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SUL Thru-Hiking the Trans Catalina Trail
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Andy Duncan
(bluewater) - M

Locale: SoCal
SUL Thru-Hiking the Trans Catalina Trail on 08/06/2014 16:31:16 MDT Print View

With a total elevation change of over 32,000 feet and a complete lack of switchbacks the Trans Catalina Trail delivers some challenging terrain. The official trail travels 37.2 miles from one end of the island to other and is made up of a collection of old fire roads and use trails. With excursions to Silver Peak, Ben Weston Beach and Lands End my route covered 62 miles in 4 days.

Mild temps (mid 40's to high 80's) and the ability to sleep on the sand meant it was relatively easy to keep my base pack weight below 5 pounds. The challenge was carrying enough water for the day in a little homemade SUL backpack.

Resupplying food on day 2 helped to keep things manageable and swimming along remote beaches at the end of each day kept it fun. There was even a cabana with a few surf boards left by the locals at one remote beach.

The TCT:


Parsons Beach:



Little Harbor:


Two Harbors:


Remote beach:


For the whole story check out:

Thru-Hiking the Trans Catalina Trail Trip Report

Gear list:

TCT Gear List


TCT Video

Edited by bluewater on 08/06/2014 16:40:26 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: SUL Thru-Hiking the Trans Catalina Trail on 08/06/2014 17:11:07 MDT Print View

What a neat, off beat trip. CA has a lot of nooks and crannies to explore, and you consistently get into some of the most interesting. Bravo, Andy, and thanks for posting.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
SUL Thru-Hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail on 08/06/2014 17:14:38 MDT Print View

Great report Andy!

Have yet to hike the TCT but I've spent a bit of time over on the Island and always enjoy my visits there. Been talking about bikepacking across the island this fall if I can find the time and get schedules to align.

Lots of nice coves/beaches for those with the time/inclination to search them out. Also really enjoy the rural character of Two Harbors compared to the tourist trap Avalon!

The fire roads are no joke! I've done the Catalina Marathon (once), which uses the fire road network from Two Harbors to just shy of Avalon and passes by Shark Harbor and some of the other spots along the TCT. Lots of straight up followed by straight down and straight back up again. Amazing how much elevation can be gained in spite of being on an island with a high point of ~2100'.

When you have the time/inclination, there's some excellent backcountry hiking opportunities on some of islands to the north. Well worth a few trips...

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: SUL Thru-Hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail on 08/06/2014 17:28:40 MDT Print View

Very nice. Doing this trip with my freediving/spearfishing gear would be a blast. Perhaps this Fall. Thanks for the writeup.

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
TCT on 08/06/2014 17:54:38 MDT Print View

Ok, that is an officially awesome trip. I've done some sea kayaking out there, but no real hiking. Would be great to put an itinerary together hopping a few islands. Nothing like waking up on a beach while backpacking (instead of sleeping on the trail in some chaparral!). Thanks!

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: SUL Thru-Hiking the Trans Catalina Trail on 08/06/2014 21:39:45 MDT Print View

Great trip Andy! That looks like a really cool island.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Re: SUL Thru-Hiking the Trans Catalina Trail on 08/06/2014 22:01:54 MDT Print View

Great trip. Out there south of Two Harbors doing some fieldwork April '13 (staying in accommodations), we saw backpackers but wondered where they got their water ... mystery solved. Unique place.

Chris S
(csteutterman) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: SUL Thru-Hiking the Trans Catalina Trail on 08/07/2014 15:01:54 MDT Print View

Good stuff, Andy! That looks like a perfect complement to the usual Sierra trips.

"I woke to the sound of small waves crashing on the sand"

It doesn't get much better than that!

Michael Schwartz
(greenwalk) - MLife

Locale: PA & Ireland
SUL Thru-Hiking the Trans Catalina Trail on 08/07/2014 15:17:37 MDT Print View

Great vid. Really enjoyed your trip report and images. The only problem is that now I have to add the TCT to my walk wish list ;-)

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: SUL Thru-Hiking the Trans Catalina Trail on 08/07/2014 16:02:50 MDT Print View

very cool
did this in 1999 and 2005, with award winning Sierra Designs Meteor Light CD lightweight tent-2P meant 9 lbs, also returned home with +6 lbs of food. Packed my fears? Perhaps I thought I would starve :)

To this day my friend and I joke that Catalina was MUCH more effort than Gorgonio, those never ending rolling hills.

Every photo is postcard quality

Good times

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
TCT best time of year? food/water? on 08/07/2014 16:07:37 MDT Print View

Anyone want to chime in on when is the best time of year to do this hike? I know it can be foggy and/or rainy (occasionally), but I assume anytime from maybe November to March might be good?

Any what's the quick version of food/water resupply locations/strategy?

Edited by DaveT on 08/07/2014 16:08:37 MDT.

Andy Duncan
(bluewater) - M

Locale: SoCal
SUL Thru-Hiking the Trans Catalina Trail / TCT best time of year? food/water? on 08/07/2014 17:18:56 MDT Print View

Thanks everybody for your replies! Seriously, as a mostly solo hiker it is always cool to get feedback from the BPL community. Very much appreciated.

@Nico: Your recent Channel Islands trip report was the final motivation I needed to take this trip. Fortunately I didn't get the windy conditions that you endured that one night. I will check out some of the islands to the north next year.

Finishing the Catalina Marathon on those fire roads is impressive. Everything I read beforehand stressed the challenging climbs. I did the math on the elevation gain per mile and it is crazy. Much harder than the JMT:

TCT: 265'/mile
JMT: 190'/mile

@Craig: There was a medium sized group at Parsons Landing that was spearfishing all morning. Freediving, surfing Ben Weston, fish cookouts and sleeping on the beach. Doesn't get much better.

@Roger: Having done San Gorgonio I agree that those never ending hills on Catalina were more of a daily challenge.

@Dave: I did this trip in February, just after a week of rain and it was beautiful. The lows on the beach at night were mild but it got up to 88 most days, and it felt like a desert. Anything after March can get well in to the 90's.

I took my wife back for an overnight at Little Harbor in July. She suffered in the 95 degree heat on the hike out.

A good strategy is to go southbound. Most people go northbound from Avalon and suffer. The southeast facing slopes on the climb out of Avalon are brutal in the morning and afternoon.

I started at Two Harbors and hiked to the north end at Starlight Beach, then camped at Parsons Beach. Water and fire wood were waiting at Parsons Beach (included in reservation). This was the longest stretch without water. ~13 miles.

From Parsons I took the flat 7 mile trail along the coastline back to Two Harbors. Picked up a food resupply (they will hold it for you at the visitor center) and hiked to Little Harbor. There was water at Little Harbor. ~14 miles.

Next day I hiked to Blackjack Camp in the interior of the island. Great sunset views! There was water and food at the Airport in the Sky and water at Blackjack. ~13 miles.

Last day I hiked to Avalon. There was water at the Wrigley Playground along the way. Once on the ridge it's an easy downhill hike all the way down to Avalon.

Water sources going southbound:

Creek above Black Point (seasonal)
Parsons Landing (with reservation)
Emerald Bay (private)
Two Harbors
Little Harbor
Airport in the Sky
Blackjack Camp
Wrigley Playground

For ferry logistics first I left a car in Dana Point, then took public trans to San Pedro and caught the first ferry to Two Harbors. After finishing in Avalon I took the last ferry to Dana Point and drove home.

Have fun!

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
TCT on 08/07/2014 17:34:58 MDT Print View

Time to book a Jet Blue flight for wintertime.