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Catalina backpacking

The town of Avalon on Catalina Island

Pristine beaches, world class snorkling and beautiful hiking are difficult to find in the same place, but in Southern California, you can find all three on Catalina Island.  Located just over 20 miles off the Los Angeles coast, Catalina  never suffered the massive development of sprawling Southern California.  As a result, it's an incredible place to escape from the city, and it only takes an hour long boat ride from ports at Marina del Rey, San Pedro, Long Beach and Newport Beach.

Catalina has five main campgrounds spread across the island as well as eleven primitive beach campgrounds accessible only by boat or kayak. Of the main campgrounds, Hermit Gulch is located within the main town of Avalon while Two Harbors Campground is adjacent to the village of Two Harbors on the other side of the island.  While camping near a town might not seem desirable, the advantage is closer access to services like bike, snorkling and scuba rentals. Several small hiking trails can be found out of both sites.

Further off the beaten track, Little Harbor Campground is a beach-side location on the west side of the island.  It's possible to take a bus here (which runs infrequently) or to make the hike from Avalon (16miles) or Two Harbors (about 7 miles).  Prepurchased equipment rentals are also available here.

The two most primitive campgrounds are Black Jack and Parson's Landing.  Located in the center of the island close to the highest point, Black Jack sits nestled in a pine forest, 1.3 miles from the main road which cuts across the island; numerous hiking trails spread out from around the campground which can be combined into various hiking loops.  Parson's landing sits close to the island's far north point.  Located on the beach, the site is a seven mile hike from Two Harbors.  While wonderfully remote, even for Catalina, the site does not have fresh water so it's necessary to pack in enough for drinking and washing up.

In addition to these main campgrounds, numerous boat in campgrounds exist along the North/Eastern coast of the island between Avalon and Two Harbors. Since one of Catalina's main attractions lies beneath the water, this is a great way to copbine camping with kayaking, snorkling and swimming.

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