Back Country Pass
Most of Catalina Island is controlled by the Catalina Island Conservancy. Access to anything outside the city of Avalon requires a pass which can be purchased either at the conservancy office or online if you allow time for mailing. XEN MTB runs tours in the controlled areas of the island, and therefore a pass is required.
They’re not top of the line mountain bikes, but they’ll do the job for Catalina Island. Check out Brown’s Bikes to book a rental.
The Catalina Safari Bus enables you to cut out a lot of climbing and enjoy a longer ride within less time. The bus picks up in downtown Catalina (pretty easy to find) and drops off at the airport. That makes it possible for you do enjoy rides such as Airport in the Sky > Little Harbor > Middle Ranch > Cape Canyon > Avalon Vista, Airport in the Sky > Vista Ridge > Avalon and Airport in the Sky > Middle Island > Avalon. If you’re planning on a real big adventure, the bus also drops off at Two Harbors, enabling you to start with the Two Harbors to the Airport in the Sky and link it up with any of the others. But do keep in mind, if you plan on starting in Two Harbors, you’re in for a seriously long day. And note: the ferry boats will also drop off in Two Harbors and pick up in Avalon, so a bus ride to Two Harbors probably isn’t necessary.
Limited Cell Phone Service
Cell phone service in the back country is very limited. Generally speaking I would say don’t count on it.
XEN MTB carries the SPOT locator when leading mountain bike tours on Catalina Island. Even where there’s no phone service, with the push of a button, emergency personnel can be dispatched to our exact location anywhere on the island.
Water / Hydration
Water is available in Avalon, at the airport and in some campground / rest areas. However, due to the extended drought in California, access to water anywhere outside the city and the airport may not be available. You should carry at least three liters of water. You should not consume any alcohol the day prior or morning of the ride.
There is a grocery store in Avalon and a restaurant with sandwiches at the airport. You should have snacks and energy packs available to consume during the ride and pack a small lunch.
The back country is almost entirely dirt fire roads. A paved road exists between the airport and Avalon which we share with vehicle traffic for some parts of the ride. There are no single track trails to ride in the back country except during special events. XEN MTB does not provide tours while any special events are taking place in the back country.
Catalina Island is home to bison and rattlesnakes. Both of these species can cause great bodily harm and even death if you get too close to them. Bison are faster than you can ride! It’s best to stay as far away from them.
All the trails can be ridden by any level of rider, however, because of the remoteness of the rides, steepness of climbs and overall distance it is not recommended for those who have no previous mountain biking experience. The longer riders are designated as “” because of the number of hours in the saddle (generally 3 or more hours). “ ” rides should only be attempted by those in excellent physical shape capable of 5-8 hours riding with limited breaks.
Motion Sickness Can Be a Factor
If you’ve never been on a boat before, you may experience motion sickness before even beginning the ride. Likewise if you have never been on a bus on a bumpy road the same applies. If you feel that you may be susceptible to motion sickness, it’s recommended that you do you traveling the day before the ride to give your body time to rest. Drugs such as Dramamine will impact your performance, and therefore are not recommended.
Getting Back to the Boat On Time
Depending upon the length of trip you choose, XEN MTB will let you know which boat service to use. The shortest trip can be done with a boat out of Newport Beach at 9AM returning the same day at 4:30PM from Avalon.
Sample Itinerary – Shortest Day Trip
|8:00 AM||Catalina Flyer ticket office||Check in for tickets / Get in Line|
|9:00 AM||Newport Dock||Depart to Avalon|
|10:30 AM||On the boat||Arrive in Avalon|
|10:45 AM||Avalon Dock||Check in baggage / get ready to ride|
|11:00 AM||Catalina Island Conservancy||Get back country pass|
|11:15 AM||Downtown Avalon||Heading toward the outback through town|
|2:30 PM||Back in Avalon||Have lunch, change, relax|
|4:00 PM||Avalon Dock||Get in line for return boat trip|
|4:30 PM||On the boat||Boat departs to Newport|
|6:00 PM||Newport Beach||Day trip complete!|