The Open Road: The Trans Catalina Trail

An adventurous, 2-night backpacking trip on the beautiful Trans Catalina Trail…

After finishing grad school in December I chose to commit myself to a period of complete freedom where I’d be able to do whatever, whenever, I wanted. Having my time and mind completely open has been an incredible experience and has opened new doors and perspectives in my life. The open year that lay ahead of me has been filled with adventure after adventure including a spur of the moment, 2-night backpacking trip with my good friend Rachel on Catalina Island…

We hitched a ride to Catalina on a USC research vessel, courtesy of the non-profit ocean education organization Rachel works for. Leaving Long Beach Harbor, we held onto the boats railing as we crashed through the moody seas making our way across the Pacific towards Catalina Island.

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Upon reaching Two Harbors we toured the USC Wrigley Lab facility where we peered into fish tanks full of lobster, eel, kelp, crustaceans, and abalone and visited the aquaponics facility, where waste from farmed fish supplies nutrients for plants to grow, which in turn purify the water. It was fun and inspiring and felt like walking through scenes of The Life Aquatic.

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We left Two Harbors, beginning our trek to the first campsite at Little Harbor, 6 miles away. The hike was hilly and beautiful, hugging mountains and coastline like a California dream. The trails were brushed with flowering prickly pears and colorful wild flowers. As we approached the coast, the sea breeze blew up the mountainside creating fast-moving clouds right where we stood. We took in the moment, letting the moist air cool our skin and rejuvenate our tired legs.

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As we descended through the clouds we caught our first glimpse of the campground and beautiful cove that would be home for the night. We set up camp and jumped in the ocean to refresh ourselves. After making dinner we met a group of friendly hikers and shared a fire and whiskey as the full moon rose in the silver night sky.

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We woke up the next morning to a hot, sunny day and started hiking towards Black Jack campground. On the way we passed by buffalo and saw beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean on either side of the island.

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Around lunchtime, just few miles from Black Jack, we passed by the Catalina Airport where one can stop to rest her legs and fill her belly with greasy French fries, delicious buffalo burgers and refreshing beers. Little island foxes approached us from the bushes searching for scraps.

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After a nice lunch and a slight beer buzz we slung our packs on and trekked the last couple miles to Black Jack campground. Because we were doing the trail in the opposite direction as most hikers, this campground was nearly empty. It sat nestled in the woods near the highest peak on the island, complete with golden grass, a tire swing and excellent trees to climb. We spent the afternoon relaxing, drinking wine, painting and enjoying the wind dancing through the grasses and trees.

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The last day was a long, knee-busting, downhill push to the town of Avalon where we celebrated our accomplishment with a dip in the ocean and a big lunch on the waterfront before catching the Catalina Flyer back home.

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The Trans Catalina Trail was the perfect place for a few days of trekking with a friend. The hills are challenging but the views, refreshing ocean swims and food stops along the way make it an almost luxurious backpacking experience I’d recommend to all.

Comments

  1. Would you recommend hiking boots for this trail? I’m going in October and I’m not sure if I will need a pair or if running shoes will work. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been interested in backpacking in Catalina for awhile but I’m not very experienced so I didn’t want to attempt the entire trail. This is the perfect weekend trip! Thank you for the inspiration, I’m so excited for my first backpacking experience. :)

  2. Hi Sarah! It’s really up to you.. I actually used my minimal running shoes for most of the trip, but had my boots with me which were nice for the downhill days because they lock your foot in so your toes don’t smash up against the front of the shoe. But if they are brand new boots and you haven’t broken them in you are likely going to get blisters so just keep that in mind. If you have running shoes you love and are really comfy you can totally get by with that. Just FYI we cut out the ends of the trek (ie. didn’t go NW of Two harbors and from ~Hayduke Reservoir we cut straight down a road to avalon – ie. We didn’t do that loop around to Avalon) Check out this link https://socalhiker.net/hiking-trans-catalina-trail/ for more info. Cheers and have great time!

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