Route: Santa Rosa Circuit (CA)

Submitted by Riley Ormiston on Sun, 12/18/2022 - 06:54pm
California, US
41.7 mi
Vertical Gain
7,013 ft

The Santa Rosa Circuit is designed as an alternate (much less traveled) route to the Trans-Catalina Trail, with a similar environment and distance. The route traces the perimeter of the largely undeveloped island as often as possible while following main trails: mostly dirt and gravel roads, with some single-track and a short section of old asphalt. 

There is one developed campground and two reliable water sources on the island. Clapp Spring should be filtered. There is unreliable water at a number of canyons, and a ranger may be able to provide status. 

Island foxes and bird life are abundant, and there are seasonal populations of seals and sea lions. There are some structures around the pier, and a few run-down ranch homesteads scattered around the island. 

Island Packers runs the ferry to and from the island. Camping at Water Canyon is by permit through 




I scouted this out mid-October 2021. There's a use trail that connects East Point and the south ridge, but it's signed as closed due to unstable cliffs. 

The rangers suggested I might find water at Wreck, Green, and/or Cow Canyons. I found (muddy) water on-route in the Wreck Canyon marsh, and on the beach (clear, a trickle) at Cow Canyon, under a mile along the dry creek off-route. I was there during "the worst October storm in 20 years" but there were 40-mph gusts from the evening until dawn.

It was a gorgeous trip and I'd love to see if I can give it a real shot now that the route's formalized! I saw nobody between leaving the campground and passing Lobo Canyon, the primary sight on the island. Pretty smooth miles, excellent scenery the whole way.