This post is made possible with support from the Catalina Island Conservancy.
Airport Loop Trail
- Location: Airport in the Sky, Santa Catalina Island. Catalina Express operates boats to Avalon from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point. Catalina Flyer operates boats from Newport Beach to Avalon and Two Harbors. Once in Avalon, walk to the Conservancy office at 125 Claressa Ave for your free hiking permit. Then, walk to the nearby Island Plaza to pick up the bus. The schedule is always subject to change, and while reservations are not required, it is recommended that you call them at least an hour in advance, at 310-510-0143, to confirm that you will have a ride.
- Agency: Catalina Island Conservancy
- Distance: 2.3 miles
- Elevation gain: 250 feet
- Difficulty Rating: G
- Suggested time: 1 hour, plus travel time from Avalon or Two Harbors to the airport.
- Best season: Year-round (hot during the summer)
- USGS topo map: “Santa Catalina”
- Recommended gear: Sunblock; Sun Hat; Dramamine (boat ride)
- More information: Airport area trail map here; bus schedule here (call 310-510-0143 for up-to-date fare and schedule information); Airport in the Sky info here
- Rating: 7
Ten road miles from Avalon, Catalina Island’s Airport in the Sky offers great views of the island’s interior, a chance to get up close to some small planes, a nature center, and a short hiking trail. If you’re making a trip to Catalina Island, the airport and the loop trail make a nice excursion. The route is easy for inexperienced hikers–but veterans will enjoy it too, undoubtedly finding it to be different from most mainland trails.
From the drop-off area, head back out toward the road, past the vintage hangar. At the junction with Rancho Escondido Road, look for a trail heading downhill. You’ll meet up with the Airport Loop trail (which, at this point, is also the Trans Catalina Trail.) The hike is described here going clockwise (although you can do it either way).
Head right, enjoying nice views of Blackjack and Orizaba Mountains, the two highest points on the island, across deep Cottonwood Canyon. After crossing the road again, you climb a ridge and can see the western end of the island. You descend briefly and pass by Buffalo Springs Reservoir.
Just under a mile into the hike, you’ll arrive at a T-junction where the Trans Catalina Trail branches off to the left and heads downhill toward Little Harbor and Two Harbors. Turn right, and follow the trail as it parallels the dirt road. (You can also walk on the road if you prefer). For the next half mile, you get great views of the island’s eastern shoreline. There are a few spots where the trail is a little tough to follow; just keep in mind that it closely parallels the road.
You’ll cross the paved road again, and continue toward a junction where you rejoin the Trans Catalina Trail. Turn right and head uphill, passing a soapstone quarry where interpretive plaques describe how the natives used this resource. A few switchbacks bring you back up to the airport.
Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.