I was researching a trip along the Trans Catalina Trail, but after reading the route descriptions, it sounded like all of the really beautiful stuff was on the tail end of the trail, and that a lot of people wished they had spent more time in Little Harbor. So when it came time to decide what I wanted to do for my birthday this year, I planned out an exploration of the Two Harbors side of Catalina Island. Bonus: my boat ride would be free if we left on my birthday!
Our itinerary would take us first over to Parson’s Landing for two nights. We arrived in Two Harbors in the late morning, and got one last hot meal before we headed out along the Trans Catalina Trail to our campsite. The first half mile or so was pretty easy as we crossed the isthmus, but then the trail turned a bend and we were going up, up, up a fire road. With a 30 lb pack (me; 40 lbs for Jon) it was a major butt burner and pretty grueling right there in the beginning. The trail took us along the ridge line, offering awesome ocean views. Almost worse than the uphill though was the long, steep descent into our campground. I actually had to run a bit because it was so hard on your knees to stop yourself on the downhill.
When we arrived at Parson’s Landing, there was just one other camper there. It was wonderful solitude. One of the great things about hiking on Catalina is that you can pay for firewood, which is delivered to your campground! So we were able to enjoy a nice fire in the evening, made even nicer on my birthday by a box of wine that Jon surprised me with!
Hike Details: Trans Catalina Trail from Two Harbors to Parson’s Landing
Distance: 6.86 miles
Time: 2 hours 51 minutes
No backpacks today! We were day hiking to the end of the Trans Catalina Trail, to Starlight Beach. The trail today was similar to yesterday – lots of ups and downs along the ridge lines. Our destination made it totally worth it, a sandy stretch of land above the water – all to ourselves!! We relaxed, read, ate lunch, maybe a little nap in the sun… it was wonderful.
The only low point of the day was getting back to camp and finding that the critters had broken into our tent and found our food sacks. Thankfully we didn’t lose too much food, but it was a bummer nonetheless!
Hike Details: Trans Catalina Trail from Parson’s Landing to Starlight Beach
Distance: 9.62 miles (round trip)
Time: 3 hours 24 minutes (moving)
The third day of our trip would be our biggest hiking day – we needed to get back to Two Harbors, then all the way to Little Harbor. With our packs. For our hike back to Two Harbors, we took a different route along the coast that was surprisingly flat compared to all the hills we’d been hiking. It was so nice to not be grinding up and down hills!! And the views were phenomenal. It was a perfect blue sky day and the water was so clear – Jon could see the Garibaldi fish down in the water below us!!
Hike Details: Parson’s Landing to Two Harbors via West End Road
Distance: 7.6 miles
Time: 2 hours 30 minutes (moving)
Once back in Two Harbors, we took a lunch break, charged our phones and freshened up with a glorious shower. After a decent break, we headed out to Little Harbor. Very quickly, the easy hiking was over. It was up, up, up and then up some more. It was a longer climb that we had done either of the previous two days. This side of the island was more “fields” than the Parson’s Landing side, so it felt very different. And we were hiking ridge lines along the coast, so the views were even better! This truly is a very beautiful section of the island, and definitely worth the hard work.
We stopped at a gazebo after the first very long climbs, and shortly after a Ranger drove up to us asking if we needed assistance. (I guess some hikers had called for help.) We ended up having a great conversation with him, and learned a lot about the island. Eventually, we had to get going though or else we’d be making it to the campground in the dark! Thankfully, we made it before sun-down, and were able to setup camp and head out to the beach to catch the tail end of the sunset.
Hike Details: Trans Catalina Trail from Two Harbors to Little Harbor
Distance: 5.73 miles
Time: 2 hours 26 minutes (moving)
Our fourth day was Saturday, and the day that one of my best girlfriends, Stephanie, and her husband would be joining us at Little Harbor. They wouldn’t be arriving until afternoon, so Jon and I took the time in the morning to go explore a bit, hiking out to Ben Weston Beach. Along the way we passed many bison, two were right along the road we were hiking on!! I sang them a song so that we didn’t scare them (although some may say that my singing voice may have scared them more). They are so huge! You definitely wouldn’t want one coming at you.
At the end of the road above Ben Weston Beach, we found an old bunker. Jon climbed down to explore, and it was pretty cool! After a snack break, it was time to head back!
Hike Details: Little Harbor to Ben Weston Beach via unknown name road/trail
Distance: 6.55 miles
Time: 2 hours 5 minutes (moving)
When Stephanie and Daniel arrived, we went exploring the beach and hiked up to the bison. Stephanie loves animals too, so I knew she’d love being able to see them so close! At sunset, we hiked up to this overlook we had passed yesterday to watch the sunset, and it was amazing! The photos simply don’t do it justice, and only captured a fraction of how good it was.
On our final day! We had a leisurely morning around camp, taking our time to pack up since it was threatening to rain. Which it ultimately did, but thankfully not too bad since the trail would’ve been a dangerous mess if it had gotten really muddy – especially with all the downhills a head of us. We had to wait until the shuttle arrived to take Stephanie and Daniel’s camping gear back before we headed out, but as soon as the gear was picked up, we were off! We had a bit of a time crunch since we had to be back by a certain time to catch our boat. Thankfully, we made much better time than I had anticipated, so we were able to relax a bit and enjoy a beer or two before catching the boat ride home.
Hike Details: Little Harbor to Two Harbors
Distance: 5.66 miles
Time: 2 hours 16 minutes
Our trip to Catalina turned out even better than I imagined. It was challenging but beautiful. We got to recharge our batteries and truly disconnect, which was wonderful. I could’ve stayed out there for at least a few more days, although it was good to get going right when the rain came in. So perhaps it all worked out for the best, since camping in the rain isn’t very fun!