Why heading to the hills is a smart summer choice
Ringed by mountains topping 8,000 to 10,000 feet in elevation, one of the benefits of visiting Palm Desert is that it’s remarkably easy to head for the hills. Come summertime, that’s particularly appealing because those same mountain highs offer a refreshing respite from our valley heat—and yet are accessible in an hour or less.
The mountains that provide Palm Desert with its backdrop are home to a national monument, state parks and a network of trails. If you’re looking for the express pass to whisk you to these public lands, look no further than the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The Tram delivers you to the 8516’ level of Mt. San Jacinto where you can hike under the pines and sight-see in temperatures that are, on average, 30 degrees cooler than the valley floor. When you tire of all that pristine beauty, head back to the Tram’s Mountain Station, where you can enjoy a variety of dining options and take in the valley view. Frequent Tram visitors can take advantage of their Summer Pass which offers unlimited rides from May 1 through August 31 for just $80 for adults. Whenever you choose to visit, don’t forget that the Tram is scheduled to close for a three-week annual maintenance period beginning September 9.
But maybe you’re in more of a drive and walk kind of mood. If you’re looking for different terrain to cover and you’re will to hop in the car to get there, stop by the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center at 51500 Highway 74 for helpful advice on other high country trails within an easy drive of Palm Desert. Roughly 16 miles outside of town, for example, you’ll find the popular Cactus Springs Trail, or by continuing on a bit further you can access the Pacific Crest Trail where it crosses Highway 74.
Another great mountain destination within an hour’s drive of Palm Desert is the fun and artsy town of Idyllwild. It’s a great destination year-round, and thanks to its mile-high elevation and cooler temperatures, it’s particularly popular in summer. You can walk about town and enjoy the charms of its downtown shopping district, or hike one of the trails that head out into state wilderness areas. Humber Park and many of the U.S. Forest Service parking areas that surround Idyllwild require a National Forest Adventure Pass or an Interagency pass. You can pick one up at the National Monument Visitor Center or Big 5 in Palm Desert, or visit the San Jacinto District Ranger Station at 54270 Pine Crest in Idyllwild.
If you need another excuse to take a day trip to Idyllwild, you might want to check out one of the town’s fun special events. Art in the Park is a juried art festival held on select weekends, and showcases an eclectic mix of artists and media. Music lovers won’t want to miss the Idyllwild Strong concerts featuring 100-plus acts playing on six different stages over the weekend of August 16-18. The event is a fundraiser for disaster relief for the town of Idyllwild, impacted in the past year by both fire and floods. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild remains closed following flooding in February, reducing the number of visitors coming to Idyllwild and consequently the livelihood of many Idyllwild residents. But the route to Idyllwild from Palm Desert via Highway 74 and 243 is open, and never have visitors been more welcome. Looking further down the road, the Idyllwild Renaissance Faire returns to Camp Emerson at the end of September for a rollicking good time.
Looking for more information on Palm Desert and our easy escapes to the mountains? Contact us! Call Palm Desert Visitor Services at 800-873-2428, and we’ll be sure to point you in the right direction.