjoy it.

We did it in six days: Day 1: Hermit Gulch, Day 2: to Blackjack, Day 3: to Little Harbor, Day 4: to Two Harbors, Day 5: to Parsons, Day 6: Home.

We did the exact route provided by the Catalina Conservancy, but we did the west end of the island in a counterclockwise fashion instead of clockwise.

Caveats: 1) one segment of the westernmost trail from miles 28.5 to Mile 30 is called Fenceline Road. That part of the trail topped out at 30% grade and was very steep. There is an alternative route if you continue toward Silver Peak, and I'd recommend it as this part was just brutal (uphill) and would be dangerous on the downhill. 2) Fox boxes are provided at all campsites. Use them. A fox tore a hole in our tent to try to take our food bag. Our fault for listening to others who said it was okay. (The foxes are adorbs!)

Okay, that said, what a great romantic trip! Restaurants in Avalon, airport, and Two Harbors. We enjoyed being trail-trash and hanging out in Two Harbors as we awaited another couple joining us (who missed the early boat). We did this over Memorial Day and the weather was good for the whole trip except at Little Harbor where it was windy. The holiday weekend made for better music in Two Harbors. (A knowledgeable local says Little Harbor is the place to be in August).

Solitude whenever we were on the trail was interspersed with the tourists in Avalon and Two Harbor. The buffalo were mainly a) at Black Jack (one slept 25 feet away from our camp site [#1!]) and b) near and after the airport. Talk loud and they'll move off the trail.

Day 1 we took the 1:30 boat from Long Beach to Avalon and did the tourist thing. Hiking 5 miles between going to Hermit Gulch, going back to downtown for dinner, and back again with some exploration.

Day 2 is lots of up, followed by lots of up and down. It would have been excessively hot if the weather were so, but it wasn't. so. Views were nice. Blackjack campground is fun.

Day 3 You get to hoof it for a few miles to the airport, then have a giant breakfast! How cool is that? The ladies at the restaurant have trained the local ravens and squirrels, so there's a floor show too. After that you get to see the actual herd of buffalo. Again pretty cool. Others noted how they'd avoided the buffalo herd because they were on the trail. We just talked loudly as we approached and the herd lovingly moved for us. More amazing views as you cross the island and drop down to Little Harbor - Catalina's answer to car camping. Gorgeous views though. Too cool to swim, unfortunately. I will be back to set up a camping trip here at the beautiful giant group campsites.

Day 4: Two Harbors. Easy hike to Two Harbors where we'd meet our friends for their first backpack trip. The views just astound as you hike along the giant cliffs. The trail drops down and you reenter the madding crowd. But hey: grill and bar and shower. Our friends missed the 12:30 boat, so we had to sit there and eat tons, and drink (moderately) and dance to the live music. (Oh and hot showers!) Not bad.... Stayed at Two Harbors Campground. We had one down near the water. Maybe one of the sites up the hill would have been a bit better (but windier?)

Day 5: When we hiked from Two Harbors to Parsons, mostly on road (sad face) we passed Emerald Bay. I think we passed a church service in one of the anchorages consisting of many dingys cuddling up to a big yacht. Emerald Bay looked so amazing that we hiked down and ate and chilled and swam all afternoon. Once you pass the Boy Scout Campground, you are in the wilderness again with great shore views and the relatively secluded Parson's Landing. (Why did he land here, it's all rocks?)

Day 6: We split up with the girls roadwalking back past Emerald Bay while we tough guys climbed up to FOG. Yeah, no views, and that caveated blankety blank Fenceline Road. But we were done. Back at Two Harbors, we got food, got on the earlier boat and slept back San Pedro, where we got our friends to drive us to Long Beach (very near by, a cab would do as well.)

We didn't get to do the final beach because our friends were not up for the additional mileage to Startlight. So, that said, I'd likely extend this trip to include starlight beach for sure, since it seems cheezy not to go to the other end of the island.

