The stunning village of Avalon perched on Catalina Island offers so many outdoor sights and must-sees that it can be challenging to know where to even start! With so much to do and see, we will make it easy for those looking to reconnect with nature by providing a list of the five best Catalina hiking trails.
Before beginning your Catalina hiking adventure, get your free hiking permit through the Catalina Island Conservancy. It is easy, quick, and free! And, as always, we would love to host your stay after your long day of exploring our breathtaking island.
We’d like to offer some general hiking tips before getting into our recommended trails. First and foremost- bring lots of water and snacks with you while you’re out and about. Salty snacks are great for ensuring water is properly absorbed into your bloodstream. Electrolytes can also help with proper hydration.
There is not a lot of shade around the island; wearing a brimmed hat (and lightweight long-sleeve sun shirt for longer hikes) means you’re less likely to get sunburnt and don’t have to apply sunscreen as often.
Proper footwear can make all the difference on your journey! Tennis shoes are fine for paved trails, but hiking boots or trail runners are a nice option for rougher trails. If you plan on carrying a bigger backpack, get boots with ankle support. For trails with a lot of elevation gain, try hiking poles to relieve your knees of stress.
Without further ado, we present the five best Catalina hiking trails!
1. Avalon Bay Trail
Rated: Easy | Length: 0.8 miles | Type: Out & Back
The Avalon Bay Trail is the perfect starting-off place for every level of hiker. The leisurely, laid-back ambiance is perfect for a short stroll along the bay. Whether you are hoping to catch the sunrise over the sparkling water in the east or end the night with soothing, pastel colors, this is the perfect trail to do. This paved trail is handicap-friendly, completely flat, and right downtown, making it easily accessible for locals and travelers alike. (No permit from Conservancy required.)
2. Catalina Chimes Tower
Rated: Easy | Length: 1.4 miles | Type: Loop
More of a walk than a hike, Catalina Chimes Tower trail is a paved path located a 3-minute drive or 0.5 mile walk away from The Hotel if you want to make your walk an extra mile longer. The Chimes Tower has been in operation since 1925 and rings every 15 minutes from 8 am to 8 pm. The history of The Chimes Tower makes for an interesting read if you’re interested.
3. Garden to Sky Trail
Rated: Moderate | Length: 2.8 miles | Type: Out & Back
On the outskirts of our beloved Avalon village, the Garden to Sky Trail is one of our favorite short and close hikes. Starting at the Wrigley Memorial Botanicals (expect to pay a small entrance fee), this trail is a steady incline with a 730-foot gain in elevation up from a beautiful view of the botanical garden that hosts a huge variety of cactus, succulents, and island endemic and native plants. This trail connects to a summit road and reveals a stunning view of the open Pacific Ocean towards Hawaii and views down the windward side of Catalina Island and back down to the garden from the “sky” – hence the name. Rated as moderate, this short hike is perfect for those looking for a good workout that is short and sweet, with an incredibly rewarding view at the end. The trailhead for this hike is approximately 1.5 miles from The Avalon Hotel and Avalon City Center.
4. Stage Road to Divide Road to Hermit Gulch Trail
Rated: Challenging | Length: 8.2 miles | Type: loop
Check out the Stage Rd to Divide Rd to Hermit Gulch Trail, just a few minutes from the hotel, for a longer adventure. This moderately rated trail is a local favorite, providing some spectacular 360 views. There are some steep spots on this loop trail, with over 1700 feet of elevation change, so we recommend wearing good shoes, bringing lots of water, a snack lunch, and taking breaks when needed. You should also budget at least 4 hours to complete and get started in the cool of the morning. One of our favorite spots on the trail is the extraordinary views from Lone Tree Point. Whether you hike the entire trail or just some of it, you will not regret seeing the island from such a beautiful vantage point.
5. Trans Catalina Trail
Rated: Hard | Length: 38.5 miles | Type: out & back
Are you looking for the hiking adventure of a lifetime? Plan a trip to Catalina Island to hike the Trans-Catalina Trail. Many adventurers hike the trail over the course of 3-5 days, depending on skill level and pace. If you want to explore Catalina in its entirety, this is the trail for you. We recommend starting at Two-Harbors and ending with a well-deserved stay at the Avalon Hotel. Not looking to hike the whole trail? Check out some of the suggested increments (linked above) that can be done as a day trip or just a quick stroll!
There you have it! Catalina Island has so many beautiful natural landscapes that we work hard to both appreciate and conserve: Make sure to follow the Leave No Trace Principles to help us do both! We hope this short and sweet list of some of the best Catalina hiking trails helps you get started when planning your island getaway.
After a long day out and about in nature, there is nothing better than sitting back, relaxing, and indulging in a crisp, clean, boutique hotel experience. Let us treat you to some post-adventure comfort.