This is basically a dirt road used by cars. It goes from one end of the island to the other. Start a Two Harbors and ride to Avalon. No shade and very hot in the summer. Very difficult uphills some wind around hair pins that never seem to end. Little to no shade
Summary: The loop from Avalon to the Airport-in-the-Sky to Little Harbor and back to Avalon via the Middle Ranch Road was a fun way to spend a day. One source indicated the total miles was 28.5; but, based on mileages on Franko’s Guide Map (that seemed to be supported by mile markers along the trail), I calculated the distance of the loop as 31.6 miles. Starting and ending at the lockers at the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon, this ride took me almost 8 hours to complete. I stopped several times - to dine at the Airport-in-the-Sky and to take advantage of photo opportunities - so I know that other cyclists who are faster than I (I’m 62 and not as fast as I used to be) or who take shorter breaks than I can complete this loop much faster than I did. The 10 miles from Avalon to the airport are mostly paved, and the other 19 miles are two-lane dirt roads. Interestingly, the dirt roads might be smoother than the paved roads, which have had many potholes filled in but not completely smoothed over.
The first 3+ miles out of Avalon on the Stage Road are very steep; but, other than those hills, there are lots of ups and downs that are not too severe. And, while there is not a lot of shade on the roads through the interior of the island, at least the 3 steep miles in and out of Avalon have several eucalyptus and other trees to provide an abundance of shade.
In addition to good food, there is a lot to see at the airport including a small museum of the history of Catalina Island and a nature center. The Escondido Road goes through El Rancho Escondido, a picturesque ranch that added a vineyard in 2007, and the road continues until it overlooks Little Harbor. The entire loop has great scenery, but the views of Little Harbor are probably the most spectacular. Since it is somewhat remote, I was surprised to see that the beach and campgrounds get a lot of use from island residents who drive in and also boaters, cyclists, and hikers.
I saw 3 buffalo on this ride. The first was at the Wrigley Reservoir off Stage Road at about the 4 mile mark, the second was sitting near the El Rancho Escondido vineyard, and the third was on the Middle Ranch Road. I also stopped to see Tachi, the fox kept in captivity at Quail Valley Ranch on Middle Ranch Road, and was disappointed that he was napping and unavailable to be photographed.
Review Date October 11, 2010
Overall Rating 3 of 5
Aerobic Difficulty 5 of 5
Technical Difficulty 3 of 5
Ridden Trail: Ridden Once
Visitors rate this review 4.00 of 5,
Reviewed by: Sandy Eggo
Summary: Rode this trail once when visiting from New Hampshire. It was January, 2008, and got into the 90s on the island. Coming from below freezing NH, where all of my riding, road and mountain, were done on gently rolling hills, I was dying the entire day...
We ferried into Two Harbors the night before, spent the night at the campground. Refueled at the restaurant there and headed out on the road. Starts off with a steady climb, then a couple miles downhill to Little Harbor. Then, a long climb to the airport. The road slowly twists upwards and planes fly over you as they take off from the airport. It was wicked hot, and I refilled my camelbak several times from bison/horse? troughs along the way. Then, a nice bounce along the ridge, and we spent the night at Blackjack campground. Dropped our stuff off, then biked up to Mount Orizaba, at just over 2000'. I'd recommend camping in Blackjack versus going on to Avalon if you're planning on spending a second night on the island: Blackjack is more remote and scenic compared to the Avalon campground, and there was only one other party there.
The next morning was all downhill to Avalon. Definitely a nice change from the previous day's uphill slog, but also treacherous. We pretty much rode the brakes the entire way down, and you risked falling off the cliff if you spaced out to enjoy the view. We stopped a few times to give my hands a rest from clutching the brakes.
Overall, it was a challenge, but felt great to conquer in the end. Coming from New Hampshire, I wasn't prepared for the heat, was not used to the monotonous uphill fire roads of California, hadn't been riding in a few months due to snow, and was riding a $25 Univega purchased from craigslist. Also, the island is just way too expensive to justify doing this trip. If you're looking for riding up fire roads for hours in extreme heat with no one around for cheap, try the Angeles National Forest. At least there's no bison there to block the road and get mad at you.
Recommended Route: Two Harbors to Avalon: the uphill from Little Harbor to the airport wasn't that fun, but it seemed to be a better choice than the 10 mile uphill from Avalon.
Other recommended trails in the same area: There's a couple of other areas open on the Island to bikers, but it's the same sort of roads with no destination. But you might as well try them if you're paying for the privilege of riding them.
Summary: Having thought about doing this for a few years, three of us took the ferry to Avalon and rode one-way to Two Harbors, then camping overnight.
My first inquiry about doing this was with a mountain biker riding the ferry back from Two Harbors after I camped with kids for the weekend. He said the ride would take 2.5 - 3.5 hours. Not that big a deal except for a big aerobic hill climb out of Avalon. This was a pretty accurate characterization of the ride.
