The Easy Way Up: Palm Springs Tram

The view from the base of the tram

The view from the base of the tram

The Palm Springs aerial tramway is reminiscent of the tram I rode outside Albuquerque, New Mexico last summer.  Both gain a lot of elevation in a hurry, transporting passengers from the desert to a subalpine ecosystem.  The Palm Springs tram wins the innovation contest, because its cab spins two complete revolutions during the ten minute trip up Chino Canyon.   Thus each passenger can effectively see in all directions.

Pretty open forest with some meadow areas above 8000 feet

Pretty open forest with some meadow areas above 8000 feet

At the upper end of the tram, there is a lodge with a restaurant and bar, a mini movie theatre, viewing decks, and access to wilderness trails.  We soon had a group of folks traipsing around the mountainside on a loop trail.  Interpretive signs dotted the path.  I learned that the bark of a Jeffrey Pine smells like vanilla (some people say butterscotch).  Who knew?

A friend saw the letter Y; I saw a face

A friend saw the letter Y; I saw a face

Our path led us from a pleasant meadow through pine forests forest to cliff’s edge on five occasions.  The views ranged from great to spectacular.  Ridges and canyons plunged more than a mile to the vast desert plains where across the Coachella Valley we could see the Salton Sea.

An amazing domelike cliff reminiscent of Tuolomne Meadows

An amazing domelike cliff reminiscent of Tuolomne Meadows

I felt at home in the mountain environment, and I could have stayed there for days, hiking off into the wilderness and peakbagging in perfect weather.   Mount San Jacinto, one of the tallest peaks in Southern California, is nearby.  The only concern is water.  Signs on the highway below don’t tell drivers to be safe.  They tell drivers to conserve water.   I can’t help but wonder what will happen for Southern California residents if the drought continues.

Far off mountains

Far off mountains

Our loop skirted the edge of the massive escarpment looking down onto the desert.   I loved popping up to various viewpoints amid the rocks with slightly different views of desert, crags, and canyons.  It was also interesting to see the streets and land plot geometry of the dry cities in the brown world below.  Our group met back at the lodge on top of the tram for round of Bloody Marys.  Not bad at all.

The view through pines shows a mile drop to the desert

The view through pines shows a mile drop to the desert

The tram isn’t a freebie.  For two of us, we spent $47 and change for our tickets, but the experience was worthwhile.  Being able to make that quick trip to a completely different ecosystem was amazing.  If I returned, I would love to explore the area for a few more hours and climb a peak.  I hear there is a trail all the way back down to the desert that’s about 18 miles.   Anybody want to join  me?  🙂

Great shadows looking down the sides of Chino Canyon

Great shadows looking down the sides of Chino Canyon

About Josh Baker

"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir

Posted on February 17, 2014, in Adventure, Alpine Hiking, Desert, Flora and Fauna, Mountains, Outdoors, vacations and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Do you know if the loop you hiked had a name?

  2. I immediately saw a face as well in the rock even before I read your comment of what you saw!

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