Nick and I met at Verve coffee in the Arts district located near downtown Los Angeles with the goal of making it to the campsite at Two Harbors on Catalina Island by sun down. We had a quick coffee and pastry at Verve Coffee and then embarked on our journey down the LA river path towards Long Beach where we caught the ferry to Avalon (biggest town on Catalina Island).
(Strava route link at the bottom of page)
Per usual, wear something bright, check the weather so that you can bring proper apparel and always bring enough food and water. There are plenty of places to fill up on water but regardless make sure you leave Avalon with a minimum of 1.5 liters of water. I’ve included a list to my kit below for reference.
Buy your ferry tickets at least a week in advance. When buying your return ticket I would recommend a later time that way you have ample time to get back. If you miss your ferry you can pay an extra $5 for a different time, which is kind of nice. You will also need to purchase a bike ticket, which is an additional $5.
The Strava GPS links are broken down in two parts, from Avalon to Two Harbors and Two Harbors to Avalon. This is pretty much a full loop around the main island as Two Harbors sits at the isthmus (the break) of the two islands. In reality it’s still one island.
The last time either Nick or I did a bike tour was right before the first Covid shut down so it was real nice to catch up with him and get back on the road.
We quickly jammed through the industrial district, which really lacks bike lanes but is usually scattered with only light traffic so you can usually eat up the lane and be okay. The sidewalks in the industrial district are also really wide so you can even ride on the sidewalks if you’re trying to stay off the road. I say this specifically because there is a lot of semi truck traffic happening around this area so make sure to stay aware.
The connection to the LA river path heading towards Long Beach is Districts Blvd and Atlantic Blvd. This is where you’ll hop on the LA river path and stay on it for the next 15 miles until you reach Long Beach. You do make a jump to the other side of the LA river about halfway from Verve to Long Beach.
Our ferry was leaving for Avalon 12:15PM so we got there around 11AM so we could pick up our tickets and grab a burrito at Leo’s Mexican grill. Upon returning we we’re notified we needed an extra ticket for our bikes, so we coughed up the extra 5 bucks and finally boarded the Catalina Express.
Note: These ferries hold 2,800 gallons of fuel, imagine that!
The ferry takes about an hour and there was ample room to sit and place our bikes. Upon landing at Avalon we quickly snapped up another coffee and began our climb. 1,500 feet of climbing to be exact :]
I had peaked the climb a little before Nick and was coming around a corner with my head buried, as I slowly looked up with my heavy eyes I caught a glimpse of a large dark shaped figure. It was a bison, in my presence, with no gates or walls between us. A truly majestic moment. I didn’t bother him and he didn’t bother me. Just when Nick showed up, he plopped on the ground for some rest.
The story with the bison is that they were brought over for a film and never rightfully returned to their natural grazing grounds. Hollywood! Of course! SMH.
The climb is steady, with minimal traffic from golf carts and modified Hummer’s carrying tourists. Once you top off, it’s a steady up and down on mixed terrain. The views throughout this ride are absolutely spectacular so don’t be shy to stop and look around. Our ride was at the beginning of March so there was definitely a mix of weather, which made for beautiful scene but also many temperature changes.
Eventually you will make a big descent and then wrap around north with two more smaller climbs before arriving at the campsite.
As Nick and I got into Two Harbors (around 6PM) we noticed that Harbor Reef, the only restaurant in town was actually opened. We quickly grabbed dinner and headed to our campsite after a few refreshments. This was one of those situations we didn’t really know what would be open, if anything, and we got lucky with a great dinner and great service at Harbor Reef Restaurant and Bar!
Once we got to our campsite it began raining so we quickly threw the wood we had purchased in advance into the fire ring and put up our tents… of course we drank a little bit of tequila as well.
The next morning provided us with some of the best gravel riding I have ever ridden. The rain had given the dirt just enough tack and we were quickly cruising back towards Avalon.
The ride from Two Harbors to Avalon is generally a steady climb with two teeth shivering descents. The climb out was the same way we came in but this time we got to descend the climb and it was absolutely worth all of the grind. The second climb from Two Harbors is a steady 2-3% until you hit the cement that you first came up on. And that’s kind of it, just like that the ride is over and you’re back at Avalon.
I really enjoyed this ride and I am definitely planning to do it at least one more time but include the second portion and maybe camp 3-4 nights. The roundtrip around the big island ends up being around 43 miles with just over 6,000 feet of climbing. Depending if you ride to Long Beach or not this ride could easily top 100 miles.
I would rate this bike packing trip a 7.5/10 on the difficulty scale. Simply put, the grade gets steep. The upside of this ride is that it’s so safe and there is almost no cars (but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look out for them, always stay aware).
Strava Route Link
Verve Coffee to Long Beach Ferry landing
My set up:
Custom made frame bag – by me 🙂
Sea to Summit 2 season bag (packs down reallyyyy small)
Sea to Summit liner sack (keeps me extra warm at night)
Pair of synthetic long johns.
Thermal long sleeve.
Extra pair of socks.
Small compression sack.
Swiss Army Knife
Portable USB Charger