10 Tips for Visiting the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

The Palm Springs Tram heads up to the mountain station

Taking a trip on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway can be great. I mean, one minute you are on the scorching hot desert floor – but then, after a short drive up to the Valley Station (2,643 ft.) and a 12 minute ride on a rotating tram car later, you are 8,516 feet above sea level in the beautiful Southern California Mountains! 

Here a few tips to make sure you have the best time possible while visiting one of the most popular attractions in Palm Springs: The Palm Springs Tram.

10Dress in Layers

The Palm Springs Tram
(Instagram: @visitcalifornia)

There’s a reason the mountains have all that snow and the desert does not: it gets much colder up there.  Check the weather forecast before going up and dress in layers that you can shed should you start to heat up a bit from hiking the great trails at the top (some tips on hiking can be found here).

More: Here’s how to get discount tickets to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

More: 5 Things to Know About the Palm Springs Tram.

9Wear Good Shoes / Boots

The sign for Mount San Jacinto National Park as you leave from the Palm Springs Tramway Mountain Station

I have seen plenty of people riding up the tram car in flip flips…FLIP FLOPS!  Do not be these people.  There is a ton of great hiking at the top of the tram and no one should try to do it in bad shoes.  Wear a good pair of tennis shoes or hiking boots if there is no snow on the ground and a good pair of winter boots during the winter.

8Get Ready to Walk…A Lot

The terrible, long, and tough ramp at the Mountain Station at the Palm Springs Tram
(Instagram: @anytots)

Yeah, about that footwear.  Make sure it is comfortable as you are going to do a lot of walking.  Hell, the ramp out of the Mountain Station alone is 7 miles long.  (note: it is far, far, far less than 7 miles long…but it does feel like forever sometimes going up.)

The trails that begin below the Mountain Station are really well maintained and offer up some amazing views.  If you are not looking to walk a lot, but still want to take in the views, be sure to take the Desert View Trail – a 1.5 mile loop that showcases 5 “notches” with some killer views of the Coachella Valley.  It’s a pretty easy hike and the payoff is worth it.

More: Things to know if you’re hiking at the Palm Springs Tram.

More: There Used to be a Miss Tramway contest.  No seriously.

For those who want to hike a bit more, there is a nice 4 mile loop that begins at the Ranger Station, along with longer hikes to the peak, Idyllwild, and more. Just be sure to get a free permit from the Ranger Station before heading out on anything other than the Desert View hike.

7Bring Water

A view from up top of the Palm Springs Tram

While the Tramway is a tourist attraction, once you get away from the Mountain Station, you are in nature!  NATURE!!!  Hydration is pretty darn important, so be sure to bring some H2O.

6Pee Before Going Up (or Down)

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway car goes down the mountain
(Instagram: @davidoflion)

Speaking of liquids…the tram runs pretty well – but, on occasion, might have to be stopped during the course of your ride up or down.  Just to be safe, use the restroom at the Mountain or Valley Station before getting in the tram car.

5Get a Season Pass

the patio at the Palm Springs Tramway Mountain Station
(Instagram: @palmspringsaerialtramway)

Regular prices for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway are $27 for adults and $16 for kids (3-12) – which is fine (sometimes passes are on Groupon, you might want to check here, just in case).  But, if you plan on going up a few times, spring for a season pass:  $160 for the year or $80 for a summer season pass ($40 for kids)- which many find is well worth it to cool off for a few hours if you live in and around the Coachella Valley.

4Bring a Camera

Visitors take pictures from the patio at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
(Instagram: @palmspringsaerialtramway)

You are going to see some amazing views that you will want to photograph.  At the very least, make sure your phone is fully charged as the miles and miles of trails do sometimes have a deer spotting, but do not have any spots to charge your iPhone.

3Bring Your Own Food and Drinks

A beer that I brought from home at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The benefits of bringing up your own picnic basket

The Mountain Station has a bar and some food options, but you can also bring your own picnic basket (or whatever sort of food carrying thing you prefer) with some grub and something to wash it down.  But, if you are planning on bringing in some adult beverages to enjoy with your meal, you might want to be subtle about it instead of trying to walk on the tram car with am 12-pack of PBR – which I actually saw someone try (and fail) to do once.

2The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway rotates while in motion

Christmas time at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Christmas time at Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (PS Tramway)

There is no need to rush to the front of the car.  It will spin about 2.5 times on the way up and down, giving you plenty of chances to take in the views.

Bonus tip: If you don’t like the idea of a moving floor, there are two benches in the center of the tram car (near the operator).  These do not spin (and can be nice after that long hike to and from San Jacinto Peak).

1It Can Get Crowded

The view of the Coachella Valley at night from the Palm Springs Tram
The view at night from the Palm Springs Tram (via Flickr)

Depending on a few factors like holidays, school being out, and snowfall, the Tramway can get really, really busy.  Wait times during Christmas can be up to three hours.  You can buy your tickets in advance here, which during the busy season would be a smart thing to do.  Also, while the Mountain Station can get crowded, most people do not venture out onto the trails – so, no matter how crowded it gets, your time with nature will still be pretty peaceful.

You can get more tips and info from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway’s website.  If you have a tip or two of your own, please leave it in the comments as we would love to hear it.

Have fun at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway!