Catalina Island, CA: Ballast Point Loop

Warm up alongside Cat Harbor before a steep ascent—900 feet in 0.4 miles—to Ballast Point. This 3-miler loops east of Cat Harbor to a vantage point overlooking Two Harbors and a string of other islands.
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Warm up alongside Cat Harbor before a steep ascent—900 feet in 0.4 miles—to Ballast Point. This 3-miler loops east of Cat Harbor to a vantage point overlooking Two Harbors and a string of other islands.

A popular day-hike for boaters and campers visiting Two Harbors, this challenging three-mile loop is offers the best (relatively) easy-access overlooks of the town. Begin at the bus stop near the bathrooms and hike the road, past the playground and past the Two Harbors Yacht Club (one of the island's oldest buildings). On the south side of the isthmus, bear left onto the side road that crosses a grassy field. Though this route sticks to the wide dirt road, if the tide is low, consider cruising the rocky beach instead. At mile 1, the road splits and this route turns uphill on narrow single-track that cuts across the hillside on your left. It's a steep climb and as you approach the island's edge, you'll notice erosion damage. Stick to solid ground and don't get close to the crumbling cliff edge as you climb. After 15-20 huff-and-puff minutes, you'll arrive atop the rocky, open apex of Ballast Point which overlooks Two Harbors and offers up-close views of Catalina's rugged "backside." ON a clear day, you'll likely see nearby San Clements Island. Relax for a few minutes before following the road that makes up this route's return trip.
The island's dry, desert-like climate is prime habitat for rattlesnakes, and there is no drinking water anywhere on the route. Be sure to bring your own and let someone know where you're headed. -Mapped by Kristy Holland

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 4.9

Waypoints

BAL001

Location: 33.440893, -118.49825

Begin hiking from the bus stop and bathrooms just uphill from the Two Harbors visitor center. You'll follow the road south, past the little red schoolhouse and continue toward Catalina (Cat) Harbor.

BAL002

Location: 33.437338, -118.500265

Bear left on the road that crosses toward the east side of the harbor. You might spot a resident rouge bison or a group of locals playing softball as you cruise past the big, dirt field and continue on the palm-lined road.

BAL003

Location: 33.429345, -118.504533

The road grade is gently rolling until this point where the road splits, just before the 1-mile mark. If you'd like to add a little distance, take the 0.3-mile round-trip on the uphill road that ends at a bench on Lower Ballast Point. This route turns uphill onto a small trail that begins gaining elevation very quickly.

BAL004

Location: 33.428106, -118.504082

The singletrack footpah rises quickly through the grassy hillside. Watch for sunning rattlesnakes and branch left when you can. You'll trace a decrepit fenceline as you climb and it's steep, rocky and loose in places.

BAL005

Location: 33.425245, -118.499308

There's a rocky outcropping at the top of the hill. Watch your footing as you peek over the edge and into the Pacific and look for the endemic Catalina Live forever on the rocky cliffs. This road-end viewpoint is a popular destination for locals and visitors, but it's still likely you'll have it to yourself for at least a few minutes. When you're ready to move on, follow the rolling road that traces the ridge line heading northeast.

BAL006

Location: 33.428236, -118.492548

Follow the road downhill as it turns east but before hitting the low point in the dip, bear left onto the trail. If it's been a wet winter, the grassy path might be hard to find. If it looks overgrown, you can easily loop around on the road instead.

BAL007

Location: 33.429578, -118.491202

At mile 2, you'll hit Banning House Road. Follow it downhill toward town, but look left for birds-eye views of Catalina Harbor and right for 25-mile views of Los Angeles. Stay straight on the main road and head for the eucalyptus grove up ahead as you make the steep descent.

BAL008

Location: 33.43744, -118.497076

You'll pass below the Banning House, Two Harbor's only hotel, for the final stretch of the descent. The Banning House is a popular spot for Island weddings and it hosts weekly happy hours during the summer--check with the visitors center for details.

BAL009

Location: 33.439643, -118.499136

At the bottom of the hill, turn right to bypass the little red schoolhouse and return to town.

Little Red Schoolhouse

Location: 33.439696, -118.498895

You'll pass this one-room school for the Isthmus kids (grades K-6) twice.

Cat Harbor

Location: 33.435882, -118.501089

The wide, muddy beach at the back of Cat Harbor is a good place to explore at low tide. Lots of things wash up.

Trail

Location: 33.430653, -118.50405

From the road warm-up, you can see the beginning of the big climb.

Erosion

Location: 33.427323, -118.502719

Stay clear of the edge.

Top

Location: 33.425174, -118.499372

Looking down the trail that this route follows to the top of the hill.

Cat Head

Location: 33.425174, -118.499329

Looking over Cat Head toward the island's west end.

Fence

Location: 33.42786, -118.49581

Passers by have decorated this old, barbed wire fence with words and jokes. The beach is that way... but it's about 1,000 downhill.

Road

Location: 33.43051, -118.492334

The downhill leg of the loop follows an old road. Look behind you for this view of the radio tower, another popular day-hike destination.