Your full guide to camping at Parsons Landing Campground, whether you’re hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail or just looking for a unique getaway on Catalina Island.
Located at the “Wild West End” of Catalina Island, you’ll find one of the most remote and secluded campgrounds on the island – Parsons Landing.
Even with its hard-to-reach nature, Parsons Landing is a popular campground that often books up weeks in advance, especially on weekends.
I stayed here recently while hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail, but you can also just do a one-off camping trip at Parsons from Two Harbors if you don’t want to hike the whole trail.
Since Parsons Landing isn’t the easiest to get to and there are some important things to know to camp comfortably here, I wanted to put together this detailed guide to give you the full rundown.
Based on my first-hand experience camping at Parsons Landing, these are my tips for how to get there, what to expect, and what to know before you go.
Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.
Cost: $20-$25 per person per night + $20 for a locker key that includes 2.5 gallons of water, fire starter, and a bundle of firewood + $9.25 service fee for online reservations
Phone Number: (310) 510-4205
Location: Latitude (33.47222, -118.55028); Longitude (33°28’20″N, 118°33’1″W)
Toilets: Two chemical toilets (pit toilets)
Number of Campsites: 8
Potable water: No
Individual campsite features: Fire pit, picnic table, fox box for storing food and water, and most campsites have a wall of stacked stones to block the wind.
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How to Camp at Parsons Landing
Unless you luck out with a last-minute cancellation, it takes some forethought and advanced reservations to make a trip to Parsons Landing Campground happen.
These are the three steps you need to think about when planning a trip to Parsons Landing.
Step 1: Book Your Ferry Tickets and Reserve a Campground
The hardest part when it comes to camping at Parsons Landing is booking the campsite. There are only eight campsites available and they go very quickly.
You often need to book months in advance on Reserve America to snag one.
Click here to check current availability and book your campsite at Parsons Landing.
When you book your campsite, you’ll want to also pay the additional fee to grab a locker that comes with 2.5 gallons of water, fire starter, and a bundle of firewood.
It’s an additional $20 per locker. We ended up buying two since there were four of us and we wanted to make sure we had enough water for the night and for the hike back to Two Harbors the next day.
If you’re able to find a campsite (recommendations for which ones to book below), you’ll next want to book your ferry through Catalina Express.
I’d recommend booking your ferry at least a month or two before your trip.
From April 12th to June 20th, ferries run from San Pedro to Two Harbors and back two times per day and three times per day from June 21st to September 6th. There are no ferries to Two Harbors from September 7th to April 11th.
The direct ferry takes around an hour from San Pedro to Two Harbors, although some go through Avalon which adds on a little more time.
Related: The Perfect Catalina Island Day Trip
Step 2: Take the Catalina Express Ferry to Two Harbors
Once you have everything booked and get off the ferry in Two Harbors, you’ll want to head to the Two Harbors Visitor Services to check in.
This is a very important step since there are no services at Parsons Landing Campground. When you check in, they’ll give you your locker key. If you don’t have this, you won’t have access to your water or firewood.
Before you head out, you can also stop by the Two Harbors General Store to pick up any supplies you might need. They even have some tasty freeze-dried camping meals to buy.
Once you’re checked in and you have everything you need, it’s time to start the journey to Parsons Landing Campground.
Step 3: Get to Parsons Landing from Two Harbors
There are two main ways of getting from Two Harbors to Parsons Landing Campground – hiking and kayaking.
To give you even more options, there are two different trails you can take from Two Harbors to Parsons Landing Campground.
If you’re not doing the Trans-Catalina Trail (and sometimes even if you are), most people opt to go the “easy” route there and back.
However, if you’re looking to do the full Trans-Catalina Trail or you’d rather hike a loop trail instead of an out-and-back where you see the same things, you can do the hard way there and the easy way back.
Here’s a short description of each trail.
Option #1 (Hard Way): 6.7-mile hike via Silver Peak Trail
Elevation gain: 1,938 ft | Trail Guide
Although this is the shorter route, going on the Silver Peak Trail is a very difficult hike because of the steep inclines and declines.
It’s also not quite as scenic as the West End Road route, although you’ll get some lofty viewpoints that you won’t get on the easy route.
The first part of the trail is a steady uphill climb from Two Harbors. You’ll pass by Cat Harbor on the way and make your way up the dirt trail with little shade.
Once you get to the shelter, you’ll get a nice view and then it’s all downhill from there. However, that doesn’t mean it gets easier.
I actually found the downhill to be harder than the uphill because it was such an intensely steep descent.
I’m talking more than a 45-degree angle with loose gravel, which means you basically have to slip and slide your way down. This is where it helps to have hiking poles to steady yourself.
Eventually, the trail evens out and then it’s a short hike to the beach at Parsons Landing Campground.
Option #2 (Easy Way): 7.7-mile hike via West End Road
The easier trail via the West End Road will feel like a breeze if you did the Silver Peak Trail on the way to Parsons Landing.
Just keep in mind that this trail is close to eight miles so it’s still a decent hike back.
Along the mostly flat trail, you’ll weave in and out of coves with private beaches and you’ll get to enjoy coastal views the whole time.