When we got to Avalon to get our permits, however, the guy at the desk of the Catalina Island Conservancy recommended we take the shuttle to the airport as the route out of Avalon was "10 miles straight up at a 10% grade. Many expert mountain bikers ride up the hill, are DONE and turn around and come back." That gave us pause for a moment but then we plunged on with a hell or damned attitude. He was WAY wrong.
We were right. While the first 3.2 miles out of town is very aerobically challenging it's very doable for anyone in shape who runs or bikes 3-4 times a week. Taking the shuttle to the top would have made the ride much less adventurous and made it too short. Expecting about 25 miles, the map says 22.7 and it felt as short or shorter, than that. We left Avalon at 11:00 and got to Two Harbors by 2:45 even with stopping 30 minutes for lunch just after Middle Ranch. (We took Middle Ranch rather than the Airport Road, wanting to get off the pavement).
Stunning views, challenging enough but not killer, a great adventure. We plan to do it again next year.
Summary: There are more rides on Catalina than the ride from Two Harbors to Avalon. I live on the island and ride 3-4 days a week. If you are staying in Avalon there is a good 15+ mile loop that takes you from the east end of Avalon Canyon to the West end. This is not an easy ride, it has about 2,500 vert of climbing over the 15 miles on dirt roads (little to no traffic).
The Catalina Island Conservancy controls the interior of the island, anything outside of Avalon and Two Harbors. You will need a permit to ride inside the island. The Conservancy is planning to open more "legal" riding on the island, contact them to find out the new routes. They get very little feedback from mountain bikers so any kind of positive encougement will help in our efforts to open up more of the island for biking.
Recommended Route: Start in Avalon and ride out to Pebbly Beach (east) turn right up Mt. Ada road, go up about a mile and turn left on Renton Mine Road. This is the start of the dirt climb. Settle in because you have about 45 minutes of climbing (depending on your fitness level). You'll climb for about a mile when you come to a fork in the road. You will want to turn right at the fork. The climb gets a little steeper now and continues up about 2 miles. You'll know your at the top of the ridge when you come around a right hand turn and get your first view of the Pacific side of the island, and San Clemente Island. The road stays on the ridge line offering rolling terrain for about a mile then starts downhill. Don't get too comfortable on the downhill because you have another short steep climb, then continue downhill until the saddle (and intersection) of Wrigley Memorial Road. Bikes are not allowed on the Wrigley Memorial Road (a road we should all encourage them to open). This saddle is the low point of the ridge, you will now climb for about another 20 minutes until you intersect the paved Airport-in-the-Sky Road. Go right for a long downhill back to town. Be careful of traffic.
Other recommended trails in the same area: Ride from Avalon to the Airport-in-the-sky, 10 miles one-way on paved (rough) road. The Conservancy offers shuttle service to the airport and will transport your bike. You can then take the easy ride back into Avalon (10 miles).
Avalon to Cape Canyon down to Middle Ranch, up Middle Ranch to the paved road and back to town (+-3 hours).
Always be careful on the narrow steep Airport-in-the-Sky Road.
Contact the Catalina Island Conservancy for more riding options and to encourge them to open more terrain to mountain biking.
Review Date November 18, 2003
Overall Rating 5 of 5
Aerobic Difficulty 5 of 5
Technical Difficulty 2 of 5
Ridden Trail: Ridden Once
Visitors rate this review 5.00 of 5,
Reviewed by: atrekoclvrider
Cross Country Rider
Summary: Catalina Island mountain biking can be a challenging experience. There are different routes you can take of varying mileage. I decided to ride the whole island. This meant starting in Avalon, riding 10 miles to the airport via Stage road, which averages 15-17% in steepness. This is a great opening climb. Depending on your fitness level this part of the ride can be very challenging. Once at the airport, you go 6 miles downhill to Little Harbor which is a scenic campground. From Little harbor you go directly across the island to Two harbors, about six miles, four miles of this stretch is uphill. When you get to Two harbors which is another scenic area, you will find ferry service back to the mainland, at this point you feel tempted to hop on the ferry back home. Common sense didnt prevail with me so I proceeded to Parsons Landing which is just about at the opposite end of the island from Avalon. Parsons landing is yet another scenic campground, at this point you have ridden 30 miles and your legs are well aware of it. Getting out of Parsons is a grind since your legs are getting a workout by now. You climb about 4 miles and descend two miles back to Two harbors. At two harbors you are ajacent to the Catalina Ishtmus. This is a good place to stop for lunch. Continuing on your journey you climb another 4 miles and descend about 2 miles back to little harbor. You are almost done with your ride. At Little harbor you have put in about 46 miles. Remember the six mile descent from the airport to Little Harbor? Now you are looking at a long 6 mile ascent back to the airport. After all the miles you have ridden already this is a very tough stretch. You literally count the seconds back to the airport. From the airport its 10 miles to go you have about 3 more miles to climb and after that you have a 7 mile descent back to Avalon. Once you are back in Avalon, you can look back on your ride and have a great feeling of satisfaction for finishing this wonderfully scenic and challenging cross country ride ride.
Recommended Route: Follow Francos map of Catalina and the catalina conservancy map.