37 Mile Trans-Catalina Trail Opens to Public

There's something very different about hiking on the interior of Catalina Island, something you can't get on the plethora of trails immediately surrounding Los Angeles. It's the deafening sound of silence—that ever-present rumble of freeways we are so used to on the mainland is no where to be heard on Catalina, where this past weekend a new 37.2 mile cross-island trail opened to the public.

It was 1956 when Thad Jones, Dick Lyon (one of the first ever Navy Seals) and Dr. Steve Royce—all in their early 30s—jumped off a boat, swam to shore on the island's East end, scaled a wall, and ran, walked and bushwhacked their way through to the island's other end. "They didn't even have water, they just took off," said Brad Avery of the Thad Jones Hikers, the first group to hike the new Trans-Catalina Trail. Eleven and a half hours later, Jones and the other two swam from Catalina's West end to the boat waiting for them.

It took Avery and his group of hikers two days to complete the trail, which the Catalina Island Conservancy predicts could take up to four days. "The trail is just awesome," Avery said as he explained the many different terrains the trail comes across, something the LA Times discovered on their journey last week.

LA County Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents Catalina, does not let his staff or county employees make policy or attempt to fix the island without visiting. "I always tell everyone you have to go touch and feel Catalina Island," he told a crowd Saturday at the trails official opening. "You can't treat it like Cerritos or Long Beach or Bell Gardens or any other of those places... It's always amazing when you get planners or public works folks here for the first time, not only in the City of Avalon, but into the interior. They realize for the first time in their life, 'golly I didn't know it was like this over here."

Only 100,000 of the estimated one million annual tourists actually see the interior. Most visitors come to Catalina to hit the beaches and bed and breakfasts. But within the 76-square mile island, there are 200 miles of trails, campgrounds, the endangered Catalina Island fox, bison and a variety of terrain to explore.

"Don't feel like you have to get prepared and do the whole thing in one shot," recommends Kevin Ryan, the trail coordinator for the Conservancy. "Do it as you feel best." As for more trails, Ryan says they are already planning improvements and a lot of new few mile loops--especially from campgrounds--to the Trans-Catalina Trail.

For Avery and his hikers, who very well may be the first to do those new loop trails, this trip was eye opening, he said. "The only way to really understand Catalina is to do the trail."

Hikers will need to get a free permit from the Conservancy to hike, as well as cyclists, who are allowed to use portions of the trail along with alternative routes. Camping reservations are $10.