When you visit Palm Springs, one of the must do activity is to ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It is the world largest rotating tram car offering picturesque and spectacular views of the valley floor below.
Visitor Center at the Bottom of the Mountain
The first visitor center before going up to the Aerial Tramway ride is located at the bottom of the mountain. There are facilities such as washrooms and electric vehicle/EV charging point for cars that are using electricity to run.
After you have used the washrooms, you can take some picture at the bottom of the mountain before heading up to the Aerial Tramway. The landscape at the visitor center here is quite different from the top.
You need to drive for about 20 mins to reach the middle of the mountain where the Valley Station is for the Aerial Tramway Ride. During the 20 mins drive, you will enjoy the mountain view. I noticed there were people walking with their dogs down from the mountain.
You park your car outside the Valley Station then do remember to bring all the winter wear as it is going to be cold at the peak of the mountains, snows is common during winter season.
Getting the tickets at the Valley Station
After you have gotten your tickets, you will be given a timing to board, the waiting time varies depending on how heavy the traffic are. There is a waiting area for boarding. If your waiting time is longer, than you can explore around Valley Station first.
Inside the Tram
Tramway cars hold 80 people each and there are no seats. Passengers remain standing throughout the journey up the mountain.
There are 3 rotating cable cars in the world, Mount Titlis Rotair in Switzerland and Gondola at the Table Mountain in South Africa. I have tried the Mount Titlis Rotair in Switzerland, similar to the one in Aerial Tramway Palm Springs.
It is a 2.5 miles ride starts at the Valley Station which has an elevation of 2,600 ft (800 m) and bring you up to the Mountain Station which has an elevation over 8,500 ft (2590 m). Slightly more than 10 mins ride. Actually the tramcars do not rotate, the floor inside of the tramcars slowly rotate giving the rider a 360 degree views of the canyon that leads to the station at the top.
History of Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway opened in 1963 and connected the floor of the Coachella Valley to the top of Mount San Jacinto. Most of the building work were done by helicopters back in the early days because it was hard to access to the top.
On the way up (above picture) you hardly see any greenery plants on the mountains but when you reach the peak, the view from the other side of the mountain is completely different which has lush greenery of alpines trees. (refer to below picture)
The tramway ride stopped at Mountain Station, visitors disembark and start to explore Mount San Jacinto wilderness.
Mount San Jacinto – California State Park
There are two hiking choice at San Jacinto Peak trail :
1. Long Valley Discovery Trail
2. Desert View Trail
We choose the Desert View Trail (1.5 miles) which leads us to a number of scenic overlooks and forest views.
Sign showing ” Beware of Rattlesnakes”
Yes, desert tend to have rattlesnakes but luckily we did not encounter any.
It was a sunny day in the month of December 2017, plenty of sunshine but the air in the wood was super cold. I left my gloves in the car so my hands were freezing.
Since we are non-experience hikers, we tried our best to stick with the rest of hikers as we were afraid to get lost in woods. There are few trails in the woods and you never know where it will lead you to.
Fallen Big Trees
Scenic Point Notch 5
After half an hour of hiking, we finally reached notch 5!
Climbing up to some big rocks and look at the view below, simply stunning but my legs were very shaky because I was standing at the top of the world. The view is great but the climbing of rocks are challenging.
After the hike, which took us about an hour, we went back to Mountain station to escape the coldness.
Function Room in Mountain Station
Tramway Phone Charging Station
If your phone battery is running low, there is a free phone charging station at the Mountain Station. Charge before you start to explore the woods. In case you get lost, you are still able to make a call for help.
Staircase to basement floor
Mountain Station is very big so make sure you spend some time to explore.
In case you need to put some of stuff at the locker before your hike, just paid USD $1.50 for the facilities.
Little Museum at the Visitor Center Mountain Station
Inside the museum, there are many information about the woods and its wildlife. It teaches you how to find out the animal prints and their activities.
We failed as out of the 10 essentials items, we only have one item, the food.
Birds and Pine Cone
There are plenty of pine cones in the woods, I pick a huge pine cone back as a souvenir but forgotten to pack into my bag and left it in the rental car. Too bad, the big pine cone did not board on the plane back home with me. I have habit of collecting pine cones from all over the world.
Squirrel & Chipmunk
Learn about Mountain Heritage
Santa Rosa Theater at Mountain Station
There are two theaters at the Mountain Station airing free show & information about this place.
Cable that making the tramway up and down the mountain.
On the way down to Valley Station
On the way down, I was able to spot some desert land in this area. Bidding good bye.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Shuttle Bus
If you are not driving, there is free shuttle bus which will pick you from the entrance of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
Parking at Valley Station Palm Springs – USD $5.00
Other attractions in Palm Springs California :