Cool Runnings

Escape the desert sizzle with a trip up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

JUDD SPICER Attractions 0 Comments


Rising to the occasion for a summer respite from the heat needn’t involve a drive to the coast. For daytrippers in need of a quick sojourn, or outdoorsmen seeking an extended getaway, a 10-minute ascent on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to Mount San Jacinto State Park provides the perfect reprieve.

“The top of the tram truly is a great place to cool down,” says Nancy Nichols, vice president of sales and marketing for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. “It’s 30 to 40 degrees difference [from] the valley floor. We could get to 80 degrees, but even that would be unusual during the summer months.”

Ready to head to 8,516 feet? Here are four great ways to experience the tram.


Mount San Jacinto State Park offers 54 miles of hiking trails, ranging from beginner-level strolls (that pair perfectly with a picnic lunch) to challenging peak adventures for the experienced hiker.

Among the five designated trails, the casual hiker will enjoy both the three-quarter-mile Long Valley Discovery Trail and the 1.5-mile lop of the Desert View Trail, which provide a wealth of overlooks and forest scenery.

For the ardent: Test out the San Jacinto Peak climb. The ascent to the second-highest point in California routes through alpine valleys before peaking amid granite rock and fantastic views. (Tram tip: Wilderness permits are required for hiking or backpacking; they’re free and available the day of arrival at Mountain Station.)


Six campsites spread across the Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area, with respective grounds ranging in distance from 2.1-mile to 6.5-mile hikes from your tram arrival. Visitors should be well-prepped for beautifully primitive conditions and have all gear on hand. Camping permits cost $5 and are available on-site the day of arrival. (Tram tip: Campsites should be reserved two weeks in advance.)

Nature walks

Offered every Saturday from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day at no charge, state park volunteers provide 40-minute guided nature walks that inform visitors about the natural surrounds and wildlife. (Fun fact: Included in the walk is a tree that smells like vanilla.)


Dual dining choices are available atop the tram and both are open daily for lunch and dinner. For a casual meal, enjoy the cafeteria-style Pines Café. Those seeking a more formal sitting should reserve seats at Peaks, where exceptional views of the valley below accentuate the California cuisine.

The on-site Lookout Lounge offers a full cocktail and appetizer menu. (Tram tip: “Ride ’n’ Dine” packages to the Pines Café are available at $36 for adults and $23.50 for children 12 and younger.)

Visit or call 760-325-1391 for more information.

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