A Comprehensive Guide on the New and Famous Trans Catalina Trail.

Everything you need to know about packing, planning, weather, sights, campsites, things to see, and other fun adventures on the 37 mile backpacking trail.  
Perhaps the country's only backpacking trail with GUARANTEED good weather!
I don't mean to brag, but I seriously doubt there's a man on this Earth who knows Catalina Island better than I do. The last time I tried to count, I've traveled well over 1,500 mile along the hundreds of trails that cross the island. I've circumnavigated the island twice and crossed it by mountain bike more times than I can count. All I'm trying to say is that you've got an expert talking when it comes to anything Catalina!

The Trans Catalina Backpacking Trail

The Trans Catalina Trail is a relatively new Backpacking-friendly Hiking Trail build in 2008. Its a 37 mile trail running from Avalon on Catalina's East End, to the remote Starlight Beach on the the West End. Catalina Island is a wonderfully preserved island 26 miles off the coast of Los Angeles with a temperate Mediterranean climate and desert-like features. It is perhaps the most accessible and well-preserved islands of California's Channel Islands and is a true natural gem. Interestingly enough, most people from Los Angeles have never heard of it!

The major benefit of the Trans Catalina Trail is that it takes the hiker through the several major features of the island- the coast, the dense southern interior, the high peaks, the town of Two Harbors and the cliffy, rugged West End. Here is a map. Although it never travels above 2,000ft, it is an intense roller coaster of elevation changes! The trail is both challenging and rewarding!

Sections of the Trans Catalina Trail

1. The East End: Begining at the rather touristy Pepply Beach, the trail immediately begins ascending the eastern mountains of the island as you follow the jeep trail. Fortunantely your ascending is rewarded with stunning views of Avalon and the East End. A side trail will take you to the 1,536ft East Peak, the highest on this part of the island. This part has wonderful views, but is very exposed. Eventually you will loop back around to the road out of Avalon.

2. Central Highlands: This part of the trail will take you through the interior and highest part of the south portion of the island. This is a shrubbier and more dense section with pleanty of elevation gain! Although you don't see the ocean as much, you will crest at Blackjack Camp. This is an excellent place to stay for the night and it has water! It is possible to trek partially up the 2,000ft Mt Blackjack. You also have a high possiblity of seeing bison in this section!

3. Airport in the Sky and Little Harbor: This part of the trail is perhaps the highlight of the Eastern Portion. Airport in the Sky is only a mile and a half past Blackjack where you can order a legitimate Buffalo Burger! From here, you have a long decent into Little Harbor with a view of the seldom visted ocean side of the island. It is picturesque and a slice of paradise. After several days in the interior, you'll be happy to bask in the shade of the palm trees and take a swim!

4. Little Harbor to Two Harbors: This part of the trail also continues along the ruggest ocean facing side of Catalina Island and, in my opinion, is the best place to see the bison. Two Harbors is also an excellet place for a layover day. I've always considered Two Harbors to be the Margarittaville of the West! From here, you can also get a ride back to the mainland if you would like to cut it short.

5. The West End: We have a saying for this part of the island- "The West End's The Best End!" Its true, this is by far the most scenic and empty part of the island. Hardly any tourists, only tall cliffs and 50 mile views in every direction. Parson's Beach and finally Starlight Beach are true wilderness solitude. If you chose to section hike the Trans Catalina Trail, this is the one section you shouldn't miss!

I hope this has given you the gist of what's offered on the Trans Catalina Trail. Each section has a different flavor and hiking the whole trail will give you a wonderful understanding of Catalina's unique environment. From end to end, the trail is 37 miles but the western terminous is still far (11 miles) from any exit point. So in reality, if you would like to hike the whole thing, its a trip closer to 50 miles.
The seldom visited Starlight Beach, Catalina Island
Hopefully this has piqued your curiosity in hiking or backpacking the Trans Catalina Trail! Stay tuned for further posts on the logistical side and suggestions for hiking the trail! If you would like to do this trail, click the link below for planning, logistics, mileages and advice.

Backpacking the Trans-Catalina Trail: Part 2

Read. Plan. Get Out There!