The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Last year, I posted about our winter trip to Palm Desert, California. We came back this year, so I will write about two of our primary activities while visiting the Coachella Valley.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a must-do while visiting this beautiful area. It was initially proposed in the 1930s, much to the shock and disbelief of most people that heard about the idea.

But a plan was completed in the 1930s to build a tram from the Coachella Valley ( elevation about 2000 ) to the top of San Jacinto Peak ( elevation about 8250 ). Work was delayed by both WWII and the Korean War, and finally started in 1960. Helicopters were utilized to build four of the five towers, and even today, there is a very small, flat landing platform at the top of the towers for tram maintenance. Work was completed in 1963.

If you look carefully at the picture above, you can see a small, flat spot at the top of the tower. THAT is where the helicopters land !! I really can’t even imagine it !!

The original tram was replaced in 2000 by a circular body that holds 80 passengers. This tram’s floor revolves 2-3 times around on the 12 minutes up the mountain. So everyone sees all the views without moving around inside the tram. We have also traveled on another of these on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.

We plan the ascent ride up a little before sunset so that we can watch the lights come on in the valley below.

The temperature at the top is roughly 40 degrees cooler than the bottom. Some people bring their kids up to play in the snow. We saw a couple people with cross country skis. Below is a pic from the top showing the snow quantity. In the summer, people actually hike up or down the mountain. If you climb up, you have to buy a half ticket to take the tram down. Since they don’t check tickets at the top, I asked the security guard how they know if you walked up … “ They are really sweaty.”

At the summit, there are two restaurants. We always make reservations at the more formal of the two and watch the Sun go down. Here are the views from the top:

Then this is what we see on the tram descent:

The tram is a unique experience … In the five weeks we were in this desert, four visitors stayed with us, and all wanted to do the tram. So I went four times. Wednesday became “ tram night “. I didn’t complain.

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