United States

Catalina Island, CA

A Guide to running on Catalina Island

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Catalina Island is a popular hiking and biking destination just off the southern California coast. There are 165 miles of trails and 40 miles of designated mountain biking trails. Although some 1 million people visit Catalina annually, use of the island’s land is regulated: the Catalina Conservancy controls 90% of the island’s land, and visitors must obtain a permit (available at the Trailhead center in town) in order to use the trails outside the main areas. Running on Catalina Island is gorgeous, but can be challenging. There are wonderful roads and trails with coastal views, and many miles of interior trails that trail runners will salivate over. A wonderful aspect of Catalina is that car use on the island is heavily restricted. But watch out for golf carts!

Some of the best places to run on Catalina Island are in the Avalon area. We love the 5-mile out and back coastal route, the views from Wrigley Rd., and the trail to the Botanical Gardens. In the Two Harbors area, there’s an easy trail to Catalina Harbor. Our favorite run on Catalina Island is a a stunning coastal route from Two Harbors to Emerald Bay along a traffic-free gravel road. Another great running experience is to take the shuttle to the airport and run the 10 miles into town. We’ve also included recommendations on some easy-to-moderate trail runs, including sections of the 38.5-mile Trans-Catalina Trail.

Catalina Island is accessible via ferry from Long Beach, or Dana Point. It takes about an hour and costs about $60 RT. Note, one cannot take a car to Catalina. Once on the island, many people use golf carts or bikes to get around, though there is the Garibaldi Bus and some taxis.

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Some of our favorite runs in Catalina Island, CA

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Airport to Avalon Route

Catalina Island, CA

A paved road runs for 10 miles between Avalon and the 'Airport in the Sky', rising 1500 feet. Great coastal views in the first 3-4 miles from town, then winds around grassy hills. Most of the elevation is in the 3 miles from Avalon on Stagecoach Rd. One option is to run one-way from the Airport.

The weather in Catalina Island is pretty darn delightful for running, year-round. It’s a dry Mediterranean climate. In the warmest months (June-October), average highs are in the mid-70s (22-25C), while in the coolest months they’re in the low-mid 60s (16-18C). Nights cool off year-round. Catalina averages only 1.5 inches of rain a year, most of it falling in the winter months. There can be fog, owing to the marine influence.

Most of the hotels on Catalina Island are in the small town of Avalon. Accommodations — and prices — tend to be on the higher end. If you stay in Avalon, there’s good access to some of our favorite spots for running on Catalina.

There are no running stores on Catalina Island, as there are only 4,000 permanent residents.

Catalina Island has multiple annual running events, owing to its extensive network of roads and trails.

Catalina Island Marathon. California’s oldest trail Marathon. March. Also a 10k & 5k.

Catalina Island Half Marathon & 10k. November. Gorgeous, but challenging!