Wanna Camp Catalina: A Local’s Guide to Camping on Catalina Island

Hey there, fellow nature seekers! If you’re gearing up for the 2024 camping season on Catalina Island, we’ve got all the info you need. As a local, I’m here to give you the scoop on each camping spot Catalina Island has to offer. I will cover how to get there and what to expect when there.

photo courtesy of visitcatalinaisland.com

Two Harbors: Where Adventure Begins

How to Get There: Take a Ferry from San Pedro or Long Beach – The most common way to reach Two Harbors on Catalina Island is by taking a ferry from either San Pedro or Long Beach. Both cities have ferry terminals that offer regular services to Two Harbors.

Arrive at Two Harbors: The ferry will drop you off at the Two Harbors pier.

Transportation to the Campground: Once you arrive at Two Harbors, you can either hike or take a shuttle to the campground. It’s approximately 0.6 miles, a relatively short walk taking around 10-15 minutes depending on your pace. Alternatively, you can arrange for a shuttle service through the Catalina Island Conservancy, which operates during the summer months.

Camp at Two Harbors Campground: Set up your campsite at Two Harbors Campground and enjoy the natural beauty of Catalina Island, overlooking the small town. There you will find extended amenities like hot private showers, a laundry facility, a restaurant, and a bar, with live music in the summer months, and a general store with groceries. The campground offers amenities such as tent sites, picnic tables, fire rings, and pit toilets.

Experience Three Unique Camping Experiences: Just 1/4 mile from Two Harbors and moments away from the beach is the Two Harbors Campground which offers two varieties of camping: traditional tent camping and unique tent cabins. All camping options give you access to showers, chemical toilets, fresh water, picnic tables, BBQs, and fire pits.

Purchase your favorite food and drinks from the Two Harbors General Store and have your items delivered directly to your campsite at Two Harbors Campground. Pick up a single-use cooler from the Two Harbors General Store and stock up on groceries like fresh fruit and vegetables, hot dogs, sandwich items, beer, wine, and more! We’ll deliver your cooler with a bag of ice to the Two Harbors Campground for $35 and to Little Harbor for $40.

Make sure to book your ferry tickets and campground reservations in advance, especially during the peak season, as Catalina Island can get crowded.

photo courtesy of visitcatalinaisland.com

Hermit Gulch: Tranquility in Proximity

Take a ferry to Avalon on Catalina Island from Long Beach. From Avalon, catch a shuttle or hike to the campground, which is about 1.5 miles uphill from Avalon.

Amenities: Hermit Gulch offers a range of amenities to ensure a comfortable stay. Tent sites are equipped with picnic tables and fire rings for outdoor cooking and relaxation. Restrooms with flush toilets, drinking water, and coin-operated showers are available for campers’ convenience. For those seeking a more comfortable camping experience, tent cabin sites are available, complete with army cots, propane stoves, lanterns, and picnic tables. Additionally, campers can stock up on essentials at the campground’s small country store. Nearby, campers can explore the island’s stunning hiking trails, including the Hermit Gulch hiking trail located at the back of the campsite.

Convenient Location: Nestled near the charming town of Avalon, Hermit Gulch Campground offers a blend of nature and convenience. Enjoy the island’s offerings while being close to Avalon’s amenities. Additionally, campers can take advantage of the trolley service back and forth to town for ease and convenience, making it simple to access groceries, shopping, restaurants, tours, sightseeing, and nightlife.

photo courtesy of catalinaconservancy.org

3. Little Harbor: Nature’s Playground (Our Personal Favorite)

How to Get There: Accessible by a trip into Two Harbors by boat and catching on-island transportation, or a 6.5-mile walk from Two Harbors pier or 19 miles from Avalon.

Described as “One of the Best Campgrounds in the West” by Sunset Magazine, Little Harbor Campground is an ideal choice for beach-loving campers seeking water activities. Situated on a sandy beachfront along a secluded bay, this picturesque campground offers ample opportunities for recreation. Nestled on Catalina’s remote “backside,” it stands as the sole campground in this area, making it a favored destination for nature enthusiasts. Additionally, it serves as a stop along the renowned 38.5-mile Trans-Catalina Trail hike for those passing through. Like to surf? Shark Harbor is just next door and offers surf during certain times of the year.

Purchase your favorite food and drinks from the Two Harbors General Store and have your items delivered directly to your campsite at Little Harbor. Pick up a single-use cooler from the Two Harbors General Store and stock up on groceries like fresh fruit and vegetables, hot dogs, sandwich items, beverages, and more! They deliver your cooler with a bag of ice to Little Harbor for $35. Glamping! There is no mystery as to why you will find many locals camping here.

