Thinking about camping on Catalina Island? Parsons Landing is one of the best spots to camp in California, and should definitely be your top campground choice. This secluded campground makes you feel like you’ve just arrived on a deserted beach! Keep reading for all the details to plan your Catalina Island camping adventure.
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Camping Trip Overview
- Nights: 1 (or more, if you have time!)
- PTO/Vacation Days needed: 0-1
- Cost: $$
- Miles: 15.2
- Trailhead Location: Two Harbors, Catalina Island
Where is Parsons Landing?
Parson’s Landing is located on Catalina Island – which is just a short ferry ride from LA. Most people know of Catalina Island from the main tourist town, Avalon, located on the south end of the island. However, Parsons Landing is located in a remote section on the north end of Catalina Island and is a completely different experience than visiting Avalon.
Planning your Parsons Landing Catalina Camping Trip:
If you’re looking to go camping on Catalina Island there are a few campgrounds to choose from, but Parsons Landing is known to be the best. With only 8 campsites, this rugged, remote campground offers the perfect secluded beach getaway. It was even listed in Sunset Magazine’s top California campgrounds!
If you have the time, it would be a great idea to spend the night prior in Avalon or Two Harbors so you can wake up early the next day and start your hike. Banning House is the only lodging option in Two Harbors (but it looks super nice!). For Avalon lodging, the Aurora Hotel has great reviews and rooms with beautiful balcony views!
Catalina Camping Packing List:
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- Hiking Boots (These are my favorite!)
- Cliff Bar Energy Chews (to give you energy on the hike!)
- Dehydrated Meals (this one is my absolute FAVORITE! I bring it on every backpacking trip)
- Sleeping Bag (This is the one I have that I love!)
- Nano Puff Jacket (I bring this on EVERY camping trip. It packs up small and keeps you warm!)
- Travel Towel (perfect for backpacking!)
- REI Quarterdome Tent (great beginner backpacking tent. I love this thing)
- Inflatable Sleeping Pad (this is the one that I use)
- Portable phone charger (so you’ll have enough juice to take pics!)
- Deuter Backpacking Pack (I’ve used this same one for 4 years now and it’s been great!)
- Jetboil – this is a game-changer. Boils water in under 90 seconds!
- MSR Water Filter – one of the best products for filtering drinking water on the trail!
- Ultralight First Aid Kit
- KEEN water hiking sandals – the beach is a little rocky, so these might help for walking around at the oceans edge!
Want a more detailed guide on my favorite gear for backpacking? Check out my Backpacking for Beginners Packing List!
How to Get to Parsons Landing:
There are two main ways to get to Parsons Landing:
- Hike ~7.5 miles (15.2 mile rt) from Two Harbors
- Kayak from Two Harbors
Alternatively, if you have your own boat, you can park it at a mooring at Emerald Bay and only hike 2.5 miles to Parsons Landing (or kayak from there)
I did the hike from Two Harbors to Parsons Landing, which is what I’ll be focusing on in this blog post.
Step 1: Get a Campsite Reservation
Before you do anything else, get a campsite reservation at ReserveAmerica.com
You must have a campsite reservation in order to camp here. Since there are only 8 sites, they go super fast, especially if you want a weekend. Make sure to book early!
One awesome thing about the Parsons Landing campground is that you can pay $20 for a key to a locker at the campground that has 2.5 gallons of water, a bundle of firewood, and a fire starter waiting for you. When you book your campsite, also reserve your locker! If you have more than 2 people, I recommend paying extra for a second locker so you can have double the amount of water and firewood.
Step 2: Book your Ferry
The easiest/cheapest way to get to Catalina Island is to book a ferry through Catalina Express. The hike to Parsons Landing starts at Two Harbors. At the time of writing this, the only ferry that goes directly to Two Harbors leaves from San Pedro. Make sure to book this early so it doesn’t sell out. It costs $37 one-way.
If you aren’t able to get a ferry directly to Two Harbors – don’t worry! You can instead book a ferry to Avalon (leaving from either Long Beach, San Pedro, or Dana Point). Then book a seat on The Cyclone to get from Avalon to Two Harbors. This speedboat will take you to Two Harbors from Avalon in about 40 minutes, and cost $15 per person one-way. It departs from the Green Pier in Avalon.
If you are doing it this way, I recommend getting the 7am ferry to Avalon, arriving to Avalon at 8. You can then get breakfast in town before taking the 10:15am Cyclone boat to Two Harbors, arriving to Two Harbors around 11am.
Step 3: Hike from Two Harbors to Parsons Landing
When you arrive to Two Harbors, check in at the end of the pier to get your locker key and a map. There’s a little restaurant as well as a general store right there in case you need any extra food/supplies before you start your journey.
From the pier, turn right and go past the general store and up the hill to start the hike. The hike goes along a dirt road that weaves in and out along the coastline. The views on the hike are amazing! You get to see all these different coves with beautiful bright-blue water. It seriously made me wish I had a boat.
The hike is fairly flat, however there is pretty much no shade at all, which makes it moderately difficult if you are hiking in the hot sun. Make sure to bring lots of water and wear sunscreen and a hat to keep cool.
Towards the end of the hike, you’ll merge on to the Trans-Catalina Trail for a bit before hiking up a hill where you will get your first view of the Parsons Landing campground from above!
I used The Hiking Guy’s post for step-by-step directions on the trail (although it is pretty easy to follow on your own as well).
Guide to Parsons Landing
Once you arrive to Parsons Landing – it’s time to relax! Each campsite has a firepit, picnic table, fox box to store your food, and a few cleared-out spots for pitching your tent.
Once you get settled, I highly recommend going snorkeling right off the beach. It’s beautiful! You can either bring your own mask & snorkel, or rent one in Two Harbors before starting your hike.
IMPORTANT NOTE: make sure to store all your food AND water in the fox box. I’ve heard stories of Ravens swooping in and poking holes in the gallons of water, dehydrated meals, and other food items.
Camping on Catalina Island is awesome in general, but the scenery at this beach campsite is absolutely incredible. It’s such a cool experience to get to camp at this basically-secluded beach and go to sleep with the sound of the ocean waves! It’s one of my favorite campsites in California hands-down.