Winter’s Just a Tram Away

Snoeshoeing Mount San Jacinto Atop the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Snowshoeing in Mount San Jacinto State Park atop the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is one of those quintessential SoCal experiences. One minute you’re basking in desert sunshine; 10 minutes later, you’re at 8,500 feet strapping on platforms that will enable you to walk through a snowy wonderland.

As you leave Valley Station and make your way up 2.5 miles of cables, watch the desert disappear and quickly transition into a snow-covered alpine forest. Once you reach the top of the tram, head to the Adventure Center, which is open whenever the snow is deep enough. (Check the Aerial Tramway website for current conditions.) At the Adventure Center you can rent snowshoes, cross-country skis, and snow boots; they even sell hats and gloves, in case you’re particularly unprepared. The friendly staff will help you set up your gear and give you brief tips and pointers to get you going. If you’ve never snowshoed, fear not—you basically just walk!

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Hike on any trail you like. For an easy walk, try the self-guided Nature Trail, an easy 0.75-mile loop (trail maps available in the visitor center). More-intrepid snow hikers might enjoy the Round Valley Trail, a 5-mile loop featuring a sprawling alpine meadow. Breathe in the fresh mountain air and feel the chill on your face as you hike through snow-covered forests of pinyon, big cone, and Jeffrey pine. But the real fun of snowshoeing is heading off trail to explore the deeper snow. Feel light as a feather as you trek across the snow’s surface, moving with speed and agility, while those without snowshoes sink in over their knees. Getting a little chilly? Warm beverages await you in the tramway visitor center. Perfection!

From the eastbound I-10, take CA-111 toward Palm Springs, then turn right onto Tram Way, which leads straight to the Valley Station. Trams run every 10 minutes. Expect long waits on weekends. Reserve tickets in advance online. If tickets are sold out online, first-come, first-served tickets are still available at Valley Station. The Adventure Center is open weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Monday. No dogs.

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