Little Harbor offers stunning coastal views, clear turquoise waters, and ample opportunities for outdoor activities like swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and diving.

Let’s take a quick break
After roughing it, lugging heavy packs and sleeping on the ground, why not treat yourself to some well-deserved (pain management, LOL)? Let’s be honest… after hours of hiking and beach-combing, those feet are going to be barking! We at Catalina Sea Spa Watch Here offer the remedy. Conveniently located near all transportation hubs in Avalon, including the ferry, Catalina Conservancy (where you pick up your camping permits), and on-island shuttle services, Catalina Sea Spa provides the perfect opportunity to not only restore but also pamper yourself before starting or heading back home from your Catalina Island getaway. So why not hit us up and leave the island feeling refreshed and rejuvenated?

photo courtesy of Fresh off the Grid

4. Parsons Landing: Secluded Blis

To reach Parsons Landing, catch the ferry to Avalon and then proceed to Two Harbors. From there, you can either hike or take a shuttle to reach Parsons Landing, a secluded beach campground located seven miles west of the village of Two Harbors. Its eight primitive sites can accommodate up to eight people each and are accessible by a strenuous 6.7-mile hike on the Silver Peak Trail or a 7.7-mile walk on the West End Road. Kayaking is also an option, with a distance of 4.25 miles by water from Two Harbors to Parsons Landing. Kayaks are available for rent from the Two Harbors Dive Shop.

Parsons Landing is also part of the popular 38.5-mile Trans-Catalina Trail, offering a rugged hike across the island’s interior. Lockers pre-stocked with one bundle of firewood, one fire starter, and a 2-gallon jug of water are available for purchase for $27.

Amenities at Parsons Landing include basic facilities such as pit toilets, beach camping areas, drinking water, fire rings, and picnic tables. Accessible by a picturesque trail or kayak, Parsons Landing promises secluded bliss surrounded by the sounds of the ocean.

photo courtesy of Fresh off the Grid

5. Black Jack: Summit Serenity

To reach the Campground, take the Catalina Express ferry from San Pedro directly to Two Harbors. From there, campers can hike, take a shuttle, or rent a mountain bike to reach the campground. Situated amidst pine and eucalyptus trees near Mt. Orizaba, the highest point on Catalina Island, Black Jack Campground provides a tranquil camping experience in the heart of the island. With an elevation of 1,600 feet above sea level, the campground boasts 10 sites offering sweeping views of the rolling terrain and the ocean, making it one of the stops along the 38.5-mile Trans-Catalina Trail.

The amenities at Black Jack Campground include picnic tables, showers, fresh water, chemical toilets, and cold water outdoor showers. However, it’s important to note that BBQs and fire rings are not permitted for use due to high fire danger.

For those seeking a unique camping experience at Catalina’s highest peak, Black Jack Campground offers serene mountaintop views and a tranquil atmosphere, making it distinct from other camping options on the island. Campers can check in at the Two Harbors Visitor Service Center in Two Harbors. If coming from Avalon, campers do not have to check in. Your camping reservation serves as your camping/hiking permit.

6. Boat Accessible Beach Spots:
Catalina Island offers a unique and secluded camping experience accessible only by boat or kayak along its leeward shore. The nine primitive boat-in campsites, including Ripper’s Cove, Paradise Cove, and Lava Wall, lack amenities like running water and moorings. Campers must bring their own equipment and pack out trash, with cooking restricted to camp stoves or self-contained BBQs due to fire regulations.

Nightly camping fees range from $25 per adult to $16 per child, with minimum stay requirements on weekends and holidays. Adverse weather conditions may lead to closures, and campers are advised to check with Two Harbors Visitor Services for updates. Strict enforcement of fire rules and daily ranger patrols ensure safety, while rental options for kayaks are available for exploring the island’s waters.

For those with boating privileges, explore numerous small beaches scattered around the island. While there are no amenities, enjoy exclusive access to your own snorkel and fishing beach for a few days. Anchor your boat close to shore and ferry your gear with a kayak. Truly unique!

Whether you’re setting up camp near Two Harbors, in the heart of Avalon at Hermit Gulch, enjoying nature’s playground at Little Harbor, finding secluded bliss at Parsons Landing, or summiting serenity at Black Jack – Catalina’s camping scene has something for every adventurer. Pack your gear, make reservations in advance, and get ready for a Catalina camping experience like no other! And if your dogs are barking from hiking boots laced a little bit too tight, come visit us at Catalina Sea Spa for our famous 30-minute foot massage! Check out our recent blog post regarding Hiking Spots in Catalina Island!

Warning! These 7 Mistakes Will Destroy Your Catalina Island Hiking Trip