Catalina Connection

Cottonwood Beach: Catalina’s Secret Hideaway

CATALINA ISLAND — Cottonwood Beach is a hidden, hard-to-access beach on Catalina’s southwestern coast. Popular among hikers and adventurers, the trail to Cottonwood Beach is moderately difficult to cross, but the reward is meeting the shore at the end, marked with a simple wooden sign reading the beach’s name. The wooden sign is reminiscent of a 19th century marker from a Mark Twain novel – it is easy to imagine a young buccaneer scoping out the coastline.
However, Cottonwood Beach has a rich history of its own. Named for the canyon that leads to the beach, Cottonwood Beach also has an abundance of cottonwood trees that line the trail.
Suzy Gardner, the Chief Development Officer at Catalina Island Conservancy, states, “It [Cottonwood Beach] is named that because of the cottonwood trees that are a significant part of the riparian habitat in that canyon. When there is water, at the inland side of the canyon there is a beautiful waterfall. I believe there is generally an old bison that hangs out on that trail.”
Cottonwood Beach was first settled by the natives of Catalina called the Pimu or “Pimugnans.” The Pimugnans were skilled boaters who traveled back and forth between Catalina Island and what is now the San Gabriel Valley. Today, the Pimu’s descendants are members of the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe.
Cottonwood Beach is not the place to take a dip in the water because there is a rip current that might take a swimmer under with no hope of return. No amenities, fire rings or fires are allowed on the beach.
Furry canine friends are also allowed to join in on the fun of hiking the trail up to Cottonwood, just as long as they are kept on a leash. Many who wish to explore Cottonwood walk the hiking trail stay at the Little Harbor Campground and take the trip to Cottonwood on foot as a backpacking or mountain-biking trip along the Trans Catalina Trail.
For those who would like to give back to the island beaches, Catalina Island Conservancy offers volunteer opportunities at rotating clean-up locations throughout the year at Shark Harbor, Little Harbor, Ben Weston, and Cottonwood.
To learn more about Cottonwood Beach, contact Catalina Conservancy offices in Avalon by calling 310-510-2595 or in Long Beach by calling (562) 437-8555. Visit the website at
Photo credit: Jack Baldelli

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