Friday, November 18, 2016

SPINNING MY WAY TO THE TOP OF MT. SAN JACINTO

The Palm Springs Tram
I finally rode the famous spinning Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of Mount San Jacinto after twenty years of visiting the Coachella Valley in Southern California.

The closest parking lot had space, thank heavens! The walk up to the Valley Station is very steep and then three flights of stairs. We were just in time to photograph the tram coming in. It carries a max of 80 passengers for the two and half mile ride through Chino Canyon to the top.

Everyone sees everything because the floor slowly rotates about three times on the journey. And, what a journey it is! To me it was the highlight of the visit. We swooped over the four towers as we passed changing rock cliffs and views down the canyon. As we rose, the flat Coachella Valley came into view — the wind farms and Palm Springs in the west to the Salton Sea in the east. Cameras clicked, people oohed and aahed.

The four storey Mountain Station perched on rocky outcrops has an elevator, a cafeteria and a restaurant, two movie theatres, a natural history museum, a gift shop, and a park ranger to assist. Out back are the trail heads through the evergreens and there are many to choose from, the shortest being a mile loop.
Atop at the Mountain Station

We went up to the top storey and out to the observation deck that leads up to Grubb's View. The sky was deep blue and criss-crossed with con trails below thin high cirrus clouds. Visit when the sky is clear, not when clouds cover the peak! The views in various directions at 8,500 feet were, for me, another reason I came. I was not disappointed.

Usually the temperature at this altitude is about 20F to 30F below the valley heat, but today it was surprisingly warm. I took many images but missed the shot of the tram coming into dock.

I came for lunch too and chose to eat in the more expensive restaurant — Peaks. Every diner has a view here as the tables are arranged on terraces. The food was not worth it — my avocado BLT on crispy French bread was poor. Wilted lettuce, a scrape of avocado, stale bread, unripe tomatoes, and overcooked hard bacon.

The ride down was crowded but, if anything, more exciting than zooming up. There is more sensation of speed as the rock walls flash by and the valley rises to meet you. Cameras overheated again!

If you go:

  • Wear stout walking shoes or hiking boots.
  • Take a sweater or jacket
  • Book online at https://www.pstramway.com/ 
  • Cost in USD: Adults $25.95; seniors $23.95; Kids (3-12) $16.95
  • Arrive 30 mins before departure from Valley Station, some parking lots are a long way away.
  • Accessibility for visitors with mobility challenges — it would be wise to call ahead and find out more about assistance from the parking lots. The Valley and Mountain Stations are accessible, but not the short climb to Grubb's view or the hikes.

IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2016. All rights reserved.