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Can the Trans-Catalina trail be conquered in a weekend?

June 24, 2010 |  3:12 pm

The Trans-Catalina Island trail opened last year, giving hikers the chance to see the entire island for the first time. If that sounds like a good backpacking trip, you have a couple of options: pay to hike it with a group such as Coastwalk, or have a go of it on your own.

I chose the latter. The Coastwalk trip, beginning this weekend, costs $600 per person and spans six days and five nights. The trail is about 36 miles long, and the highest elevation is about 2,000 feet -- which doesn't sound too intimidating at first. But although Coastwalk stretches the trek out to almost a week, the nonprofit warns:

The Trans-Catalina Coastwalk is rated strenuous because of the high mileage covered each day, the need to be able to carry a large amount of water and the elevation gain/loss.  Weather this time of year is usually pleasant, but Catalina is truly a desert island, dry and exposed.  This event is not suitable for children, and walkers must submit recent hiking and fitness history.


The problem is, who has $600 and six days to spare for a nearby backpacking trip? Like many people, I have a full-time job and only two weeks of vacation per year.

So after buying my hiking permit and booking my campsites more than a month ago, I'm heading to Catalina tomorrow on the first ferry of the day. My boyfriend and I may cross paths with the Coastwalk hikers, but we'll be attempting the hike in half the time -- three days and two nights. And unlike the group, we'll be carrying our own gear and food on our backs.

Online testimonials warn me of several things -- wandering buffalo, steep trails without switchbacks and lots of exposure. But I've never been to Catalina, and I'm not going to pass up the chance, even if my schedule can accommodate only three days.

Check in next week for my report on the trip. Is it reasonable to hike the entire island if you have only a weekend? Or will I wimp out and hop on the Safari bus?

-- Clare Abreu

Photo: The Trans-Catalina trail, looking north from Two Harbors. Credit: teamg42 on flickr

Next: Backpacking the Trans-Catalina trail in a weekend, Day 1