Things to Do on Catalina Island

Hiking: Catalina Island Hiking

Exploring the Interior of Catalina Island on Foot

"Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow," observed the great American nature writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau. Indeed, a vigorous hike through nature has the amazing ability to stimulate our minds and our spirits as much as it does our bodies.

With 76 square miles of land mass (that's an impressive 48,640 acres), Catalina Island holds forth a seemingly limitless variety of opportunities to help your own thoughts begin to flow. Hiking trails can lead you to secluded beaches; through secluded woodlands and breeze-swept grasslands; up and down dramatic canyons; and along mountain ridgelines surrounded by breathtaking panoramas. There are opportunities for brief, easy hikes that can please generally desk-bound visitors in good health; longer rambles through more varied terrain for folks of more robust fitness levels; and challenging off-trail adventures for experienced hikers in the peak of fitness. Those interested in turning a hike into an overnight backpacking and camping experience will also find organized campgrounds throughout the island, ready to welcome overnight stays.

Best of all, these hiking and backpacking trails are accessible to all visitors, provided you pick up a free hiking permit in person from the Catalina Island Conservancy. Once you have the permit, you are ready to set out on the trail of your choice, whether you plan to explore Catalina for just a few hours or for an overnight backpacking adventure.

Preparing to Hike on Catalina Island
You must register for and pick up your free hiking permit in person from the Catalina Island Conservancy at one of four locations: Conservancy House in Avalon at 125 Claressa Avenue 310-510-2595; the Catalina Island Interpretive Center, located 1 mile up Avalon Canyon Road from the harbor 310-510-2514; Catalina's Airport in the Sky 310-510-0143; or the Two Harbors Visitor Information Center 800-785-8425.

It's a good idea to stop at the Conservancy House to buy a map of the island's roads and trail, or to pick one up elsewhere on the island before you set out. Be sure to talk with attendants wherever you pick up your permit to get advice about the best routes to suit your interests and abilities.

One great way to start a day hike or a longer overnight backpacking trip is to catch the 7:30 a.m. airport van from Tour Bus Plaza in the heart of Avalon. If you've planned ahead, you can ask the driver to drop you off anywhere along the route to catch the trail you want; or head all the way to the airport, have a bite at its cafe, and then head back to Avalon or anywhere else in the island that might be your destination. The Catalina Safari shuttle bus and Catalina Transportation Services can also take you to other destinations on the island to start your hiking or backpacking.

Whatever hiking option you choose, always keep your safety and those of your companions well in mind. Wear good walking shoes and clothing appropriate to the weather and terrain. Bring along plenty of water, especially on hot summer days, and wear sunscreen and a hat. And be aware that there is poison oak in the island's creek beds and canyons, and that rattlesnakes also live on the island, observing proper precautions at all times.

Time to Allow: All day.
Transportation reservations are recommended.
Prices and availability are subject to change.