When you think of Palm Springs you think of lounging poolside sipping on a beverage at the Ace, Bob Hope's Mansion and mid century architecture, not a foot of fresh powder. Believe it or not just 10 minutes out of downtown Palm Springs you can take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (worlds largest rotating tram car) up 8,516 feet to Mt San Jacinto State Park and enjoy some really beautiful scenery with over 50 miles of hiking trails.
Once we arrived at the top we headed for the Forest Service building to obtain a day permit to hike into the trails in the backcountry of the park. At the end of the day the permit is dropped off in a drop box so the Forest Service knows you’ve made it out safe so they don’t have to go looking for you. The rangers were very helpful, providing us with a trail map and recommendations of where to go. Just below the tram is also open zone for family’s to enjoy some sledding and two restaurants and doesn’t require a permit.
After getting our permit we went to the Winter Adventure Center to rent some snowshoes; the center also rents cross country skis and crampons. Prices are on the Trams website pstram.com, the snowshoes were a reasonable price at $15.00 a day.
We headed out on the Round Valley Trail which is a 2 mile loop that ends back at the ranger station. About a half mile into the trail we encountered a group that was heading out to do some overnight snow camping which looks like it would be really fun. If you want to make some turns on your board or skis you're in luck, I couldn’t have tracked out the whole area if I had two days (part of me wanted to keep this area secret).
Once we got back and returned the snowshoes we enjoyed a drink and the spectacular view at restaurant in the tram building. When you get back back down to the parking lot and the warm weather sets in it's kind of surreal to think a that ten minute tram ride is all that separates you from a snowy solitude and sun bathing poolside.
This is a great day trip from Southern California or if you're visiting the Palm Springs or Joshua Tree area. Adult tickets are for the tram are $25.95 and $16.95 for children. Hiking permits are free and if you're interested in camping overnight go to pstramway.com to get information on overnight permits that have to be obtained through the Forest Service.
-George Covalla Art Director @gcharlie