Fifty years ago today, Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, Sr. cut the ribbon at the official inaugural ride of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It is the world’s largest rotating tramway, stretching 2.5 miles up the side of Chino Canyon in the San Jacinto Mountains, starting at the Valley Station – elevation 2,643 feet, and ending at the Mountain Station – elevation 8,516 feet. The tramway started as the dream of a young electrical engineer named Francis Crocker, and despite setbacks due to political roadblocks, Crocker’s dream eventually became a plan, and that plan was made a reality by funding through the sale of private revenue bonds and land donations; not one cent of public funds were used for the construction or operation of the tramway. In 2000, a large-scale modernization program included the construction and installation of new cars and updated facilities.
I recently recently took some friends with me to experience the tramway. I’m not going to lie – it was a little scary since it was so steep! But the view during the ride and from the top made it totally worth it.
Once we were at the top, we took a hike in Mt. San Jacinto State Park and then had lunch before heading back down. The temperature dropped quite a bit up in the mountains, so it was a nice break from the Palm Springs desert heat!
This Jeffrey pine smelled exactly like butterscotch candy!
The tramway is open daily year-round, with lunch and dinner served at the Peaks Restaurant and Pines Café at the top of the tramway. Mt. San Jacinto State Park offers 54 miles of hiking trails located within 14,000 acres of wilderness, with trails and camping sites accessible by exiting the tramway’s Mountain Station and descending a concrete pathway approximately .3 miles to Long Valley. During the winter, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snow camping are available.
To celebrate the tramway’s 50th anniversary, on Saturday, Sept. 14 from 9:30am to 3:30pm, every visitor will receive a complimentary tram anniversary cupcake at the Mountain Station (while supplies last), so this weekend is a great time to experience the tramway! For general information visit PSTramway.com, and for more information about anniversary-related events and announcements, visit PSTramway50th.com.
All images by Ciera Holzenthal.