Bikepack Catalina Island

43.5 miles 5700 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Aaron Rickel

Load up your bike, hop on the Catalina Express, and ride across Catalina Island into the wild west—just an hour from Los Angeles

This is a great introductory overnight bikepacking adventure. With restaurants, water, and stores at each end of the ride, your packing list is minimal. Head out on Saturday morning and make it back in time for dinner on Sunday evening.

Packing List

  • Your Bike – I did this ride on my drop bar gravel bike with WTB Horizon Road Plus tires and loved it. Take whichever bike you are most comfortable with.
  • Tent or Tarp (I opted for the lightweight tarp option)
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Sleeping Bag/Quilt
  • Warm Clothes
  • Sun Protection (the ride is e x p o s e d)
  • Water (at least 2L, many refill opportunities on the route)
  • Snacks
  • Headlamp

Optional Stuff

  • Backpacking Stove (I only brought it for hot coffee in the campsite, but you could opt to bring food and cook your own meals.)
  • Swimwear (if you plan on jumping in the ocean)
  • Bike Lock (there are bikes everywhere and it's pretty easy to keep your bike in sight even while you eat and explore, but if it makes you more comfortable bring one)

Secure Your Campsite

Weekends on Catalina Island can get busy, so either book your campsite well in advance or consider taking a weekday excursion. For this trip you'll want to get a site at Two Harbors Campground. Yes, I have a favorite site at Two Harbors. No, I'm not going to spoil it here. Poke around on a map to see which ones look best to you.

Campsites are $28/night, plus some online fees. The grand total for one night is $39.63.

Book your campsite at Two Harbors here.

Book Your Ferry Tickets

You're going to want an early start. I opted for the 8:15a ferry from Long Beach to Avalon (but they start as early as 6:00a) and a return trip at 6:15p from Avalon to Long Beach. If you end up getting back early you can switch to an earlier ferry for a $5 change fee.

Tickets are $37.50 one-way plus a bike fee of $3.50. All in, $81.50 gets you and your bike there and back.

Book your ferry tickets here.


     DAY 1

7:45a - Arrive at Long Beach Harbor

8:15a - Depart for Avalon, Catalina Island

9:15a - Arrive at Avalon, Catalina Island

9:30a - Pick up a Conservancy Friends Pass at 125 Clarissa Avenue, Avalon. It's near the ferry dock, you can't miss it. To use a bicycle outside the town of Avalon you must pay for a wilderness pass. Bad news: It's $35. Good news: It goes to a great cause and is good for an entire year. You might want to pick up a paper map here for $3 as well, just in case.

10:00a - Hit the road! This is the route you will be following. The climb out of Avalon is steep! 3 miles with 1,500 ft. elevation gain. After this you'll have about 10 miles of lightly rolling hills and truly spectacular views ahead of you. Take your time and enjoy the scenery. If you're lucky you might catch a glimpse of one of the island's 150 bison

12:00p - Refill water and stop for lunch 10 miles into your ride at the Airport In The Sky.

3:00p - Arrive at Two Harbors Campground. Set up camp, jump in the ocean, and relax! Depending on the time of year and your energy levels, there is tons to do on this end of the island. Rent kayaks, SUP boards, snorkel gear and more a quarter mile up the road in the town of Two Harbors.

6:00p - Cruise into town for dinner and a post-ride beer. There's only one restaurant in town – you can't miss it. Prices were surprisingly affordable!

     DAY 2 

Morning - You know the route now, so leave at a time that feels comfortable to you! I chose to make coffee and ride out to Parson's landing in the morning before eating a breakfast burrito at Two Harbors.

Alternate Return Route - I chose to return through Middle Ranch. This route offers a more gradual climb to the other side of the island, plus some really beautiful views from within the island's interior.

Afternoon/Evening - Make sure you make it back in time to catch your ferry. Arrive ~30 minutes before departure. I ended up getting back into town around 3:00p and wandered around Avalon for a few hours until hopping on the 6:15p ferry back to Long Beach.

Total Cost

  • $81.50 Ferry Tickets
  • $39.63 Campsite
  • $35 Backcountry Pass
  • ~$45 Lunch, Dinner, and a beer

Right around $200 for a full weekend of adventure.

Helpful Tips & Alternate Options

  • Talk. To. The. Locals. I learned about a few lesser-known vistas and side roads to venture down from a guy named Carl as I waited in line for coffee the first morning. I'm not going to spoil his secrets here.
  • Go the extra 7 miles and camp at Parson's Landing. It's much smaller and quieter than Two Harbors. If you don't camp there, at least make the relatively flat ride out the point—the views are worth it.
  • You could do the trip in one day if you ferried into Avalon in the morning and out of Two Harbors in the evening. You could also extend the trip and stay at other campgrounds on the Island. Do some research and make an itinerary that works for you!
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🥇Top Contributor

2 months ago

Galapagos of North America

Very similar to the Galapagos islands. If you're out west and have the ability to come check it out, I highly recommend it.

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