Campsite name: Little Harbor Campground on Catalina Island, Californa
Camping is only allowed in designated campgrounds on Catalina Island. There is a 4-5 day trail called the Trans-Catalina Trail that traverses the entire island. This 40-mile trail is epic but not easy. If you are wanting to taste what adventures this island has for you why not take a shorter option and stay at Little Harbor campsite? After departing the ferry at Two Harbors you will hike 5 miles to Little Harbor. This campsite was named “One of the best Campgrounds in the West” by Sunset Magazine. No wonder it is one of the most beautiful campgrounds in California.
Camping type: Backcountry Campground
Campsite opening hours: Check-in time is 2 pm and check-out time is 11 am. Quiet times are from 10 pm to 9 am.
Booking Link: Due to the popularity of this campsite you will need to make a reservation in advance. You can book your backcountry campground through the Catalina Island Tourism site. However, if you encounter issues with your booking or if you have any questions feel free to call them on 310.510.4205
Once you have made your booking make sure you know what your campsite number is before you arrive at your campground. If you are able to secure a site right on the waterfront that is the best option as they are the most scenic.
Fees: The price of the sites varies depending on the season. However, they extend from $21 per night to $27 per night. A cheaper rate is available for children and weekends have a two-night minimum stay. There is a $9.25 service fee if you book online or over the phone.
You will also have to pay for the ferry to and from the island and an entrance fee so don’t forget to add this to your trip budget. Top tip: If you join the Catalina Conservancy you will get 50% off your camping reservation.
Facilities: This campsite overlooks the ocean on the backside of Catalina Island. It is the largest campsite on the island with 26 sites. The campground is not situated on the beach however it does have beach access from the campground.
There is drinkable water, cold showers, shade structures and portable toilets available. Fires are permitted at the site however you will have to reserve your firewood when you book your site to make sure you have it available upon arrival.
Camping Month: You can hike on Catalina Island all year round due to the mild Californian temperature. However, it is recommended to explore this island in early winter or late winter. However, depending on the rainfall spring may also be a great time to visit. The trail is exposed and there is minimal shade available. This is why we do not recommend that you hike for extended periods of time during the summer months. Winter is also the low season on the island so it is cheaper and there are fewer day hikers and tourists.
Gear: If you do not own backcountry camping gear then you can rent it from the Two Harbors Visitor Services. Due to COVID-19 regulations tents are no longer available for rent.
Additional items that are required for this trail include:
- Sun Protection: Even if you are visiting the island in the winter months there is such little shade on the island it is important to have sufficient sun protection. These include a hat, sunscreen and even a lightweight hiking umbrella. Having an umbrella can lower the temperature by up to 15 degrees. This will be a lifesaver when there is very little shade on the entire island.
- Hiking Poles: The island features many steep sections so having your poles to take the weight off your knees and to keep you upright is important.
Food: Typically for backcountry campgrounds you have to be fully self-sufficient. However, uncommonly you can reserve water and firewood to be waiting for you in a locker upon your arrival. At the Little Harbor Campground, you can also have an ice chest with food delivered. This will help to ease the load that you have to carry and make packing a lot easier.
On Catalina Island, there are real food stops that you pass through. One of the favorite stops is the Catalina Airport which is well known for serving delicious breakfast burritos and bison burgers for lunch. There is a general store in Two Harbors where you can pick up additional snacks and food. If you are traveling during the off-season the general store typically closes as early as 3 pm some days.
There is an option of hiring Catalina Backcountry who will transport your gear from each campsite for you. This will allow you to simply enjoy the views without worrying about the weight of your backpack.
There are no bears on the island so you will not need to use a bear canister. However we do recommend using the critter boxes that are available at the campgrounds. You want to avoid accidentally feeding the wildlife at all costs. Protecting your food from foxes and crows is easy if you make use of the critter boxes.
Lookout Spot: The best lookout spot is found during the hike. After roughly two hours of hiking, you will reach a sheltered picnic table that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The views are breathtaking and look over the northern parts of the island. This trail offers some of the best hiking views in California.
Activities: Catalina Island offers beautiful scenery with a vast array of outdoor activities. These include diving, snorkeling, wildlife spotting and hiking.
Highlight: The hike from Two Harbors is a moderately strenuous 5.14-mile hike along the Trans-Catalina Trail. This hike features stunning views and is the highlight of the backcountry trip. Many hikers who complete the entire Trans-Catalina Trail say that their favorite stretch was the section between Two Harbor to Little Harbor.
Tips: Our biggest tip for your Californian hiking adventure is to prepare for possible wildlife encounters. There is a staggering abundance of wildlife on the Island. The two main animals that you need to keep an eye out for are the Bison and Rattlesnakes. It is recommended to be knowledgeable and read up on wildlife safety before you start your adventure. Keep an eye out for bald eagles and the Catalina Island fox as well.
Bison however are very large wild animals that can cause serious injury or even death in some circumstances. It is important to show them respect and to never approach, touch or try to feed a wild bison. If you feel threatened by a bison, find an escape route. Attempt to place a large object between yourself and the creature. This could be a tree, rock or car. Allow the bison to access an escape route that allows it to leave the encounter without coming close to you. It is important to not corner a bison or to box it in. Please report any unusual bison behavior to the Rangers at 310.510.2595