Published: February 2009
Discover SoCal's Secret Stashes
California: Catalina Island
Text by Meg Lukens Noonan
Leave the venti macchiato–fueled drama of mainland Cali behind and hop a ferry bound for Catalina Island, 22 miles southwest of Long Beach. Beyond the open-air bars and Mediterranean-style inns in the charming port of Avalon, most of the 76-square-mile island is wilderness: sunbaked hills etched with trails and old fire roads, pocket coves patrolled by sea lions, and wide grasslands roamed by descendants of bison brought over for a 1920s movie shoot. New this year is the Trans-Catalina Trail, a 27.5-mile route from Avalon to remote Parsons Landing on the island’s west coast, linked by several small beach and hillside campgrounds. You can walk six miles through the first few sections of the trail and catch a shuttle at the airport back to Avalon—or tackle it from end to end. "Plan on spending four days to do the whole thing," says Bob Rhein, a spokesman for the Catalina Island Conservancy, which built the trail and manages the island’s wild areas. "Bring plenty of water and watch for rattlesnakes." At trail’s end, you’ll have to retrace your steps to Two Harbors, Catalina’s only other town, to board a ferry for home—or stay an extra day or two for snorkel trips to kelp forests and kayak outings to caves. Snag a sea view at the Banning House Lodge or book a bunk at the Catalina Cabins. Then pull up a stool at the Harbor Reef Saloon and order a Buffalo Milk: The pub’s potent concoction of rum, milk, and crème de cacao is guaranteed to make La La Land seem even more distant.

The Lure: Hiking, camping

Vitals: Free camping and hiking permits are required. Banning House Lodge, doubles from $89. Catalina Cabins, doubles from $30; visitcatalinaisland.com

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