The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a magic carpet that takes one from desert to mountain 2,643 feet to 8,516 feet at the top, a distance of two and one-half miles and a 20 minute ride.
Thanks to the rotating tram cars that rotate slowly as the cars ascend or descend passengers are provided a full 360 degree viewing experience. As it moves up Chino Canyon and traverses above its awesome cliffs it is no wonder that it remains the world’s largest rotating tram car.
En route and on top there are marvelous views of the whole Coachella Valley and the Salton Sea some 80 miles distant. On top one is at the gateway to Mt. San Jacinto State Park with its hiking trails and opportunities for year-round recreation. In the State Park there are 54 miles of hiking trails including nature walks as well as the five and one-half mile trek to the top of 10,804 foot Mt. San Jacinto.
Perhaps we appreciate the Tram more than most people because we first climbed Mt. San Jacinto before it was built. Then it was a dawn to dusk 14 mile hike from a western approach. Another year we took the family making it a backpack trip with an overnight camp at Little Round Valley.
How the tram came to be is an interesting story in itself. At that time I was editor of a trade publication called ‘Hotel and Restaurant Operator’ and since I knew the terrain I followed the troubles and problems of its early beginnings as they developed into news stories. At the time it appeared just about every one from the Governor of California to local business men were involved either for or against the whole concept.
The person who first came up with the ideat was an electrical engineer named Francis Crocker. This was in 1935. Later Earl Coffman, manager of Palm Springs Desert Inn came aboard to become head the committee that did take the Tram concept seriously. However World War ll and and the Korean Conflict held up start of the project for over a decade.
But at last in 1963 the Tram was finished and open to the public.
Now on top there is a full service restaurant, a gift shop, a museum with the animals of the State Park on display, and a theatre showing movies of the Park and Tram. During the winter when there is snow the Tram is gateway for cross country skiing as well as snow play.
The Tram is number one tourist attraction in Palm Springs and so it is wise to order tickets in advance if at all possible. This can be done on line or by calling 888 515-8726. Monday thru Friday hours are 10 a.m. with last ascending car at 8 p.m. On weekends and holidays starting time is 8 a.m. Last tram car down is 9:45 each day. There is also a fee for parking.
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