When planning your getaway to Palm Springs, California, don’t miss out on an unforgettable experience with a visit to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway —an absolute must for your itinerary! While Palm Springs is known for its sunny hot weather, iconic palm trees, and stunning mid-century architecture, the Aerial Tramway offers a unique adventure just a short drive away.
Imagine leaving the hot desert behind and heading up to the stunning heights of Mount San Jacinto. From there, you can enjoy incredible views of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley. It’s not just a break from the heat – it’s also a great opportunity to take hikes in the beautiful mountain surroundings.
Here’s all the details you need to ensure you maximize your visit to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and know exactly what to expect!
Note that this travel guide to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway contains affiliate links, where I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.
The base of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is only a short 15-minute drive from downtown Palm Springs.
Once you pass the Palm Springs Visitors Center, most of the drive is up through a remote and winding road in the heart of the desert. The landscape is otherworldly, with towering rock formations, muted dirt, and dry shrubs. It’s an awe-inspiring sight, especially for those unfamiliar with this desert terrain.
Address: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, 1 Tramway Rd, Palm Springs, CA 92262
There is a $15 parking fee.
I initially thought this was a gondola like you ride up at a ski resort… boy was I wrong! The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating tram car. It travels over 2 1½ miles up the jaw-dropping cliffs of Chino Canyon, to the top of Mt. San Jacinto State Park.
The tram car has 360-degree windows and fits 80 passengers. Yes, 80 passengers can ride at once! It slowly rotates as it carries you up the mountain, offering panoramic views from all angles.
The ride takes about 10 minutes, but it goes by quickly as there’s so much beauty to see and take in. While there’s no air conditioning or heating in the tram, the open windows provide a refreshing breeze during the ride.
Once you reach the top of Mountain Station, you’ll be at 8,516 feet elevation! Mountain Station offers 2 restaurants, observation decks, a natural history museum, two documentary theaters and a gift shop.
From the observation decks, you can see all of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.
On clear days, from the summit of Mount San Jacinto you can see 100 miles out, even to the Pacific Ocean.
See live views from the Palm Springs Tram Cam.
“The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on the Earth!”John Muir
Within the Mount San Jacinto State Park, there are over 50 miles of hiking trails to explore!
If you’re looking for an easy and kid-friendly trail, opt for the Long Valley Discovery Trail. The trail is less than a mile long and offers stunning views surrounded by nature.
My husband and I enjoyed the Desert View Trail, a 1.5-mile loop that leads to five scenic lookout points with short climbs. Each lookout point offers breathtaking views of the world below, making it a perfect spot to take in the beauty of the mountains.
For more experienced hikers, there is the 5.5-mile hike to San Jacinto Peak, the summit of Mount San Jacinto. This challenging trail offers panoramic views of the Coachella Valley and beyond.
Download the Trail Map to see all hiking trails, including the 5.5 mile hike one way to San Jacinto Peak!
Beyond hiking, the state park offers camping, guided nature walks, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing if you’re looking for more things to do.
What to Wear & Bring
Palm Springs might feel like a scorching 100 degrees, but the weather at the top of the Aerial Tramway is usually 30-40 degrees cooler than the desert floor.
Snow is common between November and May, so it’s essential to dress in layers to adapt to the changing temperatures.
I visited in September and the top of Mt. San Jacinto was a refreshing 65 degrees. Here’s what I wore and recommend bringing:
- Comfortable sneakers or hiking shoes
- Long pants (Lululemon leggings)
- Shirt (short or long depending on the time of year)
- Sweatshirt or jacket
- Water bottle (There’s refilling station at both base and peak stations)
- Hat & sunglasses as its usually sunny in California
- Gloves if you’re coming in winter months
Select the day and time you want to write up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. If times appear sold out, you can still purchase tickets that day at the Valley’s Tram station.
- Adults $30
- Children (3-16) $19
- Children 2 & under FREE
- Prices reflected as of Nov 2023
There are two dining options at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Both are open for lunch and dinner and offer spectacular views!
- Peaks – The nicer of the two and recently named #8 on Architectural Digest’s list of the World’s Best Cliffside Restaurants. Peaks has panoramic views and offers dishes like Braised Pork Osso Bucco, Vegetable Coconut Curry and Colorado Rack of Lamb.
- Pines Cafe – a cafeteria style restaurant is great for grab and go food. Snacks, sandwiches, salads, pizza and sweets.
Both are kid-friendly with children’s menus. Reservations recommended for Peaks, book on Opentable.
Grab a Drink
After a refreshing hike in the cool mountain air, nothing beats an ice-cold beer to quench your thirst.
Fortunately, there’s a full bar at Mountain Station called Lookout Lounge, aptly named for its stunning views of the desert landscape below. Grab a drink and relax on the patio, soaking in the breathtaking scenery.
If you’re looking for a refreshing beverage before your hike, head to the bar at Valley Station, located at the base of the Aerial Tramway. This casual bar offers a variety of beers, wines, and snacks. Grab a seat on the view patio and watch the trams coming and going as you wait for your boarding time.
The History of Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Dating back to the 1930s, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway stands as a testament to human ingenuity, a marvel of engineering that has transformed the way people experience the San Jacinto Mountains.
Inspired by the breathtaking views of Chino Canyon, electrical engineer Francis F. Crocker envisioned a tramway that would ascend the rugged cliffs of the canyon, making the mountain’s pristine beauty accessible to all.
Construction of the Tramway was an engineering challenge and was soon labeled the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”
Helicopters flew some 23,000 missions during the 26 months of construction, hauling men and materials needed to erect the four other towers and the 35,000 sq. ft. Mountain Station.
Despite facing numerous setbacks, including political challenges and the Korean War, the unwavering determination of the project’s visionary, Francis Crocker, proved unwavering.
Finally, in 1963, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway was triumphantly completed, marking a significant milestone in transportation and engineering.
In 1998, the Tramway embarked on a modernization program to enhance its facilities and services. This included the introduction of the world’s largest rotating tram cars, which were unveiled in September 2000.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has two gift shops. One located at Valley Station, which is convenient if you have time to kill before your boarding time. Another is located at the top, in Mountain station.
Both gift shops carry a wide selection of Tramway souvenirs, including apparel, mugs, keychains, and other collectibles. Additionally, they offer a variety of local Tchotchkes, such as desert-themed trinkets, handmade crafts, and locally sourced products.
How long do people spend at Palm Springs tram?
The average time spent at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway varies depending on your interests and activities. I’d say most visitors typically spend between two and four hours to fully experience the attraction.
However, there are several camping options available in the Mount San Jacinto State Park, which is located at the top of the tramway. Camping permits are required, and can be obtained online or at the park’s ranger station.
Is Palm Springs Aerial Tramway kid-friendly?
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a great place for families, including children! Kids will love the thrilling Palm Springs Tram ride! Inside mountain station they can learn more about the history for the Tramway and also explore educational stations like what animals live on Mount San Jacinto.
Overall, when planning your Palm Springs trip, make sure to visit to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway – it was a highlight of our trip! It’s great for nature lovers, adventurers, families and anyone in between! You can purchase tickets ahead of time here- Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Tickets.
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