November 16, 2017 at 6:15 pm #399646Becky LParticipant
I really enjoy hiking and camping but have never been backpacking! I recently purchased my first backpack and camping stove and am eager to plan my first adventure. I have never been to Catalina and couldn’t imagine a better way to explore it. I was wondering if you think the TCT is a good choice for my first trip? I plan to go with a friend (who has never done it either). I am comfortable ‘roughing it’ and walking long distances, but I’m not experienced with: what to bring, how to prepare/pack, and how to gain fresh water (although reading your post it appears there is water at each campsite – so would I need to bring a water filtration system?). I’m not afraid of a challenge but want to make sure I set myself up for success!
I enjoyed reading your post about the trail, it really made me want to hike this trail!
BeckyNovember 17, 2017 at 10:25 am #399649Jeff HKeymaster
Hi Becky and welcome to SoCalHiker!
The Trans-Catalina Trail is beautiful, and feels like a world away from the rest of SoCal. It was my girlfriend’s first backpacking trip when we were training for the JMT. In some ways it’s a great first trip.
Note that the route has changed and our guide has not yet been updated to reflect the change. The changes make it easier, and reduce the total mileage hiked. Previously the trail “ended” at Starlight Beach — a full 9 miles from Two Harbors — and that “extra” milage back to town wasn’t considered part of the trail. Now it actually ends back at Two Harbors, so the mileage for the TCT is an accurate reflection of the miles you’ll hike.
As for water, no need to filter or treat. And yes, water is part of the deal when you book your campsites. A few of the campsites have water on tap, and those that do not, a locker is provided where you’ll pick up your supply of bottled water. The system works pretty well.
Be prepared for cold, damp nights and hot, sunny days (unless it’s raining). And have a blast!November 27, 2017 at 5:18 pm #399714Marc MParticipant
I just completed the TCT in October and it was my first true backpacking experience. It’s relatively straightforward to plan, and the Catalina Conservancy can help you out with the camp sites, and misc advice (they told me to zip up [closed] my tent from bottom to top in order to prevent foxes from opening any zipper along the bottom and crawling in your sleeping back with you). There is running water (spigot) at the campgrounds and Parsons Landing is where you can have a jug of water and firewood reserved for you, so there is really not much need for filtration. The route DID change somewhat at the end of September as I found out accidentally, so just be sure you get an updated map from the conservancy. Then take a camera and enjoy the fantastic views!
Oh, and I HIGHLY recommend to spend some time hiking with a fully loaded backpack as a form of conditioning. Otherwise you’ll feel compelled to simply lay down in the middle of the trail. Like I did, many times. lol
-marcNovember 28, 2017 at 6:22 pm #399726Becky LParticipant
Thanks for your input. I went to the website to look for campsite reservations for 2018, and it was completely booked through the entire year! Is this something that you had to face, also? Are some of these campsites meant for backpackers only? Are there any first come first serve sites?November 29, 2017 at 7:11 am #399735Marc MParticipant
Wow, I just looked and got the same results: nothing available ever! I would suggest calling them. Something doesn’t smell right. For my October trip, I booked my campsites in June or July and only had to work around Two Harbors being booked but that was because there was a festival going on one night. Otherwise everything was wide open. The nights we were there, the campgrounds still had tons of vacancies.March 12, 2019 at 10:10 pm #406697Lorne CParticipant
Planning to do it over spring break (30/MAR – 5/APR) with my kids (12 and 15). We are planning it over six days so will take our time. This is their first time on anything more than an overnight. Looking forward to it. I haven’t done it before myself so hoping for a great experience for the kids.
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