Review: Hermit Gulch, Catalina Island

By Heather

Darren and I spent the weekend on Catalina Island for my 40th birthday. This time, we took the dirt-free route to vacationing.

We did, however, stop and get a look at Hermit Gulch, Avalon’s only campground, to see whether it would be worth camping there sometime.

It would not be worth camping there sometime or ever.

What it’s like

The first thing we noticed? Zero privacy. The campground lacks any shade to speak of and campers are in full view of one another.

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Hermit Gulch also borders the road that leads up to Wrigley Monument, so expect to hear golf carts all day and potentially into the early evening. Fortunately, Avalon is a sleepy town that closes up shop sometime between 8 and 9 p.m., so it may not be too loud then.

Overall, the grounds were clean, but scrubby and dry. The view from the campground is nothing to write home about.

The good things

Just because I wouldn’t stay there doesn’t mean there’s nothing nice to say about Hermit Gulch:

  • The bathrooms were plentiful, well kept and nice. Each one had flushing toilets, a sink, mirror and a shelf with hooks.
  • There’s a giant sink in which to do your dishes – a luxury that isn’t always available.

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  • There are recycling and trash bins, including one for propane! Not every campground makes doing that easy. Housekeeping in Yosemite sent us on a wild goose chase to recycle our tanks, and it makes me wonder how many other people would bother being vigilant when it becomes a pain in the butt.

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  • It’s very close to town. In less than a mile, you’ll be at one of two Von’s to stock up on supplies.
  • All campgrounds are dog friendly.
  • Campers can either hike in – it’s about 1.5 miles from the pier to the campground – or take a shuttle that stops right across the street.
  • There is a standing BBQ grill at each campsite.
  • The Hermit Gulch Trail runs alongside the campground and up to the very top of the island.

The bad things

  •  As mentioned above, the scrubbiness. The lack of privacy. The lack of shade. The proximity to a noisy road.
  •  No campfires! Boo! Hiss! Sadly, this is the case everywhere in Catalina and the other Channel Islands. I suspect that much of it has to do with a lack of resources if a major fire were to break out. Fine. I understand.

Other Catalina camping

There are many, many other campgrounds all over Catalina Island. I can’t speak to a one of them, but hope to see and/or camp in at least a few of them someday. On the Eastern side of the island, there are a number of boat-in campsites. Anyone have a boat they can loan us?

On the Western side, where the buffalo roam, there are sites accessible by the Trans-Catalina trail, such as Little Harbor. You can hike, bike or drive to those sites. That water! I want to jump in right this second.

When we visit Catalina sometime next year, we’re planning to rent bikes for a day and take them over there to check out these sites. If we ever do that, I’ll be sure to post a review!

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