Let’s face it, summer in the Palm Springs Valley can get toasty. Sure there are all kinds of things you can do to cool your jets, from shopping and swimming, movies and mahjong, early morning walks and late evening stargazing. But one thing you probably won’t be doing much of is hiking, unless you know where and when to do it… And the most logical place is to take a high altitude hike up in the San Jacinto Mountains. Thankfully it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from the fabulous resorts in Rancho Mirage.
Sure, you can drive an hour plus up to Idyllwild for a mountaintop day trip, but a much more convenient—and fabulously fun—way to get up to the peaks is to hop on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The 15-minute ride on one of the only two rotating tram cars in North America (each of which holds 88 people, I might add) is a sight to behold. The best part of the trip up the tram—I might even say the “coolest”—is the quickly decreasing degrees of heat you experience as you climb into the mountains. Traditionally the temps at the summit will be between 20 and 40 degrees chiller than that on the valley floor. So it’s no surprise that you’ll find lots of locals and plenty of summer desert visitors up there—all of whom are relishing the opportunity to get out of the heat and spend cool times within the 14,000-acres of pristine forest of the Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area.
Aside from two restaurants, a cocktail lounge, clean restrooms, informative exhibits, and souvenir shopping at the tram’s upper mountain station, you’ll find miles of marked hiking trails with vistas that span from the San Bernardino Mountains to the northwest to the Salton Sea to the southeast and beyond. Some claim that—on a crystal clear day—you can see past the Mexican border town of Mexicali, which is more than100 miles away.
Locals who love the tram can buy a summer pass for $70 (adults) and $35 (children), and use it for unlimited trips between May 1 – August 31. An annual pass is available for $150 (adults) or $90 (children). This is a treat I indulge in yearly, along with a plethora of pals who love picnicking at the peak on gorgeous summer nights. I hope to see you up there! Bring wine. J