Biking Catalina Title

Epic Gravel Rides: Biking Catalina

There’s no doubt the biking Catalina is one of the most epic rides in California while also being the one that requires the most preparation.

Gravel bikes are clearly the ideal bike to scale the island mostly connected by fire roads requiring a good amount of climbing.

The bigger issue is planning with the first step is securing a bike reservation likely more than a week in advance for one of the ferries connecting from San Pedro, Long Beach, Dana Point or Newport Beach that land mostly in Avalon, though there are a few come into Two Harbors.

Epic Cycling: Biking Catalina Island

It’s still not that simple as you’ll have to balance your riding ambitions against one of these four options:

  • Get overnight accommodations in one of the two main ports (options are very limited in Two Harbors)
  • Overnight in one of the many campgrounds (once again reservations needed)
  • Do a day trip just between the two ports (you’ll have to carry all your goods)
  • Ride out of the same port, but make sure you get back in time.

We chose the last option with an eight hour window to play with where you have to factor in sightseeing, lunch and possible mechanicals.

The biggest test is the first one with the nearly three mile climb out of Avalon averaging 10% and if you didn’t remember to pick up your permit from the Catalina Conservancy ahead of time, you’re not going to want to repeat this effort.

Reaching the plateau is reward enough for this trip with views up along the shoreline, you ride the ridge for seven miles until passing the Airport in the Sky with it’s restaurant and bike rentals for those that want to be shuttled up.

The three mile descent following is an all-timer catching incredible views of the windward side with a surface equal to it.

Rolling past Little Harbor was another highlight what was my most picturesque beach front before a moderate four mile climb that paid dividends descending on the way back.

The final two miles dipping down into Two Harbors brought a lot of “Wows” where we grabbed a quality lunch where the possibility of overnight accommodations will be used on future trips!

Climbing back out was as expected up this steady grade, but our route varied reaching Little Harbor returning via Middle Ranch Road.

This nine mile stretch was mostly closed in following the creek with a good deal of ranch facilities even a dog park for an area so sparsely populated.

The climb is punctuated by a punchy final kilometer merging back on the direct line into Avalon now handling the swooping descent with some technical know how.

We returned back with an hour and a half to spare leaving plenty of time to pick and choose from the many establishments there.

Biking Catalina does take a lot of effort preparing and planning for the day, but it’s nothing you’ll ever stress about because it’s all about the experience.