Overall great moderate hike. Stunning views of Avalon while you ascend Hermit Gulch. The lone tree trail also offers incredible views of the other peaks and canyons on the island, as well as the pacific and San Clemente Island to the south. The hike culminates on the edge of the palisades with another spectacular view, although if there was a lone tree at the end of the trail, it is no longer the case now. Recommend to take the trans-Catalina trail south on the way down in order to take the offshoot trail through the Wrigley botanical gardens.

backpacking
2 months ago

This is no longer the official route for this trail. Check the Catalina conservancy website for the new and updated map. We loved this trip and would definitely do it again! I wouldn’t suggest doing in the summer when the temperatures are high because there was little to no shade along the trail.

hiking
3 months ago

Did the Trans-Catalina in mid-March and you understand almost immediately why this is mostly a winter-only trip. There is virtually no shade, a lot of sun, and even though you have a lot of access to water, there are at least two very difficult big climbs and a couple big descents followed by immediate climbs. Catalina does not give you a lot of flats to cruise on. Make sure to follow the Catalina Conservancy's map or at least be very clear which deviations you're taking because you can easily go well out of your way. The official Trans-Catalina is well-marked and we didn't miss a single mile marker.

We started in Avalon on a sunny day and your first mile is a nice walk up to Hermit Gulch before your next two miles are a very steady, steep uphill to the top of the ridge. Even when it was only 65 degrees, this was very hard for four fit people but you get spectacular views of the Pacific on all sides. Your next couple miles are up and down along a very dry portion of the interior where you will start to see bison and see how big the island actually is. You spend a significant portion of the next 4 miles on or very close to the airport road, power lines, and pipes and step over a lot of buffalo crap, probably the least good part of the trip. However it is still very scenic. You do a few big descents and climbs away from the road finally which is hard but eventually you'll get to Blackjack which is a nice campground tucked into a pine grove. Nice to hear the wind in the trees at night.

Day Two you can make either very easy or long and moderately hard. We chose easy because it was supposed to rain that day (it did). You start with a confusing portion that confused several backpackers. When you leave Blackjack, turn right at the airport road briefly (look for the markers as this uncharacteristically does not have a sign pointing you in the right direction) then a sharp left. Another hard down-and-up brings you to the airport. Definitely stop for a meal. It's quiet and there's a lot to see in the airport of the history of Catalina. The rest of the day is a pretty easy descent down to Little Harbor. We camped here in the rain and it was perfectly fine, though it definitely feels a lot like a drive-in campground with a lot of huge, out-of-place palm trees. You could potentially continue to Two Harbors from here and make it in good time.

Day Three is where you see the best scenery and are the most isolated. The first five miles is a pretty easy ascent onto the ridge overlooking the Pacific and it is spectacular. Even after the rain, this was an easy trail and a big highlight. You descend quickly into Two Harbors around five miles where you can refill water if necessary. The next portion brings you south of town and up the hardest climb of the trip. Miles 25-27 were by far the hardest and, once the sun broke through again, took a long time. Near the top though you start getting spectacular views again, particularly if you take half an hour to do the Lobster Bay Lookout trail. Amazing. You spend the next few miles walking along a ridge toward the tip of the island before a very steep descent into Parson's. After the rain, this was very muddy but doable going down. I would not attempt going up it after rain. Parson's is a dream, but don't expect to show up and have a spot. Reserve well in advance and get water. Oh! And DON'T FORGET TO GET YOUR KEY AT THE TWO HARBORS VISITOR CENTER. I did and was very lucky someone shared their water with me.

Day Four is a flat 8 miles back to Two Harbors along the coast on the road. The water and vegetation is beautiful but it is a bummer to have to stare down at four different ugly summer camps that you have to wind around. That was another least good thing about the trip. You should make it back to Two Harbors by 10:30 in time to catch the 11:30 ferry back to San Pedro.

A great trip if you like views of the ocean with some difficult terrain and don't mind some portions that interface with human infrastructure a lot.

If I do this trip again, I would most likely make it a bit longer by going from Day One Avalon to Blackjack, Day Two Blackjack to Two Harbors (instead of Little Harbor) and Day Three Two Harbors to Parsons, but hike the entirety of the Silver Peak Trail down to Starlight Beach and then on to Parson's. Adding that leg to Day Three adds over four miles but the views from the top of the ridge are really something.

Gorgeous beautiful and spectacular hike. We backpacked this last weekend and saw whales breaching, a fox, a bison, a bald eagle, an Osprey ( not the backpack, haha). This hike was perfect for a first time backpacker, me, as it was mostly flat the entire way. If you do camp at the campground we preferred campground 2 over 1. Our group reserved both, but campground 1 was quite rocky. There were 3 spots on 1 that we're cleared, but campground 2 had lots of sandy spots to pitch a tent.

