Trans-Catalina Trail

Trans-Catalina Trail

| campsite on the first night. |

Over the long Memorial Day weekend Dom, Elle and I set off to hike the western part of the Trans-Catalina Trail (TCT). As we only had three days to complete the hike, including driving and timing with the ferry schedule, we opted to start the hike from Two Harbors and complete a loop of the northwestern part of the island, instead of rushing to hike the entirety of the trail down to Avalon.

Trans-Catalina Trail Panorama

| panorama on the trans-catalina trail. |

We set off from San Diego on Saturday morning, grabbed lunch at an Italian deli in Long Beach, and caught a 12:30 ferry from San Pedro to Two Harbors. We set off along the Silver Peak Trail, making camp in the early evening in a spot with a nice view at the side of the trail.


| elle staying warm while making dinner. |

Tent Views

| morning view of the windward coast of the island from my tent door. |

On the second day we opted to diverge from the official TCT to continue along the Silver Peak Trail and summit Silver Peak, the highest point on the northwest part of the island, missing a short segment of the TCT from the Silver Peak trail junction to Parsons Landing. While not a high peak by any standards at 1806 feet, the peak is still quite prominent and the trail is very steep.

Trans-Catalina Trail Map

| trans-catalina trail map. source: catalina island conservancy. |

The TCT trail developers seem to be religiously-opposed to switchbacks, and despite the absolute elevation gain being significantly less than much of the hiking I’ve done in the Sierras, the trails had some of the steepest grades I’ve ever experienced. There were times I considered that crawling would have been easier than trying to walk upright on the trail.

Trans-Catalina Trail

| hiking towards the summit. |


| southward view from the summit of silver peak. |

After lunch and a rest on the Silver Peak summit, we continued northwest, rejoining the TCT and completing the short out-and-back hike to the trail’s western terminus at Starlight Beach. It was quite late in the afternoon by the time we reached Starlight Beach, and at this point we realized we were perilously low on water, my 10L drom having been forgotten in the car as we rushed to meet the ferry, with no water sources along the desertous trail.

We made camp off the trail near Black Point, using all but a few mouthfuls of our water to cook our dehydrated meals for dinner. We made a plan to get up very early the next morning to make it back to Two Harbors before the day got too hot.

West End

| near the west end of the island. just look at that beautiful kelp. if I owned one of those boats I'd be diving that kelp all day. |

In the morning we rose with the sun, spying a teeny-tiny Santa Catalina Island fox outside the tent, much to Dom’s squealing delight.

We began to book it back along the trail towards Two Harbors, continuing what was to become a long-standing friendly bickering match between Dom (a Swiss Alps mountaineer) and me (a Southern California hiker) over the correct daily per-person amount of water to bring on a hike. (“Do you see any snow around here to melt, Dom??”)

Luckily the morning was overcast and cool, and we made incredibly good time, reaching the trail junction with Fenceline Road at Parsons Landing — the TCT segment that we skipped the day before when we took the trail up Silver Peak — a bit after 8am. We found a spigot labeled for wilderness firefighting near the junction, and Dom chugged about a liter of the water. He offered me some and I took a sip and immediately spat it all over. I’m not sure if the water was treated with some sort of flame retardant chemical or if it was just regular graywater, but it tasted disgusting, and Elle and I worried for awhile whether Dom was going to drop dead or get sick, but he was fine.

At this point we were only around 8 miles away from Two Harbors along the West End Road, a significantly flatter and easier walk than the TCT. By mid-morning the sun started to burn off the clouds and it started getting hotter. We hiked at a good clip, enjoying the views of the coast and the Scout camps and occasional yacht club nestled in the coves below, making it back to Two Harbors before 11am, the now-scorching sun beating down on our backs. Dom gleefully pointed out to me that he still had a couple of mouthfuls of water left in his Nalgene, at which I rolled my eyes. Then there was ice water aplenty from the main restaurant in town, lunch on an outdoor deck overlooking the harbor, and an afternoon ferry ride back to the mainland, over as quickly as it had begun.

Estimated mileage: ~21 miles start to finish

Trans-Catalina Trail

Trans-Catalina Trail

| desert island colors. |