It’s pretty common that when we get to a new area people who have been here before reach out and give us recommendations. Several people recommended the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway so we immediately added it to our list. A variety of factors, including dense smog, stopped us from going until our very last day but since the tickets can be exchanged for different days and times that worked out OK.
Essentially the Tramway is an 11 minute 2-1/2 mile round trip from the valley station (2,643 feet) to the Mountain Station (8,516 feet). The weather change is extreme and the scenery as well going from desert temperatures to alpine conditions with some snow in the winter. Although this is a real treat for the locals, we have seen lots of snow in Yellowstone, but Lee was interested in the tram and I thought it was worth a trip. Plus we paid a little extra and included a buffet style dinner at the cafe at the top. Plus the Mount San Jacinto State Park is at the top and we heard the hiking trails are pretty nice.
Unfortunately we ended up arriving a little on the late side and since the trams were running every 12 minutes or so didn’t make it onto one until 4pm. We didn’t account for the time it would take to park and then get the bus to the base station and all that took about 30 extra minutes.
Each tram can hold up to 80 people but thankfully going up it was probably half of that. We got a nice spot by the window and adjusted pretty quickly to the rotating floor (think Disney ride) which Lee wasn’t a fan of. I liked the rotating because you got to see a little of everything but when you pass a tower the tram swings. They do a nice job of letting you know when this is coming, but the swinging sensation that high up was pretty unsettling for me so I will apologize in advance for the quality of the pictures. I was fighting a lot of sensations when I took them.
On the way up the tram operator (who was excellent) talked to us and there was a nice recorded message about how this was built. All in all it was much better than I expected and when we reached the top it was pretty cool. It was crazy windy though which ruled out hiking for us, but we went outside and saw all the different views and took pictures. It was 40 degrees and the wind had a serious bite so I would recommend a hat and gloves which we didn’t bring.
The sunset was very pretty but when we went inside those areas were packed. We got in line for our buffet which started at 4:30 but they didn’t actually open until 4:45. This was the most disappointing part of the experience because the food was fine but the people setting up the line were moving at a snail’s pace and had an attitude that we were waiting. The food was fine though and we found a decent seat in the corner to watch the lights down in the valley.
All in all it was OK until we had to go back down. Going down in the dark in a totally full car was way worse than going up and unfortunately we were stuck in the middle. They did play some upbeat music which I appreciated but there was a rowdy group in our car (they had obviously partaken of the bar up top) and every time we passed a tower and dipped they made a ton of noise. For me it was incredibly unpleasant and my nerves were pretty raw when we made it to the bottom. I am not saying you shouldn’t try it if you visit Palm Springs but be honest with yourself about heights and tight spaces.
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