Cherry Cove & Catalina Harbor Loop (Catalina Island)

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This post is made possible with support from the Catalina Island Conservancy.

Ocean view from Water Tank Road, Catalina Island
Catalina Harbor from the Trans Catalina Trail

 Cherry Cove & Catalina Harbor Loop (Catalina Island)

    • Location: Two Harbors, Catalina Island.  Catalina Express operates boats to Two Harbors from San Pedro.  (Catalina Express also offers transportation from Long Beach and Dana Point at certain times of year; check their site for more information.)  This loop can be done entirely on foot from the dock at Two Harbors.  A free permit is required, available online here or at the Two Harbors Visitor Service Office (phone 310-510-4205).
    • Agency: Catalina Island Conservancy
    • Distance: 7 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Steepness, distance, elevation gain)
    • Suggested time: 4 hours from arrival at Two Harbors
    • Best season: All year (hot during the summer)
    • USGS topo map: Santa Catalina North
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat; sunblock; dramamine (boat ride)
    • More information: Trail map here; Two Habors information here
    • Rating: 8

The village of Two Harbors is located at the “Isthmus”, a point on the northwestern end of Santa Catalina Island where the land measures only half a mile across.  For those who find Avalon a little “touristy”, Two Harbors is a nice alternative.  This long loop explores some of Catalina’s west end, taking in nice views of the coast on both sides of the island.

Regardless of which direction you hike, this route requires some steep climbing. Done counter-clockwise, as described here, you have a couple of nice easy miles before getting down to business.

From the dock, head right, across the beach and past the picnic tables, to a path that ascends steeply past some houses. A short climb brings you to West End Road, your route for the next two miles. Head right, and make your way along the side of the island. You get nice views of Fourth of July Cove, and then Cherry Cove, both of which are homes to summer camp facilities. At Cherry Cove, you get to enjoy some of the only shade on the hike courtesy of some Catalina cherry trees, native to the island.

After two miles of mild ascent, you reach an area known as Lion’s Head, a peninsula which provides some nice views. Here, head left on the Goat Whiskers Trail, one of the few true single-tracks on Catalina. The trail is steep and exposed, but as you climb, you are rewarded with great views of the ocean.

The Goat Whiskers Trail follows a ridge line, ascending about 700 feet in just over a mile. This brings you to the Water Tank Road, and your life doesn’t get any easier (although the intersection is a nice place to stop and enjoy the scenery). Head left, and climb another 400 feet to a knoll. Then you begin a steep descent, followed by a more gradual ascent. (Stay left as a road branches off to the right). En route, you can see the summits of Blackjack Mountain and Orizaba Mountain, and you get a glimpse of the island’s west side.

At 4.5 miles from the start, you arrive at the Trans Catalina Trail. Turn left and begin a steep descent, enjoying some nice views. You go through a canyon which provides solitude and and a little bit of shade. The trail levels out briefly in a meadow, where there’s a picnic table. Mt. Torquemada towers above the field to the south. You continue the descent, arriving at long, narrow Catalina Harbor. The last mile ascends slightly and then heads downhill, passing by a few beaches and buildings before arriving back in Two Harbors.

If you have time, you can enjoy a snack or a drink at the Patio Bar, or the Two Harbors General Store. The tables by the beach make a nice post-hike relaxation experience.

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.

One comment

  1. Gudday! I’m planning on sailing my boat out to Catalina for the first time and was researching Goat Harbor which led me to your blog. Over at I blog about places I have gone to or are planning on going to (or just dreaming of!) I wonder if you would be interested in doing a little guest blogging over there? We’d love to have you and then I could pick your brain as I plan my own trip. let me know if you are interested.

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