Stunning vistas, breathtaking scenery, blah blah, yada yada…
It seems inevitable that we will tire of laying our eyes on incredible natural beauty, or that we will at least run out of adjectives and superlatives and descriptive metaphors for all that the American west has to offer. It may indeed be that it’s getting harder, as this road trip progresses, to describe the beauty we’ve seen. But we’re certainly not tiring of seeing it.
Somewhat ironically, but not at all surprisingly, the best way to see a valley is to get up and out of it. We noted this in our blog on Joshua Tree National Park. If you’re in Palm Springs and you have a single day to spare, taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of Mount San Jacinto is the way you need to spend it. Where Joshua Tree’s Keys View gives you a commanding desert view of the Coachella Valley from the north, Mount San Jacinto gives you a forested view from the south.
The tramway ride itself is interesting in that the tramcar rotates as you ride up and down. Completing two rotations per trip, no matter where you stand you are eventually treated to the perspective you envy of that other guy with a camera (and there will likely be plenty of those “other guys”: this is a popular attraction for tourists and hikers alike).
A Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Preparing to Depart
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The tram alights near the top of the mountain, which is part of California’s Mount San Jacinto State Park. The state park actually overlaps with the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument, all of it a beautifully rugged mountaintop terrain of huge pines and firs. At nearly 11,000 feet, temperatures can be 20 degrees cooler than on the valley floor, which was a pleasant climatic diversion when we visited.
Majestic Pines and Firs On Top of Mt San Jacinto
From the mountaintop visitor’s center, if you are fortunate enough to visit on a clear day, you’ll have sweeping views of the Coachella Valley for a hundred miles or more. Look for the windmill farms, the towns of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio, etc. and imagine the bumpy palm line that marks the San Andreas Fault. Breath in the clear air, noticeably thinner and tinged with the smell of pines, and look up.
I can’t say enough about the natural beauty of this place, so I won’t say anymore. But what I will say is that the sky, the blueness of the atmosphere, was remarkable on top of Mount San Jacinto. I was so mesmerized that we wound up with dozens of pictures of mostly blue sky; I think my iPhone 5S did a pretty darn good job of capturing that blue, but of course nothing beats seeing it with your own eyes.