03 April 2012

Cat Harbor Overlook

Nuts and Bolts:
Date: 1 April 2012
Who Hiked: Me, Hubby, Things 1 and 2
Route: Trans-Catalina Trail to Cat Harbor Overlook Road
Time: ~1330 - 1530
Weather: sunny and very windy
Distance: 3.9 miles

Elevation Range: 0 - 955 ft, 1452 ft total ascent
Profile coming -- still working the bugs out of the new computer.

This hike is a good out-and-back route for people staying in Two Harbors. The view from the top is phenomenal -- you can see much of the middle and western portion of Catalina. On days with decent visibility, you can see San Clemente Island and (if it's really clear) San Nicolas Island.

Take the Trans-Catalina Trail (the old Banning House Road) uphill more or less the entire way to the Cat Harbor Overlook road. The TCT is steep and steeper, but Cat Harbor Overlook road rolls up-and-down along the ridge. Soon you'll find yourself enjoying the views rather than thinking about the climbs. At the end of the Overlook road, there's a flat area to relax and enjoy the view of Cat Harbor and the back side of the island.

View toward Little Harbor

We decided to start the month off right with a short hike on Sunday. Neither Thing was thrilled about it, though Thing 1 was considerably more accepting than Thing 2. 

After lunch, we headed off to Cat Harbor so that I could calibrate my GPS unit at sea level. Along the back of Cat Harbor, we saw a flock of Caspian terns, which come through every spring and fall. Thing 2 was expressing his distaste for hiking by complaining about how his shoes felt and Hubby had to stop to re-tie each of them. After the second stop, Thing 2 refused to put his shoe back on. So Thing 1 and I headed past the Isthmus Yacht Club and toward the Banning House, leaving Hubby to handle the recalcitrant Thing. 

Thing 2 - Dr. Jekyll version
Thing 1 and I paced ourselves well going up the TCT, slowly but steadily passing the Banning House Lodge and a grove of eucalyptus trees. The fire last May burned all along this trail and although some plants are recovering, many of the shrubs and smaller trees are dead.

The trail flattens out a bit just above the grove, so Thing 1 and I stopped to take a breather. We greeted another hiker, a visitor to the island who was unable to return to the mainland today because of the gale-force winds whipping across the Channel. Soon, Hubby and Thing 2 bounced into view. Thing 2 was now happy as a clam. Sometimes I don't know about that boy. Even as a toddler he was our Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde baby -- happy one minute and spitting mad the next.

Now that we were all together again, we proceeded up the hill. The mustard is in full flower. Its flowers are a cheerful yellow and you can see splashes of it all over the island.

The wind really was howling -- anytime we were exposed to it, we all got cool and pulled our jackets on. But if we were in the lee of the wind, we warmed up quickly in the warm sun and had to peel off the layer we had just added. On both sides of the island, the sea was all frothy chaos. 

Gopher snake
(Pituophis catenifer)
The TCT continues up the hill, until you reach a fork where the Cat Harbor Overlook trail heads off to the right and the TCT verges to the left. We took the right fork here and trudged up the next hill, which is relatively steep (but short). The Overlook trail continues along the undulating ridge line and we were knocked about by the wind for the entire distance. Not a lot of wildlife to report other than some very happy-looking ravens, wheeling in the strong winds, and a gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer). It was a beauty, with its shiny checkered back.

Thing 1 hunkered down
out of the wind.
Many people hike this trail on a nice day, so it's not the best route if you are looking for solitude. (Although I have hiked it and seen no one else.) Today we met up with our visitor friend again, who caught up to us in time to see the gopher snake. We also saw some friends from Two Harbors and their tiny little dog - it was nice to chat with them.

 At the trail's end, we held onto our hats and enjoyed the views. The Things threw rocks, as Things like to do, even when their parents tell them for the umpteenth time to stop. We watched Western gulls and pelicans in the Harbor below us.

Soon, we turned around and made the trek back down. My knees held out OK on the descent and by 1530 or so, we were back at home.


  1. Makes me wish I was there. That is a good hike with a gift at the end. The view is incomparable.

    1. This view and the one above Parsons Landing (near the waterfall) are my favorites!


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