The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway takes you out of the summer heat in the desert up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon to a hiking paradise that is about 30 degrees cooler than the valley floor. It is a 10 minute ride from the Valley Station – elevation 2,643 ft. to the Mountain Station – elevation 8,516 ft. You can purchase a Summer Pass which allows you to ride up the tram as many times as you want from May 1 to August 31, which is well worth the price. While I shouldn’t have to say this, hiking at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is mostly a summer activity as the trails can be covered with snow during the winter months.
The tramway now has a paid-parking program, charging $5 per vehicle for visitors to the region. The good news is the parking fee is waived for summer and annual pass holders, as well as Coachella Valley residents. Proof of residency must be provided for the following cities to get the parking fee waived: Mecca, Thermal, Coachella, Indio, La Quinta, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City, Thousand Palms, Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs. However, the hiking is so good up there during the summer that it is well worth the $5 fee if you are not a local resident.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway takes you up to Mt. San Jacinto State Park which offers about 54 miles of hiking trails located within the 14,000 acre Mt. San Jacinto Wilderness area. All of the trails are accessed by exiting the Mountain Station and descending a concrete pathway less than a mile long to Long Valley. In Long Valley there are picnic tables, water, a Ranger Station, flush toilets and some easy trails. Or you can tackle some of the other more difficult trails like the Round Valley trail, Wellmans Divide Trail, or you can get real brave and do the San Jacinto Peak Trail.
Trails in the Mt. San Jacinto Wilderness from the top of the tram
Long Valley Discovery Trail: Follow the nature trail posts around a 3/4 mile (1.2 km) loop. This easy level trail provides an excellent introduction to the Park’s plants and animals.
Desert View Trail: A 1.5 mile (2 km) loop trail that leads to a number of scenic overlooks and forest views. Short climbs, moderately strenuous.
Round Valley: A hike of about 2.5 miles one way that leads to picturesque Round Valley. Fairly level trails, short climbs, moderately strenuous. You can also hike the Round Valley loop which is a moderately strenuous hike of about 5 miles. As you leave the Long Valley Ranger Station you will see the sign that points you in the direction of most of the hikes, including the loop trail. The loop trail is easiest if you follow the trail to the right when you get to the sign behind the ranger station. The way to the left starts to climb almost immediately and is more difficult. Read more about the Round Valley Hike here …
Wellman Divide: From Round Valley to Wellman Divide is a 1-mile hike (2 miles round trip from Round Valley, and 6.77 miles round trip from the tram station) with a 600 feet elevation gain which will bring you up to 9,700 feet. The view from here is truly spectacular. Looking west you can see the dome of the Palomar Observatory and to the southwest Tahquitz Peak Lookout. From this point you can continue down to Idyllwild or up to the Mt. San Jacinto Peak. Elevation gain, strenuous. Read more about the Wellman Divide hike here …
Round Valley Loop: The Round Valley loop is a moderately strenuous hike of about 4 miles. Shortly after you leave the Long Valley Ranger Station you will see the sign that points you in the direction of the loop hike. The hike includes fairly level trails, short climbs, and is moderately strenuous. Read more about the Round Valley Loop hike here …
San Jacinto Peak: This is a 5.5 mile hike one way that will take you to the second highest point in southern California. On clear days it is reported that you can see Catalina Island or the glow from Las Vegas at night. Remember, this is an 11 mile round-trip hike from the Long Valley Ranger Station.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Mount San Jacinto State Park Information
- Mount San Jacinto State Park Homepage
Address: 25905 Highway 243, Idyllwild, CA 92549
Mt. San Jacinto Message Board
Planning on hiking up Mt. San Jacinto? Here is a great website to find out current trail conditions, weather and to meet up with other hikers.
- Mt. San Jacinto Message Board
Weather Conditions at The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Check the weather conditions at top of the Tram before going on any hike in the Mt. San Jacinto Wilderness. Even in the summer storms can pass through which can make hiking dangerous. During the winter knowing if a storm is coming can save your life. Click here for weather conditions at top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
Please use caution hikers!
Hiking in and around Palm Springs and at the top of the tram in the Mt. San Jacinto Wilderness can be very dangerous, and many people have to be rescued from the area at the top of the tram each year. Usually it is due to lack of preparation, such as having proper hiking equipment, plenty of water and also a map of the area. Just because it is a desert doesn’t mean it will not get cold in the winter, and it definitely gets very hot in the summer. Weather at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway can be hot in the summer, and very cold in the winter, and it can be windy and very dangerous. Wear proper clothing, have proper equipment and follow these hiking tips or you may pay with your life.
Also, please stay on the trails. There is no reason to get lost in this area if you stay on the trails and use common sense.