Braving the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Another recommended place for us to visit was the Aerial tramway (or in more layman’s terms a cable car) in Palm Springs. Although this was located very near Joshua Tree National Park we couldn’t fit both in in one day; instead we made a separate trip one afternoon to see what all the fuss was about.

It was a good 2hrs 15 minutes to get to Palm Springs from LA but we had good traffic and nice weather conditions so the drive was pretty uneventful. Stepping out of the air conditioned car we had even more of a shock than our last desert experience; it was 115°F or 46.1°C, so hot it was like having a hot hairdryer on our legs from the wind! quick sunscreen application and we were ready to go.

We arrived at the tramway station without prebooked tickets but luckily for us it wasn’t so busy. We paid $28.95 for our tickets and waited our turn for the 1.24pm tram car to arrive. Your journey starts at The Valley Station, elevation 2,643 feet, and ends at The Mountain Station (elevation 8,516 feet) and is quite brisk taking only 10 minutes to cover the distance. The exciting bit about this cable car is that it rotates, not only that but it’s the world largest rotating tram car…not sure I’ve ever been on any rotating ones but was praying my motion sickness would keep in check for this journey! We were called for our car and stopped for the obligatory tourist photo money making scheme man on the way before boarding our flight.

The tram car did indeed rotate but only the floor so you had to watch what you did with your arms. We climbed up 2.5 miles through the cliffs of the Chino Canyon and the views were spectacular.

The floor didn’t spin so fast I felt sick, so a bonus result. The journey took 10 minutes and we passed by a few support posts on the way which caused some sway of the car and sounds of ‘ooooh’ from the passengers. Landing (or docking? Not sure which with a tram car) at the top we disembarked and headed outside to see the views. Being at a heady 8,516ft I certainly felt the effects; Nigel not so much but I was definitely getting more worn out and out of breath after walking a few steps.

It was pretty spectuacular scenery and was hard to imagine that this is a ski resort in the winter; there are over 50 miles of hiking trails here through San Jacinto National Park and in the winter skiing is very popular. In the blazing heat however, despite the fact it was much more comfortable temperature wise than down the bottom, snow was far from our imaginations.

We had lunch in the cafe which was very expensive and not so tasty; again (and there is beginning to be a theme) we should have brought a picnic as there were tables outside where you could eat.

We walked up to Grubbs View and saw even more spectacular views over the Coachella Valley; we were even able to see the famous San Andreas Fault which was quite distinguishable in the valley below.

I learnt from speaking with a member of staff that the hazy appearance of the valley below is not normal; there had been a nearby forest fire which is what had caused it. We were impressed anyway and probably wouldn’t have known any different if we hadn’t been told.

We contemplated a short hike and under normal circumstances we may have done however I did struggle with the altitude somewhat and because of the heat we decided against it. The good thing is that you can do as little or as much as you like here; hike, sit and chill with a book or admire the views, have a bite to eat or a cocktail its up to you. We decided to head back down; the tram cars run every 15 minutes so there was no worry about not being able to get one. All in all a great afternoon despite the long drive to get there it was worth the effort. If we ever came back I would like to see it in snow but I imagine its a nice place whatever the season.

We had a little look around Palm Springs after but nothing particularly caught our eye so we headed back to LA. Perhaps if we did an overnight stop we could have combined it with Joshua Tree National Park but it worked well for us anyway.

Carol & Nigel x

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