“The Trans-Catalina Trail is a challenging thru-run across the length of Catalina Island.
— Spencer Campbell
Views · Wildlife
The Trans-Catalina Trail stretches from the Renton Mine Trailhead on the east end to Starlight Beach 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. Runners can enjoy the full length of the trail. You may run 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.
The trails are closed during stormy weather.
Need to Know
Bring plenty of water. Water is available at Haypress junction, Little Harbor, and Two Harbors. Purchase a locker key, which included a bundle of wood and 2.5 gallons of water, with your Parson's Landing camping reservation.
First, get to Avalon via Catalina Express, Catalina Flyer, Island Express Helicopter Service, or Airport in the Sky. If planning the thru-run, 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
. Run Pebbly Beach Road to Renton Mine Road
. The trailhead will be on your right.
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 the following day.
Now that you made it this far, you might as well go the distance to Starlight Beach for bragging rights if nothing else. The additional ten miles you'll spend running to Starlight Beach, then back again to Parsons Landing is definitely worth it for the vistas, but also to be able to say you traversed the entire Trans-Catalina Trail! Either camp a second night at Parson's Landing or make the run back to Two Harbors. 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.