Nov 16, 2019

State: CA
Distance: 25.5 mi
Gain: 4,500 ft
Peaks: 2

1,747 ft
472 ft
1,560 ft
385 ft

I had been to Catalina Island a few years ago to hike a modified version of the Trans-Catalina Trail. On that trip I had done some cross country through the Grand Canyon of Catalina and continued north to the small beach town of Two Harbors. There were a few peaks I had missed on that trip, including Cactus Peak on the west side of the island, and all of the peaks north of Two Harbors. I was planning to return to the island with the family over a long weekend, and made plans to visit the remaining peaks on the island.

Hermit Gulch Trail

Cactus Peak lies in a fairly remote area on the west side of the island, accessible by a network of old ranch roads that run throughout the island. We rented mountain bikes from Brown’s Bikes in Avalon, which would make the long out-and-back on dirt roads quicker and more enjoyable. After getting the bikes and the annual conservancy permit, we headed south towards Avalon Canyon. There was a half-marathon that had started earlier that day, but by the time we started riding a majority of the runners were already on the main ridge above town. We took the Hermit Gulch Trail to reach the main ridge, and while this was a nice enough hiking trail, it was not well suited for bikes. We ended up pushing our bikes for a majority of the climb, reaching the top near an aid station for the race.

A pleasant ride on the ridge. Catalina Harbor visible in the distance.

Once on the main ridge, the riding became much more enjoyable. Rolling hills and good road surface led several miles to Haypress Reservoir. I had seen a large herd of bison here during my previous visit, but on this trip only noticed one standing on a distant hillside. Shortly after the reservoir we reached the turnoff for Cactus Peak, which shows up as Renton Pass Road on some maps. On the way out we made a short detour to Peak 1747, then continued down the ridge towards Cactus Peak. Along the way, there were nice views down the coast to the Palisades, as well as the large undeveloped area around Salta Verde Point.

Avalon Harbor

The road eventually led to the base of Cactus Peak. A short hike up the hillside led to the summit. There were good views up the coast towards the Two Harbors area, which we planned to visit the following day. After enjoying the views, we returned to bikes, riding all but a few of the steeper hills on the way back to main road. The final section of road leading down to Avalon is paved and switchbacks steeply down to the harbor. Part way down we came across a small fox standing in the middle of the road – the Island Gray Fox, indigenous to the Catalina Islands. He stood there watching us as we took some pictures, then moved a few feet over to the side of the road and laid down, looking quite relaxed. We continued down the hill, passing a group zip lining down the mountain, then road through the busy streets of Avalon on our way to drop the bikes off.