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Trans Catalina Trail (TCT)

Difficult
 4.6 (24) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

The Trans-Catalina Trail is a challenging thru-hike across the length of Catalina Island.


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Map Key

39.6

Miles

63.7

KM

Point to Point

1,735' 529 m

High

11' 3 m

Low

6,992' 2,131 m

Up

6,949' 2,118 m

Down

7%

Avg Grade (4°)

38%

Max Grade (21°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Views · Wildlife

The trails are closed during stormy weather.

Overview

The Trans-Catalina Trail stretches from the Renton Mine Trailhead on the east end to Parson's Landing on the west end. It winds up hills and down valleys offering spectacular views across the 43,000-acre Nature Preserve of the Catalina Island Conservancy. Hikers can enjoy the full length of the trail. You may hike a single leg of the trail or tackle it in its entirety over multiple days. Camping is available at certain points of the trail. Catalina Island Conservancy members receive a 50% discount on camping fees at Black Jack, Little Harbor, and Parson's Landing campgrounds.

Need to Know

Bring plenty of water. Water is available at Haypress junction, Little Harbor, and Two Harbors. Purchase a locker key, which gives you access to a bundle of wood and 2.5 gallons of water, with your Parson's Landing camping reservation.

Description

First, get to Avalon via Catalina Express, Catalina Flyer, Island Express Helicopter Service, or Airport in the Sky. If planning the thru-hike, leave from San Pedro so you can return from Two Harbors.

There are two trailheads in Avalon. The first is the true trailhead at Renton Mine Road. Hike Pebbly Beach Road to Renton Mine Road. The trailhead will be on your right.

Recommended: The second trailhead out of Avalon begins at the Hermit Gulch Campgrounds in Avalon Canyon. The Hermit Gulch Trail will take you up to Divide Road. Turn right and follow the TCT through Haypress picnic area, past Middle Ranch Road, past Cape Canyon to the Black Jack Campground. Camp for the night.

From Black Jack Campground, you'll cross the expansive Cottonwood Canyon.

As you approach the Airport, you'll pass a 2,000-year-old soapstone quarry with bowls excavated by Catalinas first residents, the Tongva, still visible. When you reach the Airport in the Sky, this is a good opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy refreshments from the DC-3 Gifts and Grill.

Exit the airport and continue along the Airport Loop section of the TCT until you get to the Empire Landing Road, then turn left. In about a mile, youll turn onto the Sheep Chute Road portion of the TCT. To your left across Buffalo Springs Canyon, you'll see El Rancho Escondido. Follow the trail to Little Harbor to set-up camp for the night. This is the easiest section of the trail and will give you time to enjoy the beach at Little Harbor.

At the northwest corner of the Little Harbor Campground, take the trail west to the top of the ridge. You'll then head north. Follow the trail markers to the Tower Peak Radio Site on the Banning House Road. You can purchase lunch in Two Harbors to reduce weight in your pack.

From the Two Harbors campsite, you make your way south, across the Isthmus to the Silver Peak Trail portion of the TCT. This is a very challenging portion of the TCT, but one of the most rewarding.

The trail drops you into Parson's Landing Campground. This is a secluded beach camping site. Running water is not provided; you must pack in your supplies, or arrange to have your equipment delivered. If backpacking, camp for the night and do the final leg of the trail back to Two Harbors the following day. Follow the road back for a less strenuous route. Book your return boat to San Pedro through the Catalina Express.

Flora & Fauna

Catalina Island has at least 61 endemic species and subspecies, including eight plants, five mammals, three birds, and 45 invertebrates.

Keep an eye out for the Catalina Island Fox and Bald Eagles.

Rattlesnakes are native to the island. Depending on the temperature, they may reside under or on top of warm rocks, or be found curled up by the side of the road. Avoid them.

Bison can be encountered on all parts of the trail east of the Isthmus. If you encounter bison, move slowly and steadily around them, keeping at least 150 feet away.

Contacts

Shared By:

Spencer Campbell with improvements by Andrew Snyder

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 24 votes

#1

in Avalon

#407

Overall
  4.6 from 24 votes
5 Star
71%
4 Star
17%
3 Star
13%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in Avalon

#67

in California

#407

Overall
41 Views Last Month
12,206 Since Jan 4, 2016
Difficult

0%
0%
4%
4%
83%
9%

Photos

A Santa Catalina Island Fox noses through the grass just off trail.
Jul 4, 2017 near Avalon, CA
Hiking the TCT.
Jan 12, 2016 near Avalon, CA
The TCT traverses this interesting landscape.
Jul 4, 2017 near Avalon, CA
A Santa Catalina Island Fox Pup trots down the trail.
Jul 4, 2017 near Avalon, CA
TCT backpacking.
Jan 5, 2016 near Avalon, CA
Top end of the Hermit Gulch Trail, looking west (and up!) to the gazebo/lookout on Divide Road, on a rainy January morning. This trail is steep!
May 27, 2019 near Avalon, CA

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

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All Clear 29 days ago See History
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Check-Ins

Sep 24, 2021
Kyle Chau
Blackjack camp. It's a decent camp with drinking water and bathrooms — 17h 13m
Mar 6, 2021
Andrew Snyder
Excellent trail, good signage, many water stops. Trip report with pics: https://photoselevated.com/trip-reports/hiking-the-trans-catalina-trail 38.5mi — 72h 00m
Aug 23, 2020
Chase Lipovac
Took the road shortcut to join the trail further along and make it to Black Jack Camp. 9.4mi — 4h 28m
Dec 26, 2019
Simon Williams
Aug 16, 2019
Trish M
Jun 3, 2019
Renee Auradou
39mi
May 4, 2019
Alessandro Falessi
Apr 28, 2019
Jeff Illions
39.6mi