One of the best things we do each summer is buy summer passes for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Palm Springs may sound like a wonderful place to live, but it does have its drawbacks—the main one being heat. I don’t want to hear “Yes, but it’s a dry heat.” Actually, it’s not always a dry heat. The Gulf of Mexico is below us and storms come through during the summer bringing humidity, thunder and lightening. Besides, even if it’s a perfectly dry day with blue skies and sunshine it’s too hot when the thermometer reaches 115 to 126 degrees.
Living in an air conditioned world feels claustrophobic. I find myself staying inside staring out the window, not wanting to leave the comfort of my home. When I do, I turn on the car and get the AC cranking before I buckle up.
I have a few strategies to deal with the constant heat. One is walking early in the morning—by 7 a.m. it’s too hot. The other is swimming at the Palm Springs Aquatic Center with Piranha Swim Team’s Masters. The pool is cooled and feels so good—completely refreshing compared to our own pool that’s hot as a bath. Plus, I get pushed by my friends and coach and end up accomplishing so much more than if I swim laps on my own.
The third is the tram. Here’s a description from the tram website:
“The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway—the world’s largest rotating tram car—travels over two-and-one-half miles along the breathtaking cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting riders to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park. During your approximately ten-minute journey, tram cars rotate slowly, offering picturesque and spectacular vistas of the valley floor below. Once you reach the Mountain Station—elevation 8,516 feet—enjoy two restaurants, observation decks, natural history museum, two documentary theaters, gift shop and over 50 miles of hiking trails.”
Here are my nine top reasons to visit the tram:
From the mid-century architecture of the Valley Station to the Mountain Station, the beauty is striking. Pay close attention to the details of how the architects made the most out of breathtaking views. “Both tramway stations were designed by notable mid-century modern architects. The Valley Station, finished in 1963, was designed by Albert Frey and Robson C. Chambers. The Mountain Station, built in 1961, was designed by architect E. Stewart Williams. Additionally, the distinctive Tramway Gas Station at the foot of Tramway Road was designed by Frey and Chambers.” —Wikipedia
A quick fix to feeling cooped up in the summer means a short drive to Tramway Road and a 10-minute ride up the mountain. We start the season off with small walks—either on the Long Valley Discovery Trail or the Desert View Trail to get used to the elevation. Once summer is well under way, we advance to more challenging hikes among the more than 50 miles of hiking trails. My favorite is Round Valley Loop which is described as a “moderately strenuous 4-mile hike,” but manageable for after a day of work. It’s a really good work out.
Round Valley Loop view.
Did I mention it’s hot in Palm Springs during the summer? The first thing you notice riding up the tram car is fresh air. The windows are open and on the 10-minute ride up the mountain, you feel a cool breeze. At the mountain station, the air is about 30-degrees cooler than on the valley floor—and it’s cool and fresh. What a relief from air conditioning!
I’m hit by the delicious aroma of pine trees and especially the Jeffrey Pine’s butterscotch smell. Not only is the air fresh and cool, the aroma of the forest is enticing. It lifts my spirit.
Breathtaking views. Everywhere you look, whether it’s the panoramic view of the Coachella Valley or a view of the Mountain Station from the Round Valley Loop, it’s amazing. A babbling brook or a stately pine are awe inspiring.
A stop along the Desert View Trail.
“The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a major gateway to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument traversing the southerly side of the Coachella Valley – officially designated a treasured natural and cultural resource.” There’s plenty of squirrels and lizards and I’ve heard there’s raccoons, foxes and big horn sheep. I notice the birds most of all. I must bring binoculars and a bird book next time.
Bring Your Children.
You’ll hear the excited voices of children ringing as they chase lizards, pick up pine cones and enjoy the outdoors. Many families visit the tram to let their kids explore nature. What a great way to escape the heat with your children and let them burn up energy.
Elevation Training for Athletes.
When my daughter was in high school, she used to run a few miles dryland training for her swimming. She and I would buy summer passes and she’d run at least two days a week at elevation. We often saw other athletes running the Round Valley trail, too.
Some people buy their ticket for the tram for the ride alone. The views are spectacular and it’s a unique experience all its own. We, however, enjoy the tram for the world it transports us to. Ten minutes above the valley, we get to experience a slice of heaven and it makes the summer doable in Palm Springs.
Granite views from the tram window with the other tram approcahing in the distance.
You can see why the summer pass is such a great deal!
How do you stay active during hot summer months?