If you've never been to Catalina, here's a crash course on the main attractions of Avalon, a few of which were included in the above video. Downtown Avalon's Crescent Avenue is where all of the shopping and dining is centered, and with street performing newly legalized, there is always something happening. Green Pier is home to the glass bottom boat and submarine, as well as opportunities for parasailing, diving and boating. Further north, the Casino and Descanso Beach are popular tourist destinations, especially with the new addition of the zip-line, and the Chimes Tower overlooking the Casino provides an excellent view over downtown. To the South, Lover's Cove is a great snorkeling spot, and the Wrigley Terrace Road leading up to the Inn at Mt. Ada is by far the best view of the beach and casino. A bike is the best mode of transportation, but the climb up to Chimes Tower and the Mt. Ada Inn are challenging for the average rider, and it is imperative to remember to bring a bike lock.
|View from Wrigley Terrace Road beneath the Mt. Ada Inn|
|The Catalina Express in Avalon Harbor|
The Hermit Gulch Campground is just past the Catalina Company's visitor center, and is nestled off the road to the right. The campground is made up of 43 sites, each with its own picnic table. Fire wood, charcoal, propane, and ice can be purchased from the rangers, and flush toilets and coin-operated showers are provided. A quick note - the house off to the right when you first enter the campground from Avalon Canyon Road IS NOT the ranger station, it is actually someone's house. Don't be one of the clueless tourists like I was and ring the doorbell of the house, the resident will just point out the obvious ranger kiosk and remind you to read the sign. After checking in with the Ranger, you will be allowed to survey the campsites available and pick the one you want (remember - when you make reservations, whether online or over the phone, don't be puzzled by your inability to select a campsite, you will select it in person). For this reason, it is advantageous to take an early boat over and grab a good campsite before the campground fills up in the afternoon.
|Hermit Gulch Campground|
|Our Campsite, #22|
The best part of this campsite is it's proximity to the Hermit Gulch Trail (the trailhead is actually at the back of the campground). The trail is 1.7 miles almost straight up the hill until it meets with the Catalina Divide Trail. The hike is pretty tough, but well worth the excellent views of the canyon and Avalon. Once on the Catalina Divide Trail, you can hike in a loop that eventually reaches Avalon, although it is about 8 miles. The trail generally follows the ridges on the highest mountains above the canyon, and there are multiple side trails that enable you to see the other side of the island and the eastern coastline. I highly recommend dedicating at least a day to hiking, the beauty and the views are well worth the effort. Just remember to pack your sunscreen and wear the appropriate footgear - the Divide Trail is a well maintained fire road, but I don't recommend trekking 8 miles in vans! More information on the Divide Trail and other hiking opportunities can be viewed here.
Overall, Hermit Gulch is a campsite worth visiting. Although not the most "rustic" of campgrounds or the most private, camping here is a great experience, if nothing more then because of the beautiful location and the proximity to opportunities for adventure. Either way, if you want to camp on Catalina near the town of Avalon, you have no other choice, Hermit Gulch is the only campground. For more information and reservations, visit the Hermit Gulch website here.