Top Ten Los Angeles Adventures
Normally, I'm skeptical of silly tourist gimmicks. But the Aerial Tram ride from Palm Springs to the San Jacinto Mountains is every bit as spectacular as the brochures say it is. As the tram lifts you nearly 6,000 feet above the desert floor, you watch prickly pears give way to tall palms and eventually to pines and rocky peaks. The temperature shifts from stifling to chilly in an improbably short time. And before you have a chance to acclimate to your new surroundings, you're off to the trailhead for phase two.
Gentle switchbacks that criss-cross a lily-lined creek lead you to the meadow where you'll pitch your tent under a nearby patch of pines. Drop off your gear and continue up the trail to the 10,786-foot San Jacinto Peak—this is one of the most beautiful hikes in California, with views from the top stretching all the way to Mexico.
To reserve a campsite, go to www.sanjac.statepark.org/permit.html and print out an application for a wilderness permit. Then mail it with a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Mount San Jacinto State Park, P.O. Box 308, Idyllwild, CA 92549. Park officials limit the number of permits issued in order to minimize impact. During the summer, you'll want to send in your application at least a month in advance and hope you don't get stuck pitching your tent next to a clan of rowdy Cub Scouts.
Directions: Take Interstate 10 east for about 90 miles to Highway 111 south. After 9 miles, turn right on Tramway Road and drive 3.5 miles to the tram-station parking lot. Take the tram all the way up to Mountain Station. Find the Round Valley trailhead near the ranger station, down a paved path behind the tramway. Follow the trail until you reach a fork. A left turn takes you to the campground (total distance: 2.1 miles).
Travel Time: Approximately 2 1/2 hours
Reservations: Must request a wilderness permit through the mail (see above).
Fee: Adventure Pass required for parking; no camping fee. Tram tickets cost $17.50 per adult.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication