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Good For Kids
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good views from the top as well
San Jacinto State Park
Closest available address
1 Tram Way Palm Springs, California 92262
Tram generally runs from 10am-8pm, and the last tram comes down at 9:45pm.
Best time to visit
Fall, Winter, Spring
The 14,000 acre San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness is best known for San Jacinto Peak, which is the sixth highest mountain in the Continental US at 10,834 feet, and for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which ascends from Valley Station at 2,643 feet up to Mountain Station at 8,516 feet. The main Mountain Station building has a number of visitor facilities, including two restaurants, a small museum, gift shop and park office.
President McKinley protected forestland in the area in 1897, but the state park was not established until 1933. Francis Crocker proposed a tramway up the mountain as early as 1935 but construction was delayed due to the World War II and funding issues until 1961. The tram was built in 1963 and is considered an engineering marvel. It was built via helicopters and financed entirely by private funds.
The tram rotates as it ascends, so there are no bad vantage points as long as you stand by a window. The ride up was crowded but relatively short at 10 minutes. For the daytripper, the museum and film at Mountain Station were both uninteresting and can be skipped. Of the two short hikes at Mountain Station, the Desert View Trail was a better choice for the views of Palm Springs and more distant desert vistas. While the trail was easy for a person in good shape, the reduced oxygen levels at this altitude may make it challenging for others. A 4 mile roundtrip loop trail to Round Valley provided more of a “wilderness” experience and an escape from the crowds at Mountain Station. However, a free wilderness backcountry permit is required to access this area. For the romantically inclined, a sunset dinner for two at the more formal Peaks Restaurant in Mountain Station can provide special memories, and a “ride and dine” discount can save some bread. Lastly, for the serious hiker, a difficult 11 mile roundtrip hike to San Jacinto Peak offers views that John Muir described as “the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!” A cool rotating tram ride, impressive mountain views and pleasant short hikes are a winning combination, and a visit to San Jacinto should have wide appeal.
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Gar the Bold
3/19/2014 10:31:47 AM
I hiked to the top of San Jacinto in 1994. It is quite a sight! Today I would need to take the tram. The hike is a fairly strenuous ascent but no dangerous cliff face climbing. Great review!
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