If you have a few days in Palm Springs, a trip to the Aerial Tramway is well-worth your time. This ‘world’s largest rotating tram’ takes visitors from the desert floor to over 8,000 feet in elevation to Mt. San Jacinto State Park in just a few minutes. The tram ride itself is fun for everyone (even those who experience ski resort gondolas and trams often), but the real gem is at the top. Mt. San Jacinto Park offers 54 miles of hiking trails in over 14,000 acres of alpine wilderness. Everyone can enjoy the novelty of soaring from a desert environment to an alpine forest within minutes, and once there, they can spend as much time as desired exploring the mountain scenery.
Hiking trails are well-marked, the three major trails offering something for everyone: the easy 1.5 Desert View Trail can be done in under an hour, or the Round Valley Trail offers a 4.2 mile loop more suitable to families with older kids. There’s also a 12 mile loop up San Jacinto Peak for experts. Once families depart the tram at the Mountain Station, they follow a paved walkway down to Long Valley, where the wilderness awaits. Since we’d done a lot of hiking in previous days of our trip, we opted to let the kids rock scramble and play at will in the valley area. In winter, an Adventure Center in the valley offers sled and snowshoe rentals plus gear.
- The temperature changes dramatically between the desert floor and the Mountain Station, so families will need to bring extra layers. A good rule of thumb: expect the temperature to drop by 20 degrees.
- Buy tramway tickets online to ensure your departure time. If you buy tickets at the Valley Station, expect a slight to moderate wait. During the time of our visit on a weekend during Spring Break, we waited an hour before boarding.
- Expect the process of boarding to take awhile, from the time you park and take a tram bus to the entrance of the Valley Station to the time your departure time is called to board.
- Due to the time and cash investment, plan to spend the better part of the day at the Mountain Station area.
There are ample opportunities to purchase food, both at the Valley Station (where there’s a snack area and bar) and the Mountain Station (where families find a quick service type restaurant with pizza, sandwiches, and the like) as well as a sit-down dining experience. Outside food is also allowed, and picnic tables are located at both stations. Bring water bottles and fill them at drinking fountains.
Distance from the interstate:
The tramway is located six miles from downtown Palm Springs off I-10.
Adult tramway tickets are $23 and children’s (12 and under) are $16. Discounted tickets can be had after 4 pm. Hours vary by season.
From Palm Springs, take Highway 111 to Tram Way.