This was a great hike. Unfortunately fog rolled in at the end of Lone Tree trail.

backpacking
8 months ago

Did this trail at the end of April, which was just about too late in the season since the whole trail is exposed and it was getting hot. The scenery was absolutely stunning! I started at the mile 1 trailhead and didn't see another soul until mile 7. Very difficult elevation gain and loss, but totally worth it. Camped the first night at Blackjack and it was super windy; second night at Little Harbor which was a great site next to the ocean, seemed to be a favorite by boaters; night 3 was at Parsons, and by far the best campsite! It felt like it took forever to get there, but a serene place on the sand. The most amazing views were about two miles outside of Little Harbor on the trek out. Worst moments were the 3 mile stretch into Little Harbor. The trail was straight down! But overall, a wonderful experience.

Tough parts, but epic views!

I just went to the top where the bench is.

TAKE WATER AND WEAR SUN SCREEN. This goes on my list as one of my all time favorite hikes. Beautiful views, what an experience!!!

Spectacular views! Hot and dry, bring plenty of water

hiking
Saturday, June 10, 2017

An easy trail that pass the quarry, stunning view.

Monday, June 05, 2017

DO NOTuse the downloaded map on the site to navigate from blackjack to Little Harbor it veers off of the trans Catalina trail and takes you through a very difficult trail that takes you from mountain tops to riverbeds constantly. stay on the official trans Catalina trail !!!!! You will also encounter Buffalo at numerous points on this detour including herds of 30 to 50 in number, quite concerning at times.!Other than that ,the downloaded map is awesome! When you see the wooden sign saying trans Catalina trail as you leave blackjack for little harbor take it !!!!!!!!!!!!! Conversely leaving from Little Harbor going to black jack stay on the ridge top which is the trans Catalina trail DO NOT take the highlighted portion on the downloaded map that takes you down to the right By a bunch of worksheds and industrial equipment go straight up the ridge which is not highlighted in red this is the trans Catalina official trail that will take you to the airport. The detour that is highlighted in red looks much shorter do not take the bait !!!!!!!!!! You can make it from Black Jack to the isthmus in one hike but is not recommended, do yourself a favor and spend an overnight at little harbor. you will get there around 3 o'clock with plenty of time to set up take a swim in the ocean and enjoy the beach!!! pre-ordering would for any of the sites is a huge plus and recommended. Fantastic trail definitely in my top three things to do in California!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Backpacked from Hermits Gulch to Blackjack- one nite. BlackJack to Little Harbor. - one nite. Watch out for Buffalo on the trail to Little Harbor. We had to bushwack around the buffalo standing on three trail. Also some hikers with a dog spooked the bufflo5 and the hikers ended up in cactus. From Little Harborbwe hiked to 2 Harbors- one nite. Took a shower there. 2 Harbors also has washer and dryer. From 2 Harbors to Parsons for 2 nites. Be sure to order your water and wood for Parsons when you book the campsite. There is no drinking water there. Don't miss out on a hike to Starlite Beach - 6 miles from Parsons. A Beautiful secluded Beach.

hiking
Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Awesome hike with great views but at times long steep uphill. The signage is not obvious in some parts of the trail- so take a map. We missed the trail twice and had to backtrack. Once at Wriggly park and the other before airport.

backpacking
Monday, March 27, 2017

Instead of heading all the way to the north tip, we cut down to Two Harbors and packed kayaks for a 2 day 1 night return to Avalon. Stayed at Goat Harbor and it is by far the best boat in site. We have done this trip (TCT + kayaking) a few times and always had a great experience. Must book boat in campsites ahead of time as well as kayaks as the company which operates out of Descanso Beach will drop them off at two harbors and take any extra gear back to Avalon via the kayak delivery truck.

hiking
Thursday, February 23, 2017

Great hike. I did this loop counter-clockwise, but I think it would be slightly easier to go clockwise. Seemed a little steeper the way I went up. NOTE: can avoid paying the fee to enter going this direction, but I went back and paid them when I finished. Great hike and good to support those who are maintaining the trails. Views are crazy cool.

hiking
Saturday, February 04, 2017

Disclaimer: This hike was about one week after a crazy rainstorm in January.

I had hiked up via the Garden to Sky trail and thought it might be fun to take Hermit Gulch down... bad idea. Hermit Gulch was no longer a trail, it was a tiny, pebbly ditch. Because it was so steep the first mile (or last mile if you're coming up), I kept sliding around because the ground was so loose. Much of the trail was blocked by small mud slides and some of the trail had completely given out leaving me to scale the mountainside.

