Catalina Island, CA: Loop to Goat Whiskers

Climb 1,100 feet along Catalina Island's west-end ridge on this 6.5-mile loop that cruises three west-end coves en route to an ice-cream window finish in Two Harbors.
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Climb 1,100 feet along Catalina Island's west-end ridge on this 6.5-mile loop that cruises three west-end coves en route to an ice-cream window finish in Two Harbors.

From the bus stop in Two Harbors, this hike heads south on a 0.4-mile warm-up before turning uphill just short of Cat Harbor’s muddy beach. The steep, steady climb begins on double-track, but turns quickly to a loose-surfaced footpath shooting straight up the side of the mountain. The views of the isthmus get better as you climb, so don’t feel bad about stopping to catch your breath. The climb mellows at the top of the ridge and you'll roll over a few easy hills before reaching the trail's high point; an open dirt clearing where several trails merge. Turn left to follow the north-leading trail downhill to Lion's Head.

The Goat Whiskers trail intersects the West End Road at mile 3.8, on Cherry Cove’s west side. Be sure to take a few minutes to explore or picnic on the point before heading back to Two Harbors on the flat, winding road. You’ll skirt Cherry and Fourth of July coves—look for old mines along the road’s righthand side—before rounding a final bend into the Isthmus. A short cut trail turns downhill just past the wooden bench above town, spitting you out a few minutes from the Two Harbors General Store where you can snag a well-earned ice-cream cone.

-Mapped by Frannie Finley

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 10.4

Waypoints

LGW001

Location: 33.4409, -118.49858

Begin this hike from the bus stop, just behind the public restrooms, and walk southwest towards Cat Harbor. Stick to the footpath alongside the road and watch for traffic from Isthmus work trucks and the town's 250 residents.

LGW002

Location: 33.4391233, -118.5006166

After passing the Isthmus Yacht Club (one of the island's oldest buildings) on your left, look for the rope swing in this eucalyptus grove.

LGW003

Location: 33.43671, -118.50215

Before reaching the Cat Harbor beach, follow this well-trod path on the right. This point marks the beginning of a long uphill climb.

LGW004

Location: 33.43662, -118.50411

About 200 yards from the road, turn right onto a smaller footpath that leads uphill along the side of the mountain.

LGW005

Location: 33.44035, -118.50662

Hang out for a few minutes in this scrub-oak-suspended hammock. You'll appreciate the opportunity for a mid-climb breather and amazing isthmus views.

LGW006

Location: 33.439819, -118.50836

After the hammock-adorned rest stop the trail curves west along the edge of the hill and turns sharply right toward the spine of the west end.

LGW007

Location: 33.44261, -118.50874

As you near the top of the hill, stay to the left. The right-leading trail follows a steep ridge downhill and back to town.

LGW008

Location: 33.44735, -118.52558

A final, short climb from the ridge ends at this route's high point, 2.3 miles from the trailhead and just over 1,100 feet above sea level. From the large dirt circle, this route turns north and begins the long downhill trek to Lion's Head.

LGW009

Location: 33.452, -118.52192

Turn right at this Y-junction, to follow the Goat Whiskers trail. Between 1990 and 2004 the Catalina Island Conservancy, the organization that manages the island's fragile ecosystem, removed more than 8,200 non-native goats from the island.

LGW010

Location: 33.45218, -118.50506

At mile 3.8 the singletrack trail joins the road above the Cherry Cove Boy Scout Camp. Stop for a quick exploration of the winding trails atop Lion's Head and look to the water for glimpses of the bright-orange Garibaldi (California's state fish) swimming in the kelp below. Stick to the main road to turn back toward town. All the cove camps are private property and do not take kindly to trespassing hikers who stray from the winding road.

LGW011

Location: 33.44868, -118.50079

It's just under 1.5 miles along the road from Lion's Head to this bench and lookout above Fourth of July Cove. The wide road is nearly flat, but watch for occasional cars and quads traveling the windy road between west-end camps and the town of Two Harbors.

LGW012

Location: 33.44337, -118.50026

After passing through an old gate and beneath a eucalyptus tree, turn downhill on the well-trod path past several private residences. This path is steep and can be very loose, especially near the top. Watch your step, or continue above town on the main road and add just a quarter-mile to your trip.

LGW013

Location: 33.4416077, -118.4990072

End your hike with an ice-cream cone from the Two Harbor's General Store. The window for a hand-scooped cone is open from early summer through October, but there is ice-cream inside all year long.

Isthmus Cove

Location: 33.443331, -118.5002089

Full of moored boats on an overcast summer day. © Frannie Finley

Foot Path

Location: 33.4408422, -118.4985459

This sign near the Two Harbors bus stop points pedestrians to the footpath paralleling the road. © Frannie Finley

Road

Location: 33.4398216, -118.4995115

You'll cross this dirt road near the Isthmus Yacht Club and continue on the wider road across Catalina's skinniest point. © Frannie Finley

Begin Uphill

Location: 33.4368671, -118.5023654

Follow this dirt doubletrack that takes off of the Cat Harbor Road about 0.4 miles from the trailhead. © Frannie Finley

Cat Harbor

Location: 33.4376371, -118.5042644

As you begin climbing be sure to stop and look around for great views, like this southwest angle showing Cat Head on the right and Ballast Point on the left. © Frannie Finley

Ridge

Location: 33.4365985, -118.5038781

This small footpath branches off the larger one, just above the Cat Harbor Road. © Frannie Finley

Hammock

Location: 33.4403946, -118.5064316

A rest- and viewpoint rolled into one. © Frannie Finley

Marker

Location: 33.443152, -118.5087168

Don't disturb this geodetic survey marker, it's a signal to hikers that the worst of the climb is over and there are only a few rolling hills before the trail's highpoint. © Frannie Finley

Lemonade Berry

Location: 33.4434385, -118.5095

The ridgetop trail is lined, and sometimes overgrown with lemonade berry, sage and prickly pear cactus, but once you've reached the ridge, the climbing mellows and there are well-deserved downhill interruptions. © Frannie Finley

Rocky

Location: 33.4456228, -118.5191774

Though most of the ridge-top trail is smooth and easy to follow, there are one or two rocky sections where you'll need to watch your step. © Frannie Finley

View

Location: 33.4471984, -118.5256147

From the large dirt-covered overlook at this route's high point, you'll look north toward the trail and catch glimpses of Howland's Landing on your left. © Frannie Finley

Goat Wiskers

Location: 33.4519608, -118.5218167

The Goat Whiskers trail sign © Frannie Finley

Road

Location: 33.4523547, -118.5058093

Watch your step on the loose gravel surface of the trail as it nears the road. This section is the last steep downhill as the route from here follows an easy-grade road along the island's north side. © Frannie Finley

Bench

Location: 33.4486307, -118.500917

This memorial bench offers a great view of Fourth of July Cove. © Frannie Finley

Moorings

Location: 33.4458377, -118.4984922

Though you'll see plenty of boats in coves along the road, rounding this bend offers a great view of the Isthmus Cove mooring field. © Frannie Finley