The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world, is one of Palm Springs’ most visited attractions. The tramcars, which host over 10 million visitors per year, allow visitors to get from the floor of the Coachella Valley to the peaks of the San Jacinto Mountains in just a ten minute ride. This ride ascends almost 2000 metres (6000 ft), and goes through five one of a kind life zones, from the Sonoran Desert to the Arctic Alpines. I was lucky enough to ride this tramway two times, once when I was much younger and again last year, when I last visited Palm Springs. In this post I am going to be pretty much giving you all the information you need to know before riding the tram, from the tram’s history to ticket prices for riding the tram.
Let’s start with some background info on the tram’s history… Plans for the tramway began in the 40s, construction began in 1961, and the inaugural ride finally took place on September 12th, 1963. Over the years, the tramway has been modernized, with major renovations beginning in the late 90s. The world’s largest rotating tramcars were revealed to the public in 2000, which are the same tramcars that they tramway now uses. Above is a photo of one of the old tramcars, which are on display outside of the Valley Station. Before the tramway was constructed, the only way to get from the bottom of the mountains to the top was to take a very long and difficult hike to the top.
Located 20 minutes out of downtown Palm Springs, near the base of the mountains, you will find the tramway’s Valley Station. This is where the trip begins, at elevation 805 metres (2643 ft) above sea level. At the Valley Station, you will find a few viewing points of the surrounding mountains (right), a small cafe, a gift shop, and a ticket booth.
Tickets for the tramway cost $25.95 USD for adults (11-64), $16.95 USD for children (3-10), $23.95 USD for seniors (65+), and free for juniors (under 3). A summer pass costs $80 USD for adults and seniors, and $40 for children. An annual pass costs $160 USD for adults and seniors, and $90 USD for children. If you live in the area, I would definitely recommend purchasing an annual or summer pass to the tramway. Today’s tickets and holiday tickets must be purchased at the station, however you are able to purchase your tickets for any other day online. You can purchase your tickets by clicking here.
Tramcars arrive at the Valley Station every half hour, with the first ones going up at 10 AM on Monday – Friday and 8 AM on weekends and holidays, and the last ones coming down at 9:45 PM daily. These tramcars take you on a 10 minute ride from the Valley Station up to the Mountain Station, with an almost 1800 metre (5900 ft) change in altitude.
The ride also allows riders to go through five different zones; the Sonoran Desert to 1000m, Upper Sonoran to 1400m, Lower Transition to 1700m, Upper Transition to 2100m, and Arctic/Alpine to 3300m. The car’s floors rotate twice per trip, on ascent and descent, giving riders a 360 view of the surrounding canyons.
Next, you arrive at the Mountain Station’s main level, where you will find the tramcar docks, a waiting area, and the entrance to the rest of the station. Located at 2595 metres (8516 ft) elevation, this station has three levels, the main level, upper level, and lower level. Above is the view from the tramcar docks, showing the Valley Station and all of the smaller mountains surrounding it.
Located on the Mountain Station’s upper level, the Desert View Terrace is a large viewing area with great views of the surrounding Coachella Valley. Here you will also find an entrance to the Peaks Restaurant, named the World’s 8th Best Cliffside Restaurant by Architectural Digest.
Another nearby viewpoint is Grubbs View, located a bit higher and farther south than Desert View. This viewpoint has great views of Palm Springs, the Salton Sea, the surrounding wilderness, and more.
In the station’s lower level, you will find some exhibits showing plants and animals native to Mount San Jacinto State Park. Above is a photo of a ringtail cat, a mammal found throughout North America in elevations ranging from 1400m to 2900m.
Finally, on the station’s main level, you will find the Long Valley Deck. This deck has views of the state park itself, as well as an entrance to the wilderness of the park.
Mount San Jacinto State Park is one of California’s most famous state parks, and it is located in the second highest mountain range in California, with peaks reaching over 3000 metres high. It is a stunning park, with many hiking and camping spots that can be found throughout it. All within a kilometre of the Mountain Station, you can find the Ranger Station, a small picnic area, the Adventure Centre, and the Desert View Trail.
That’s about it for what you’ll find at the Mountain Station. After exploring the station, it is pretty much up to you what you want to do up there; camp, hike, or even head back down after checking out the views from the top (which is what I did!).
That’s it for my post about the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. I hope you enjoyed! Also, from now on I am going to be posting once every other week, or two times a month, since I’ve been more busy recently.
Have you every visited the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway? If so, what did you think of it? If not, would you like to?
Thanks for reading!