Solo Travel Palm Springs – Mount San Jacinto State Park

One of the things I love about Palm Springs is that you can go from the desert to 8,516 ft (2,596 m) elevation in the mountains within a 10-minute tramway ride up to Mount San Jacinto State Park. Visit the park for hiking, stunning views, a picnic lunch in the mountains, or dine in one of the restaurants. And in the winter months it is possible to try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing – check for weather and snow conditions in advance.

 

View of Palm Springs from Mt San Jacinto State Park nature hike

Scenic view of Palm Springs from Mt San Jacinto State Park

 

I chose Palm Springs as my nomad home for the month of December and a trip to Mt San Jacinto State Park is something I recommend to anyone visiting the area. Also if you have time I also recommend a day trip from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree National Park. If you are only in town for a weekend then I would suggest visiting Mt San Jacinto State Park. The panoramic views of the Coachella Valley are gorgeous. In addition, the San Andreas Fault is visible from Mt San Jacinto.

 

Sign for Mount San Jacinto State Park in Palm Springs - with California State Parks logo

Mount San Jacinto State Park – Palm Springs

 

Note that the aerial tramway cars to Mt San Jacinto State Park are wheelchair accessible so people with limited mobility can also visit the park via the tramway.

If you prefer to skip the tramway experience and drive from Palm Springs to Mt San Jacinto State Park you can take Hwy CA-111 North to I-10 West to Hwy 243 South to the park. Seems like it would take around an hour with normal traffic – Google maps seems to have some difficulty with providing driving instructions from Palm Springs. I received the error message: Sorry, we could not calculate directions from “Palm Springs, CA” to “Mount San Jacinto State Park, 25905 California 243, Idyllwild, CA 92549“. Well at least Google said sorry.

 

View of Palm Springs from the aerial tramway up Mt San Jacinto

Excellent view of Palm Springs from the aerial tramway to Mt San Jacinto

 

I rented a great condo in downtown Palm Springs with Airbnb (click for your FREE $20 credit) The drive to the tramway parking lot was only around 15 minutes. Note that there is a $5 fee for parking in the Aerial Tramway parking lot (residents of Coachella Valley receive free parking – must show photo ID with resident address). Scroll down to the bottom of this post for all the ticket prices, special rates, and hours of operation for the tram ride and more info about visiting Mount San Jacinto State Park.

 

Cable car of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway at Mt San Jacinto - Palm Springs California

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway with rotating floor – one of only 3 in the world

 

One thing about the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway that takes a little getting used to is the rotating floor of the tramcar. Evidently this is the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world. According to a CNN article there are only three rotating aerial tramways in the world – the other two are located in South Africa and Switzerland. At the tramway station I noticed the cars of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway were from Switzerland.

When I chose Palm Springs as my nomad home for December I had no idea that I would get even the tiniest glimpse of snow. On the tramway ride up the mountain I spotted a bit of snow here and there. A week later there was a decent snowfall in the mountains so you could actually go from shorts to snowshoes in Palm Springs!

 

A small patch of snow on Mt San Jacinto State Park in Palm Springs

Small patches of snow on the mountain – Palm Springs Aerial Tramway ride

 

I took in the panoramic views at Mt San Jacinto before sitting down to lunch at the Peaks Restaurant. The grilled salmon with salad and white beans was a tasty meal before heading out to the scenic hiking trail.

 

Signage for Desert View Trail and Discovery Nature Trail with map at Mt San Jacinto State Park - Jeffrey Pink trees in the background

Signage for hiking trails at Mt San Jacinto State Park

 

Desert View Trail – 1.5 mile (2 km) loop

I loved the Desert View Trail with 5 scenic view points marked along the trail.

 

A view of the Indian Canyons from Mt San Jacinto State Park hiking trail - Palm Springs California

View of Indian Canyons from Mt San Jacinto State Park

 

Jeffrey Pines are grand coniferous evergreen trees wrapped in thick bark with a striking texture. A sign along the trail invites visitors to get up close to sniff the scent of the Jeffrey Pine – butterscotch is the scent emitted by the resin from the trees.