If you don’t want to hike there, the other way to get to Parsons Landing Campground is to kayak.
The journey is 4.25 miles one way and takes you past the many coves that you would also walk by on the West End Road route if you were hiking.
You can rent kayaks in Two Harbors from Two Harbors Dive & Recreation Center. This is also a good spot to rent snorkels if you want to go swimming at Parsons Landing Beach.
Parsons Landing Campground Overview
As I mentioned above, there are eight primitive campsites on the beach at Parsons Landing Campground.
All campsites are pretty spread out from one another on the long beach and have a view of the ocean.
There’s a fox box for storing food and water, a fire pit, a picnic table, and a short rock wall at each campsite to give you some shelter from the wind.
We stayed at campsite #1 while we were there, which was the most tucked away and private of the bunch.
However, since it’s already a fairly secluded beach with only seven other campsites, I probably would recommend trying to snag campsites #8-#6 on the other side of the beach if possible.
The reason for this is the west side of the beach is sandy instead of rocky (the large rocks weren’t super fun to traverse in my camp flip flops).
The west and central parts of the beach are also closer to the bathrooms, which is always nice when you’re camping.
It was a good five-minute walk over uneven rocky terrain from our campsite on the far end of the beach to the two restrooms at the campground.
With that said, you can’t always be choosy when it comes to booking a campsite at Parsons Landing Campground.
Regardless of which campsite you choose, you’re sure to enjoy your time at this beautiful beach on Catalina Island.
There are two chemical toilets (aka pit toilets) at Parsons Landing Campground near where the lockers and the benches are.
Just make sure to bring a headlamp since, like most pit toilets, these don’t have electricity.
Parsons Landing Beach is one of the most secluded beaches on Catalina Island that you can camp at.
The beach is partially rocky and partially sandy. You can swim and snorkel here but be prepared for some small waves.
There’s very little shade at the beach or campsites, so you’ll want to plan accordingly. The only place where you’ll find shade next to the beach is at the bench area near the bathrooms.
If you have some extra time at Parsons Landing and you’re looking to hit the trail, you can hike to Starlight Beach (an even more hidden beach on Catalina Island).
You can read more about that hike and others in my guide to hiking Catalina Island.
What to Know Before You Go
- Use the Fox Boxes – The fox boxes are in every campsite for a reason – the animals can be aggressive when it comes to food on Catalina Island. We luckily didn’t come across any ravens while we were camping at Parsons, but I’ve heard they can be especially bad with getting into people’s bags. And you should always put your 2.5-gallon jug of water in the fox box as well, there’s no use in risking your only water source being chewed through or poked at by animals.
- If you’re hiking, start early – This is the case for any hike on Catalina Island, but especially if you’re doing the hard hike to Parsons Landing, start early. Even a few degrees cooler makes a huge difference when you’re trekking up those big Catalina Island hills with all of your gear.
- There’s no running water – There’s no running or potable water at Parsons Landing Campground. This is why it’s so important to book a locker and get as much water as you think you’ll need for your stay and the journey back. And remember, this is also the water you’ll be cooking with as well as drinking.
- Prepare to be off the grid – I camped with three other people with different providers and none of us had cell service at Parsons Landing. Plan to be off the grid completely while you’re there.
- Check-in with the Catalina Island Company before booking a campsite – This is just to make sure they don’t expect any extreme high tides for the dates you want to book (you’re camping on the beach, after all). And, if you want to make sure it’ll be a relaxing beach experience, you can also check if any big groups have booked yet for the dates you want to stay. You can give them a call at (310) 510-4205.
What to Pack for a Parsons Landing Camping Trip
- Campsite & ferry reservations
- Locker key for water and firewood (pick up from Two Harbors Visitor Services)
- Hiking boots
- Breathable hiking socks
- Hiking poles
- Lightweight hiking shirt
- Lightweight hiking pants
- Sports bra
- Backpacking Backpack (I used the REI Traverse for this trip)
- Bucket hat
- Camp sandals
- Jetboil – It was my first time using one of these on this trip and it was so much faster for boiling water
- Extra gas for boiling water
- First aid kit (especially stuff for blisters if needed)
- Camp meals + mess kit (we had a few freeze-dried meals that we picked up from the Two Harbors General Store)
- Portable charger
- Hydration bladder filled with water (I have one that’s 3L)
- Ultralight sleeping bag
- Microfiber camping towel
- Hiking snacks
- Lightweight backpacking tent
- Inflatable sleeping pad
- Inflatable pillow
- Insect Repellent
- Hiking jacket
- Hiking poles
- Tent – check out our guides to the best 4-person tents, 6-person tents, 8-person tents, 12-person tents, large camping tents, 3-room tents, instant tents, pop-up tents, inflatable tents, canvas tents, waterproof tents, and cabin tents.
- Clothes to sleep in that aren’t your hiking clothes
- Cozy beanie (for sleeping in)
- Phone (mostly to pull up reservations as needed once you get to Two Harbors)
- Toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, face/baby wipes, tampons, hair ties, etc)
- Travel insurance
- A durable phone case
- Outdoor watch (like a Garmin watch)
- Snorkel mask
- Seasick tablets for the ferry (if you need them)
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