When I reached the last part of the trail at the bottom, it had completely turned into a babbling brook. No more trail. Just water.

It was quite an adventure, and the views were spectacular! But lesson learned: Don't hike this trail in the winter!

I did this solo very early the morning after St Patrick's day in 2006 when my brother got married on Catalina. I woke up at daylight and couldn't get my son to go so just took off on Pebbly rd until I found a trail. Strangely no one around until I got to the Trans Catalina Trail and then there were lots of people running. Unknown before I started my little journey I had hiked into a Marathon Route. I gave all the runners plenty of room so no one minded. I eventually came upon some race officials but there was simply nowhere else to go. It was a fantastic hike with incredible breath taking views and difficult climbs. I actually ended up with a participants medallion later that night that I won in a pool game at one of the little local bars. Strange but true. My son really got a kick out of that one...

backpacking
Sunday, October 02, 2016

Great to use as a return trail from Parsons landing to Two Harbors.

backpacking
Thursday, September 08, 2016

My favorite backpacking trail in Southern California. It's my annual birthday trip (free roundtrip on the Catalina Express if you arrive on your birthday, must register beforehand).

To get the most out of your trip. Take it slow.

I like arrive early and make camp at Avalon's Hermit Gulch Campground for our first night. This way we can kayak, SUP, snorkel, etc for a whole day before we start our hike.

Wonderful coastal views until you get deeper into the island and are greeted by herds of Bison and the endless sight of Catalina's rolling hills.

Our most favorite spot on the island is Little Harbor. If your time window allows, spend a night there and do some rock jumping into the ocean.

on Black Jack Trail

backpacking
Friday, May 20, 2016

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

hiking
Tuesday, December 22, 2015

After reading the other reviews, we had prepped ourselves to climb on our hands and knees to avoid falling. That was pointless. There were some steep climbs, but they were short enough we did not even know they were over. Once we got to the end of the trail, we we semi disappointed that the tree was missing. There was not a single lone tree. All in all, this hike gave for some great cardio and spectacular views.

hiking
Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Great hike until the last mile. Some of the steepest hills I've ever seen. Constantly feeling like I'm going to fall off. I'd recommend just turning back and going the original way up.

hiking
Thursday, January 08, 2015

Tough and fun hills on the 'last mile' and a great intro to the landscape outside Avalon!

hiking
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sid this hike 8/24/13 mid-day. Great hike if you fly out and want something to do without having to go into Avalon or Two Harbors. It was hot and there is no shade so take some water with you. Great views of the island. There is a shortcut at the end of runway 22 that lets you slip through a cut in the fence and puts you back on airport property.

trail running
Friday, March 08, 2013

Catalina Island is so beautiful, great views anywhere you go. This trail has a few steep up and down parts- a couple so steep I was nervous I was going to tumble down. I moved to the grass on side on trail that wasn't as slippery as the sand/gravel. Started in Avalon and went UP and to end of trail - view of the other side is amazing. Definitely want to carry water - it was hot when we were there and not much shade on the trail.

hiking
Saturday, July 30, 2011

A very beautiful hike, would of been 5 stars if it was not for all the people & trash along the way. other than that down was fun and easy the up was a little harder. but still worth a look

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Airport Loop Trail is a really easy walk around the Airport. A really interesting part of it is the soapstone quarry. The Native Americans carved out bowls and other utensils from a soapstone outcropping. Soapstone is very soft. But because it has a lot of talc in it...you can put a soapstone bowl over the fire, and it won't crack. Apparently the Indians, 8,000 years ago traded these bowls with tribes on the Northern Channel Islands and on the mainland.

If you are like me, and not a seasoned hiker, it is wise to start your hike in the Botanic Garden. The service road is steep, but not as steep as the Hermit Gulch trail that you can take from the campground. Just saying... Wow! The hike is worth it! On the top of the mountain, you can look down a Avalon waaaay down in the distance. It was a clear day, so I could see the mainland from Malibu almost all the way to San Diego! Looking out over the Pacific, I could see San Clemente Island that cannot be seen from the mainland.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Black Jack campground is about as far away from "Catalina" that you can be. It feels like you are up in the mountains! There are pine trees everywhere, planted, I guess at a time that no one cared about planting non-native trees. There is a cool barbeque pit that has been there what looks like forever!
Just be careful...when you wake up in the morning, there just may be a bison standing in front of your tent!

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