Tramming in Palm Springs, California

(Last Updated On: December 15, 2020)

We’ve been talking about taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up San Jacinto Mountain, but I keep waffling – it will be cold up there and I came to California specifically to be warm! Still, I’m sort of an aerial tram junkie and hate to miss the opportunity to add another to my list (Sandia in Albuquerque, the funiculars in Orvieto and Salzburg, and TeleferiQo in Quito are among those I’ve tried).

Of course, we spend so much time debating it that the sun is already starting to set when we get to the station. We make a mad dash up the hill from the parking area and are lucky to find no waiting line and a tram awaiting us when we arrive in the boarding area, allowing us the opportunity to ascend while there is still some light.

Apparently these are new modern tram cars, specially designed to enhance the traveler’s experience. The damn thing has a rotating floor and, while it rotates slowly (two full revolutions on the way up or down), it is enough movement to make it impossible to set up a shot. Besides, the movement itself (combined with the glide up the hillside) makes me nauseous. Ugh.


I’d probably be less frustrated with the rotation if the car were packed, but ours is nearly empty so there is room to walk around to take in the view from all sides – the only impediment to photography is the continual movement of the floor!

I knew there would be snow up here, but still it is weird to see it.

When we arrive the temperature is in the 20’s, but the air is still, so while it is crisp, a wool sweater is warm enough for me. On the other hand, I suspect all the folks who came up here in flip flops and shorts are pretty cold.

They don’t have to be cold for very long though, as there really isn’t anything to do up here outside this time of year. I knew that, like Sandia Mountain, there are hiking trails up here. I didn’t expect them to be closed because of the snow.

Most of the viewing spots are closed for the same reason, which is ridiculous and irritating. There isn’t that much snow – maybe a foot or so in the deepest spots.

So we admire the view for a bit as the sun sets and then head into the restaurant in search of dinner and a table with a view.

I keep thinking the sunset show is over, but then a new phase begins (sort of like the Grand Canyon, where the show started up again after I thought it was over – canyons are tricky that way), so I keep popping up from the table and running outside to take a few more pictures.

It never becomes a spectacular show, but it’s nice enough.

The restaurant itself isn’t a bad spot either. There are wonderful views even if you aren’t right by the windows and the food is not quite up to the chef’s ambitions, but close and really pretty good – especially for a place that is so touristy.

As we finish our meal, crowds are forming near the doors and there is a bit of hysteria on the part of some of the younger women – a raccoon is out on the observation deck, watching and waiting for someone to open the door so it can get into the restaurant. Clearly this is not this fellow’s first visit.

Everyone is freaked out by the raccoon and afraid to leave the building, but I haven’t taken my obligatory night shot yet so we work our way through the crowd and out the door. (Come on, folks, it’s only a raccoon.)

The raccoon has zero interest in us (it wants to be inside where the food is), but its presence ensures that I can set up the tripod pretty much wherever I want (two other people follow us, so we don’t have the observation platform entirely to ourselves, but close) and take as much time as I want to get my shot. . .

Next post: The natural side of Coachella

California desert wildflower tour

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