Not every day do you get to go hiking on an Island, but in December of 2021 Monica and I did just that. This was a trip that was pushed back a year due to Coronavirus closures. Catalina Island is 30 miles off the coast of Southern California and has a trail called the Trans Catalina Trail. The TCT is a 38.5 miles trail, that stretches from Avalon to Parson’s Landing. However, on this trip we were doing the pier-to-pier portion, which is Avalon to Two Harbors. We were blessed with some great weather and calm seas for traveling as well.
We took a late boat ride across to Avalon, reaching the Island just at Sunset. After finding a nice meal in town, we went to Hermit Gulch which we made camp for our first night.
Starting out the next day from Hermit Gulch, our goal would be Black Jack camp, a distance of 10.7 miles. When you hit the trail from Hermit Gulch, you immediately start to gain elevation until you come to a nice gazebo, with an overlook of Avalon down below. As the trail would meander between a footpath and dirt roads, little did we know we would be in for a big surprise later that day.
After passing Haypress Reservoir there was many up and down sections along the trail. As we were coming up on your last downhill section, we sat back and waited for a Bison to pass along the trail.
We watched the Bison for about 30 minutes before heading down the trail and up our last uphill to Black Jack. As we went down into the Valley we were pushed off trail by about 10 Bison! We were in between them and their water. We finally made it into camp about an hour later, and enjoyed our dinner before turning in for the night.
The next day would be the day we got to pass by the Airport in the Sky. This is the only Airport on the Island and it also has a restaurant. We stopped in for an early lunch which consisted of some cheeseburgers and cold Coke Zeros. At the restaurant, we were also able to pick up some cookies and wine to eat at camp that night.
As we hit the trail after lunch, we both broke open our umbrellas. I brought the Rain Walker SUL on this trip, and the shade offered by the Umbrellas was a life saver. This section of the Island is directly in the middle of the Island in some of the highest elevations of the trail, so the heat can rise very quickly.
We were within about a mile of Little Harbor when we came across another Bison. This Bison decided it was nap time and laid down directly in the middle of the trail. We watched the Bison for about 20 minutes, when we decided to make our way around him. As we waited and watched him, a fox came out of the bush and was surprised to see us on the trail. When we arrived at Little Harbor, we had firewood waiting for us at camp, and enjoyed the sunset on the beach to end the day.
On our last final day of the trail, our goal was to make it to Two Harbors. We took our time exploring the beach at Little Harbor. As we took off for Two Harbors the fog came in and took away from any sights to see that day. However, we were able to watch a few more Bison, who were off the trail munching away on the chaparral.
When we got into Two Harbors, we made it just in time to stop in the Market and pick up a few snacks and some cold beers. At Two Harbors we setup camp before heading over to the restaurant for dinner. We met up with two other hikers who we hiked with along the trail the past two days for dinner, enjoying the night, and each of us trying the local drink of Buffalo Milk. If you ever get a chance to do this trek, make sure to end your last night with some Buffalo Milk!
Our last day on Catalina Island we were able to relax and take our time packing up camp. The boat ride back to the mainland was a pleasurable ride, with a couple whales coming to the surface along the way. This was my first-time hiking Catalina Island, but it definitely won’t be my last.
About the Author
Jason Huckeba has been an avid outdoorsman since his teenage years. His passion for the outdoors was ingrained in him by his parents who took him on many trips to different National Parks around the western US. They took him hiking, fishing, camping, and exploring roadside stops along the way.
Jason can usually be found exploring the local forests of Southern California, the deserts of southwestern Utah, the many backcountry lakes of the Eastern Sierra, and also volunteering his time at Black Mountain fire lookout tower.
Since 2011, Jason started to document his trips on YouTube to share his adventures with family and friends. He has been able to experience what could be considered some of the best wilderness areas on the west coast, with many more adventures coming in the future.