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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Desert View Trail – 1.5 mile (2 km) loop
I loved the Desert View Trail with 5 scenic view points marked along the trail.
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.
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
- Address: 1 Tram Way Road, Palm Springs, California 92262
- Phone: (888) 515-TRAM (8726)
- Check Palm Springs Aerial Tramway website for more info
Monday to Friday
- First tram up at 10:00 AM
- Last tram up at 8:00 PM
- Last tram down at 9:45 PM
- 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