Hiking on Catalina Island

From Avalon to Starlight Beach at the NW tip of Catalina Island, the Trans Catalina Trail (TCT) winds through canyons, through mountain passes, and into remote beaches. All hiking trails on Catalina are managed by the Catalina Island Conservancy, the organization that was established in 1972 by the Wrigley and Offield families. Catalina Island hiking permits are required, but they are free and easy to get.

Hiking Catalina Island is all about the sweeping panoramic views of the Pacific, rolling hills, open sky, and the inevitable encounter with Catalina’s famous bison herd. The one thing to keep in mind is that there is little or no shade on any of the trails. It’s really crucial to bring plenty of water, a wide brimmed hat, sunscreen, and prepare yourself for blazing sun. Heavy winds are possible as well – it can get very gusty up on top. Not to deter you of course! Just that it’s hard to enjoy the views if you are thirsty and sunburned.

Whether you choose to begin your adventure from Avalon or Two Harbors, there are a number of day hikes and shorter ones possible. You don’t have to start at one end of the TCT and hike to the other, which is about 37 miles of trails, and takes about 5 days and four nights to accomplish. Rather, you can spend half a day hiking, arrive at you destination, and either hike back, stay overnight, or take the Safari Bus back. The Safari Bus services All of Catalina’s five main campgrounds, and you can pick it up there. For example, the 5.6 mile hike from Two Harbors to Little Harbor is a favorite, and can be done easily in a day or less.

Hiking the Trans Catalina Trail (TCT)

Stretching from Renton Mine Road near Catalina’s SW end, all the way to Starlight Beach at the NW tip, the TCT is 37.2 miles of hiking trails with many nodes that will take you to camping areas, beaches, and points of interest. Winding up hills, down into valleys and through canyons, you get to really experience the 43,0000 acre nature preserve up close. You can choose to tackle a particular leg of the trail, like the stretch from Two Harbors to Parson’s Landing, or take several days to hike the TCT in its entirety. Budget 4-5 days to complete the whole trail.

Yes, there’s an Ap for this too. The Catalina Conservancy has an App to help you find your way on the TCT. The App is compatible. I have to say that it’s pretty great and includes photos, star rating system, and all of the possible day hikes, loops, and nodes on the TCT. Check out a couple screenshots below:

Catalina Island Hiking Permit

You need a hiking permit from the Catalina Island Conservancy before you hit the trails. No priblem, it’s free and easy to get. Get your Catalina Island hiking permit here.

Catalina Island Hiking Map

The Catalina Island Conservancy has a more detailed set of maps available for you to take on your hike. Here is a screenshot and a download link to the full size version, as well as download links to detail maps showing specific portions of the TCT.

Download the full size PDF’s for each TCT hiking map below:

Video: Hiking the Trans Catalina Island Trail

I like showing videos from this guy – in this one he follows the trail from Two Harbors to Land’s End on the west side of Catalina. It’s a bit shaky, but gives a good idea of what to expect.