Santa Catalina is an island located 22 miles off of the Southern California coast and is only a 90 minuet boat ride from the Port of Los Angeles. Often called Catalina, this channel island consists of two small towns, Avalon on the north side and Two Harbors on the south. The remainder of the island remains wild and is protected by the Catalina Island Conservancy.
The backcountry on the island is simply breathtaking and can be explored by hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail, a 37.2-mile hike that will guide you across the entire island. There are a total of five backcountry campsites on Catalina. Each of the campsites is located just off of the Trans-Catalina Trail and must be reserved in advance prior to your hike.
The wildflowers on the island are amazing to see during spring, and if you're lucky, you might even spot a buffalo roaming around. In 1924, a movie was filmed on the island and 14 buffalo were left to roam. Today there are approximately150 buffalo roaming the island. Catalina Island is also home to the Catalina fox, which can only be found on Catalina.
Prior to your hike, you must stop by the Catalina Conservancy to pick up your reserved permits and confirm your camping reservations.
Depending on your plan, the first and last days of hiking will be the most intense. After hiking 10 miles from the town of Avalon you will reach the first campsite at Black Jack campground. All of the backcountry campgrounds on the island are equipped with a fire ring and table. You will come across a couple of fences throughout your hike; these are used to keep the buffalo from roaming into town. These gates are not locked, but please be sure to connect the latch when crossing.
You will pass by the Airport in the Sky, which is just a short 2 miles away from Black Jack Campground. This privately owned airport is open to the public and is Catalina's only airport on the island. Along with a gift shop there is a restaurant at the airport so be sure to rest up, soak in the views, and enjoy breakfast or lunch before continuing onto the next campsite. Little Harbor is located just a little over 5 miles from the Airport in the Sky and is on the backside of the island.
You can either camp in town at Two Harbors Campground, which is approximately 5 miles from Little Harbor, or continue on to Parson's Landing, which is an additional 6.5 miles from Little Harbor. Luckily, Two Harbors is a great little town to rest in and grab lunch. The hike from Two Harbors to Parsons Landing can be intense, gaining a little over 1,700 feet in 6.5 miles, but the views and vistas are well worth it.
It is 9 miles round trip to Starlight Beach, which is the official terminus of the Trans-Catalina Trail. Watch out for cacti on the entire trail as there are very large amounts that cover the island. Also, keep an eye out for the trail markers; the trail is 37 miles long, and every mile has a marker. Celebrate your completion, go for a swim, and enjoy a delicious lunch. Although you have reached the terminus of the trail, you will still need to hike back to the town of Two Harbors. You do not need to backtrack on the actual trail; instead, there is a road that you can hike that is relativity flat with very little elevation gain. Treat yourself to this route and it will not disappoint.