Palm Springs Tram riders enjoy dazzling views of the Coachella Valley as they ascend thousands of feet into the desert sky. Once they arrive on the upper slopes of Mount San Jacinto, which is the ultimate destination, they also enjoy temperatures that are much cooler than the temperatures on the valley floor. Winter is the peak season when it comes to riding the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which is the official name of the attraction, but a ride on the large rotating cars can be a treat regardless of the season.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway features the "World's Largest Rotating Tramcars." These tramcars, which were made in Switzerland and rotate as they move, can accommodate up to 80 passengers for their more than two-mile-long journeys to the upper reaches of Mount San Jacinto. The boarding point is known as the Valley Station, and it is situated at an elevation of approximately 2,640 feet above sea level in the Chino Canyon. The ending point sits at an altitude of around 8,515 feet and is known as the Mountain Station. It takes about fourteen minutes to journey from the Valley Station to the Mountain Station on the Palm Springs Tram, and during the ride up, the tramcars rotate, thus allowing passengers to enjoy the views in all directions.
As you ascend into the San Jacinto Mountains on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, you pass through various life zones, or zones that are affected by their altitude and feature different plants and animals. Starting out in a desert environment, it doesn't take very long until you enter the realms of an alpine world. Near the summit of Mount San Jacinto, the temperatures are usually around 40 degrees cooler than they are on the desert floor! During the winter months, much of the allure lies in the fact that the Mountain Station area is typically blanketed in snow. This gives regional residents, such as people from Los Angeles, the opportunity to play in a winter wonderland. You can even cross-country ski or snowshoe after you hop off the Palm Springs Tramway at the Mountain Station, and these aren't the only options for things to do.
After you get to the upper reaches of Mount San Jacinto on the Palm Springs Tram, the kinds of activities that you can enjoy are largely influenced by the season. During the winter, the Winter Adventure Center on Mount San Jacinto rents both cross-country skis and snowshoeing equipment, and should you prefer, you can buy a sled and maybe even some cold-weather clothes at the gift shop. Doing some snow camping is also an option during the winter months. For a relatively low fee, snow camping permits can be obtained at the Long Valley Ranger Station. It is also possible to get these special camping permits in advance through the US Forest Service. As you might imagine, you can also camp at the primitive sites on Mount San Jacinto during the other seasons.
Outside of the winter months, those who take the Palm Springs Tramway up to Mount San Jacinto can get their fill of hiking in Mt. San Jacinto State Park. This state park offers more than 50 miles of hiking trails, not to mention a Ranger Station, public flush toilets, water, and picnic tables. For those who are up for an especially big hike, taking the trek up to San Jacinto Peak is sure to please. After hiking for approximately three to four hours, you arrive at the second-highest point in all of Southern California. As a side note, guided walking tours that highlight nature can be enjoyed for free during the summer months. It is possible to obtain the times for these walks by visiting the natural history museum that can be found at the Palm Springs Tram Mountain Station.
No Palm Springs vacation would arguably be complete without taking a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. If you aren't up for a lot of activity once you arrive at the mountain station, you might enjoy a meal at the upscale restaurant on Mount San Jacinto before heading back down. Visiting the Mountain Station Natural History Museum can also be rewarding, and if you like shopping, there are some interesting souvenirs at the two gift shops. One of the Palm Springs Tramway gift shops can be found at the Valley Station, while the other is found at the Mountain Station.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway makes trips to the Mountain Station between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Saturdays and Sundays, the funicular cars make their ascents between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Regardless of the day, the last car down starts its descent at 9:45 p.m. The restaurant at the top opens daily at 11 and last seating is 7:45 p.m.