The best part of Palm Springs is 8,500ft up in the Air

California just gets cooler by the minute: we were in Palm Springs earlier this month with family, and it was a total blast. Since moving out West, I had heard nothing but good things about this little desert gem, full of mid-century charm and old Hollywood glam. And yup, I did adore it. The downtown area was fun and quirky; the mountains, palm trees, and vacation atmosphere definitely won me over.

However, my favorite part of this desert town wasn't the desert at all. Don't get me wrong, I will always have a soft spot for cacti and arid terrains, but finding and exploring an alpine forest 8,500ft above see level was the highlight of the weekend.


Here's the jist: the Palm Springs Tramway is a quick 10 minute drive from downtown Palm Springs. Once you park, you take a 10-minute, 2.5-mile ride in the world’s largest rotating tramcar from the Valley Station (desert, elevation 2,643 feet) and end at the Mountain Station  (alpine forest, elevation 8,516 feet). There you can enjoy observation decks, restaurants, a gift shop, ski center in the winter, camping, and 54 miles of hiking trails.

Palm Springs Tramway Valley Station

The views as you head up to the San Jacinto Mountains alone are worth it (unless you're not too keen on heights). It is obviously a popular tourist attraction and it can get crowded, but if you go as early as possible in the day, it's quiet and so pleasant! You'll come across all kinds of folks up there, from international tourists to ladies wearing heels and plenty of serious hikers in full-on mountaineering gear. 

The park is located within a 14,000 acre pristine wilderness - sadly, one of the last in California. It is very family-friendly, and I saw plenty of other babies in carriers, strollers, and active grandparents. All trails are accessed by descending a wheelchair/stroller-accessible concrete pathway less than a mile to Long Valley. In Long Valley there are picnic tables, Ranger Station, flush toilets and some easy trails.


Buy tickets in advance. You can purchase them online up to 24 hours prior to the visit, and avoid standing in line at the ticket counter. Later in the day and weekends in general tend to get pretty busy, since only two tram cars transport everyone up the mountain. Adults: $24.95, children: $16.95 (ages 3-12) and seniors: $22.95 (65+).

Check the weather (at the top of the mountain). When we went, it was 98F in Palm Springs, and 55F up there. Breathing fresh and crisp mountain air in the middle of the summer was nothing short of amazing. It was sunny and gorgeous, and our light sweaters definitely came in handy.

Wear comfortable walking/hiking shoes. Many of us didn't realize there was more to the attraction than just the tramway ride, and that were so many nature trails up there. We did the easy 0.5 trail loop, which was enough to get a feel for the park. Grandpa had our little man in the baby carrier for most of the hike, and they had such a good time. We saw people camping, a ranger station and a snow station for winter activities.

He takes nature very seriously.

We loved exploring the park for a few hours, and would definitely go back there in the winter for some snow fun, and to camp there next spring or summer. What a cool experience that would be, camping at the very top of a mountain!

Have you ever visited Palm Springs?

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About the Writer

I'm Louise, a Tampa Bay based Brazilian-American travel blogger. Join us as we learn and share the ins-and-outs of traveling with a toddler and our sweet rescue pup Oreo, while promoting local nonprofits and wellness along the way.