As I lifted a steep pitch to the west end of Santa Catalina Island, the straps of my 30-pound pack slammed into my shoulders, no matter how many times I hit the waist belt to balance the weight. There are no switchbacks on this part of the Trans-Catalina Trail, just a dirt road pointing upwards. I didn’t enjoy it but moved on.
I’ve been hiking Catalina for decades, but I never collected its routes until I hiked the Trans-Catalina Trail, or TCT, in mid-April. This is a very steep 38.5-mile route from the resort town of Avalon on the east side of the island. To the lesser-known northwest beach of Parsons Landing, its farthest point, and to the end of the trail at Two Harbors.
“You never walk on flat land,” said Tony Budrovich, chief executive of the Catalina Island Conservancy, which manages the trails and open spaces that make up 88% of the island. “You’re either going up or down. It’s very challenging for a hiker, but when you get to the top of the hill and the beauty of the cracks and valleys makes you feel like you’ve really gone somewhere foreign. “
Budrovich is right. The allure of TCT makes you forget its horrible parts and amaze you with its sparkling sea views and beach-side campgrounds, so unexpected and remote for an hour’s boat ride from LA.
Since opening the trail six years ago, it has boosted tourism in the lesser-known west of Catalina. TCT has become a dream destination for hikers and backpackers who can fulfill it in any direction. About 8,000 trekkers arrive on the trail each year, tightening competition for permits to reserve four campgrounds along the way.
Mystery: How did Conservancy come to be on an island with a 38.5-mile trail that is only 22 miles long? From Avalon, the TCT crosses the interior of the island to Two Harbors, continues on the high inland route to Parsons Landing, then turns back along the lower coastal road, making a small loop for the last miles. The lone restaurant on Two Harbors hosts a number of surprise TCT winning parties.
TCT as well as campgrounds are clean by backpacking standards. Three are on or near the beach and all have drinking water (leave your filter in the house) and toilets. Most people plan three or four days to complete the trail. I chose Four days; My journey was like this.
Avalon to Black Jack Campground
My friends and I boarded the 8:45 a.m. ferry from San Pedro to Avalon and found the official start of the hike to the new Conservancy office (708 Crescent Avenue). Read the sign outside “Trailhead: Adventure Begins Here”. From there, we passed Avalon, then turned inward on the road to Catalina Avenue.
The shops selling bagnets and bagels were tempting but not open later, so we stopped at the chat hardware (117 Catalina Avenue) to pick up the fuel cans for our backpacking stove (you call them boats). Can not be brought. For security reasons).
After a few miles, the trail went up, passing through the interior, sometimes along roads but often along single-track trails. The Chapel and Island Oaks lined the route until we reached Black Jack Campground.
On a half-week day in April, all 10 sites were buzzing with TCT hiking campers. It is the only campground without sea views, although you can find something by hiking near Mount Orizaba, the highest point on the island at 2,097 feet above sea level.
We woke up to the sound of grants and the breaking of branches. Two of the island’s most famous bison entered the campground, rubbing and scratching themselves on bushes and trees. People took photos with their phones (at a distance; there are signs everywhere warning you to stay at least 125 feet away). We waited for Bison to move on, had breakfast and started hiking.
Black Jack to Two Harbors
Leaving Black Jack, the trail exits the island’s small airport (which is open for breakfast and lunch) before descending to the west side of the island. We wandered along the hills before reaching Little Sweet, a sweet beach with campgrounds.
We stopped at site 11 near the beach for lunch. I was reluctant to go and wished we had an extra night so we could stay here. I looked up and saw a wedding in progress on the bluffs of the next Cove.
If it’s hot, Little Harbor is a good place to swim, but in April it was a little too cold to drown. We turned our backs on the beach and headed for the two ports, which meant a high ascent over a valley facing the sea.
Catalina showed off her good looks as we climbed to the top of the ridge to reach a small hikers’ shelter. From here, we crossed the island’s width to Two Harbors, which was a metropolis compared to the quiet cove we left behind.
The two harbors have a restaurant and a small grocery store as well as a small part of the beach. I skipped my packed lunch in favor of chips, hummus and fresh coffee. The campground here is the largest on TCT with 47 sites, with some spectacular views over the bluffs, others close to the beach.
Parson landing (backbone) from two ports
6.6 miles for Starlight Beach, plus 9 miles round trip
The trail from the two ports took us inland, aka the spine, the highest and hardest part of the TCT. This is a straight climb, then straight down along the Fence Line Road. My legs began to shake as I started down, and I relied on my quads to keep me upright until I reached the bottom. Every step felt like a serious fight; I tried my best not to look at the drop. I kept an eye on my feet.
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The knee- and leg-punching descent took us to Parsons Landing, a quiet beach with six camp sites, all on sand. Upon arrival, I met Kendra, who was exploring the trail and planning to return all the way. “Oh! You have CampSite 1, ”he said. “It’s the best.” She was not the first to tell us.
It was easy to see what made the site so special: the bluff walls on both sides made it completely private, with the ocean about 20 feet away.
We dropped our gear, pitched our tents and headed for Starlight Beach on the west end of Catalina. Outside and behind the beach, a destination that had been on my list for years, added a nine-mile round-trip. (It is no longer part of the TCT.)
We followed the old roads and single-track trails until we found a small, deserted, dark-sandy beach. We didn’t see anyone coming or going. It was late in the day and we couldn’t stop, but I swore to come back. Little Crescent Beach felt like it was the most remote place on earth. Returning to camp, we ate dinner and headed for our tent. The sound of the ocean hitting the rocks made me sleepy.
Parsons Landing to Harbors (Coastal Road)
The return voyage to the two ports followed a flatter coastal road with several developed camps and bays that open seasonally. The trail was high above the sea, which meant we could see Emerald Bay, Howlands Landing and Cherry Cove below. Sometimes cars and Four wheeler The ferring gear lifted the dust as they passed. When appropriately named Ship Rock, we knew we were nearing the end. The final stages were fantastic.
At Two Harbors, we spent lazy hours sitting and congratulating ourselves. With the TCT behind us, I found myself forgetting the hard parts and remembering the magnificent beaches and scenery. I’ll be back.
If you go
The Trans-Catalina Trail is very prominent; It is best to climb in spring and late fall when the temperature is cool. Hiking permits are free. You need to reserve a campground at least two months in advance; They fill up quickly, especially on parson landings. Reserve online at catalinaconservancy.org Or by calling (310) 510-2595 (I found it easier to do this over the phone).
Be prepared with the dates you want to reserve at all four campgrounds. Depending on the time of year, the sites cost an average of $ 30 per person per night. A $ 30 membership, however, is a 50% discount on costs with the Catalina Island Conservancy.
Boats for Catalina sail from San Pedro, Long Beach, Dana Point and Newport Beach. Rides cost ਗੋਲ 70 to $ 76 round trip.