Anchoring - Mooring - Snorkeling - Hiking - Beaches
Emerald Bay is located on the west end of Catalina about 2.5 NM Northwest of the Isthmus side of Two Harbors. The beach, hiking, and snorkeling make this place one of the best spots to spend a quiet weekend on Catalina. Two Harbors is the closest place for supplies and is generally a pretty mellow, quick ride on a dinghy with a reasonable sized outboard. You have the option to anchor or rent a mooring, which are available for all but the busiest holiday weekends. The only real downside of Emerald is that it is not very well protected from swell and it can get pretty rolly here. We generally anchor, but the moorings don’t seem to do much better unless you are tucked in close to the scout camp. I doubt many people claim they had a great night of sleep here. With that said, this spot is so good it’s worth dealing with some uncomfortable nights to have the amazing days.
Cell signal is pretty good here with most carriers for voice/text/data.
In the winter it is tempting to use the dock at the camp for going ashore. Even if you are the only boat in the bay don’t do it. You will asked to move to the beach before you make it to the end of the pier.
Google Maps Link: Emerald Bay
Getting There & Anchoring
Check your charts as you approach. There are rocks on the NW side of Indian Rock that can ruin your day if you are not paying attention. At high tide they are not easy to see.
The area generally used for anchoring can hold 5-7 boats on the ESE side of Indian Rock. To have any chance of sleeping at night you need to put out a stern anchor to hold the bow into the waves that typically come around the west end. Check the swell forecast though. I learned that one by having a super rolly night when an unexpected swell showed up from the south. There is also current that runs through the anchorage area the will have boats bumping once the wind dies down if everyone is on a single hook. I should probably emphasise this point about the current. Without fail, boats on a single hook will point in completely opposite and random directions when the wind dies. You will be able to hand beers to your neighbors as your sterns bump if you do not use a stern anchor. Even similar keelboats will swing differently. The shallowest you will get to drop anchor is 35-40’ with a sand bottom. The water is generally clear enough that you can see your anchor sitting in the sand. These shallow spots go to the first couple boats. Everyone else ends up in water up to about 60-70’ and much less protected.
The snorkeling is remarkably fun here considering its California. There are a lot of Garibaldi and other colorful fish. The south and east sides of Indian Rock are a nice place to snorkel. You can anchor your dinghy in 20-30’ of water with a sand bottom and be right next to the rocks and kelp.
The Catalina Island Conservancy, who manages most of the island, asks hikers to get a free hiking permit. It is easy to do online and their is a decent 4G signal here. Bookmark this page and take a couple minutes to fill out the form.
There are quite a few little trails that go up into the hills, or you can take a more casual walk along the access road. I think its about 6-7 miles to get to Two Harbors so don’t plan on that trip. Take the boat if you need to get something from the market.
Click this link if you want to download a pdf map from the conservancy…Hiking Map
The hike to the top of Arrow Point is one of our favorites. When you hit the access road head towards Parsons’ Landing. When you get to the point that you can see down the west end coastline there will be a little trail up the hill on your right. It is a little overgrown and there are cactus along the trail so watch your step. Overall it’s about 45 minutes and about 2 miles to get to a nice overlook. If you watch the sun dip below the horizon it will be pretty dark by the time you get back to your dinghy.
The trailhead up to the west coast service road starts in the middle of the beach. It is pretty easy to find. Look for the sign that points to the new trail, it’s pretty obvious. This little stretch is pretty steep and loose. This isn’t flip flop territory.
Beach Trailhead (DDM) 33° 27.950'N 118° 31.612'W
Road Trailhead (DDM) 33° 27.892'N 118° 31.618'W
The beach is nice sand on the west end and gravel on the rest. It is generally a little easier to land a dinghy on the end that is closer to the camp. A beach anchor is handy as there aren’t many places to tie your painter.