 

Several Jeffrey Pine trees along the walking trail at Mt San Jacinto State Park

Jeffrey Pines along the trail at Mt San Jacinto State Park

 

Looking up the trunk of a Jeffrey Pine tree at Mt San Jacinto State Park in Palm Springs California

Jeffrey Pine trees are common at Mt San Jacinto State Park

 

Modern nomad Susan Moore posing for a photo at Mt San Jacinto State Park

Stopping to take in the views at Mt San Jacinto State Park

 

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway –  Round-trip Fares & Passes

  • Adults $24.95
  • Children $16.95 ages 3 – 12
  • Seniors $22.95 (age 65+)
  • Summer Pass $75 Adults and Seniors (age 65+)
  • Summer Pass $40 Children ages 3 – 12
  • Annual Pass $160 Adults and Seniors (age 65+)
  • Annual Pass $90 Children ages 3 – 12

Ride ‘n’ Dine Pricing – includes round-trip tram + dining at Pines Cafe (after 4 pm)

  • Adults $36
  • Children $23.50
  • Seniors $36

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Info & Hours of Operation

Monday to Friday

  • First tram up at 10:00 AM
  • Last tram up at 8:00 PM
  • Last tram down at 9:45 PM

Saturday/Sunday/Holidays

  • First tram up at 8:00 AM
  • Last Tram up at 8:00 PM
  • Last Tram down at 9:45 PM

Mount San Jacinto State Park

  • Address: 25905 Highway 243,  Idyllwild, CA 92549
  • Hours: 8 AM to 4 PM
  • Phone: Idyllwild State Park (951) 659-2607
  • Maximum trailer length: 24 ft
  • Hike-in Camping: $5 per person up to 14 day stay
  • Check the official California State Parks page for more info

 

A view from inside the aerial tramway while riding up to Mt San Jacinto State Park

View while riding the aerial tramway to Mt San Jacinto State Park

 

About the Author

Susan Moore's first solo travel experience was traveling around SE Asia for 7 months in 1993. It was life changing and extraordinary. Currently Susan is living a nomadic life, working and roadtripping around the USA and Canada. You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter

12 Comments

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  1. Palms to Pines. I remember that is how they advertise this tram ride. So surreal seeing the different climate regions so soon together.

    • Susan Moore says:

      Surreal it is! It was cool to experience the change in ecosystems in such a short amount of time. When I was in Tucson I drove up to Mt Lemmon which a similar elevation to Mt San Jacinto tram – but it took a lot longer than 10 minutes to go from desert to mountain!

      There is also the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway which is a 130-mile (round trip) scenic road trip from Palm Springs.

  2. Donna Janke says:

    This is not what most of us associate with Palm Springs, but it is impressive. I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable on the tramway (the rotating floor would unnverve me), but Mt San Jacinto State Park certainly looks worth getting to.

  3. It’s been years since I lived in California and visited the Palm Springs area but I remember trips to both Mt San Jacinto State Park and the Joshua Tree National Park and how unique each park was. I love your photos of the Jeffrey Pines especially the one looking up to its crown – it’s easy to see the rough texture of its bark.

  4. I do like Palm Springs and will be returning in April. Your post was timely for me!

  5. Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru says:

    Many don’t realize that there is so much eco-diversity in the area of Palm Springs. Mt. San Jacinto is stunningly rugged and a great way to cool off a bit from the higher temps in the valley below. I love Palm Springs and enjoy making use of our timeshare there when we can.

    • Susan Moore says:

      I sure wasn’t aware of the eco-diversity in Palm Springs Betsy! Palm Springs was such an enjoyable location for my nomad home in December. I didn’t want to leave after my 4 weeks was up and I look forward to returning. I want to do more hiking at Mt San Jacinto and around Palm Springs, the Indian Canyons has incredible hiking too! Such a great location ~ I love Palm Springs :)

  6. noel says:

    It looks surprisingly cold up in those mountains, I would love to hike around that area and scout out some magnificent views. Thanks for the tour.

    • Susan Moore says:

      Noel it’s beautiful atop Mt San Jacinto – you would enjoy photographing the area – gorgeous panoramic views and great hiking among the Jeffrey trees – check it out sometime!

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