This past weekend my girlfriend and I were supposed to take her father surfing, but the weather was a little overcast in Southern California. Instead of going surfing we changed plans and drove out to San Jacinto Mountain to take the Palm Springs Aeriel Tram up to the fresh mountain air and enjoy a beautiful later afternoon hike.
The Palm Spring Aerial Tram takes you from the desert valley floor of Palm Springs up to the beautiful pine tree mountaintop of San Jacinto Mountain.
San Jacinto Mountain stands at an impressive 10,833 feet tall, and the Aerial tram gets you up to 8,500 feet. On this trip, we did not hike to the peak and instead did a short 1.95-mile hike along the desert view trail and the discovery nature trail which makes for a great day trip.
If you are curious about hiking to the peak of San Jacinto, I have hiked Deer Springs Trail from Idyllwild which is on the opposite side of the mountain from Palm Springs. If you are looking for a real challenging adventure, check out the Catus to Clouds Hike for a real grueling hike to the top.
The Tram from Palm Springs is a great way to quickly get up to 8.500 feet to enjoy the Mountain air, without having to break a sweat on the way up. The Tram provides amazing views as it rids to the top and slowly rotates as it goes up, so all the passengers get views both up and down the mountain.
If you are not a fan of heights, you may not like the ride, but the view of the sheer jagged rocks that form San Jacinto are amazing. San Jacinto is a unique Mountain because it rises straight out of the hot desert and into a Mountain Oasis. The dramatic contrast from the desert valley to the mountain cliffs is absolutely stunning.
I am usually a crazy planner for hiking trips, and usually, print my own maps and have a detailed plan even for day trips but this was a little last minute. When you get to the top of the Palm Springs Aeriel Tram, there are bathrooms, a gift shop, and even a restaurant/ cafeteria. Once you walk outside and get a glimpse of the mountain, you will stand there in aww and then gasp if you move to fast and are not used to the elevation. Taking the Tram from the desert floor and then 10 minutes later being at 8,500 will most likely make you feel the elevation change.
Once hiking down the paved trail from the Tram Stop you will run into a map, we took a quick glance over and decided to hike the 1.5-mile desert view trail. Its a beautiful hike through the pine forest which brings you to 6 different "notches" where you get fantastic views of the desert floor below.
The map above can be downloaded and viewed on Caltopo here.
Desert view trail is pretty well marked, and we didn't need a printed map. Desert View trail is a pretty relaxed day hike, with about a 100 feet of elevation gain. The biggest challenge is the elevation if you are not used to it, or if you climb on some of the big boulders.
This hike provides plenty of beautiful sweeping views of the desert below:
Despite the name of the trail being "Desert View Trail" do not forget to look back into the forest and the mountain itself. We were there in the late afternoon, so the more we hiked, the better the lighting became.
As we headed back toward the tram terminal to head back to Palm Springs, and eventually San Diego we ended up taking a slight detour off of Desert View Trail and onto the Discovery Nature Trail. It hardly added any distance to our total hike but was an excellent way to end the hike a little different from when we started it.
When we made the climb back up the winding path to the tram station, we were treated with some amazing light peaking through the clouds and haze. When I am in the mountains, I never want to go home, but at least we ended it with this view!