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 sightsee 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 sandwich or salad at Pines Cafe and take in the valley view. Tram tickets are available in advance on the pstramway.com website if you want to plan in advance and avoid a wait in line. Summer passes are once again available for folks inclined to make repeat visits to this summer sanctuary.

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 willing to hop in the car to get there, check out the Friends of the Desert Mountains website for a list of open trails. 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 Big 5 sporting goods stores in our area 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 stay tuned for more details on the return of Jazz in the Pines. The festival has been reimagined as a two-week event—from July 3-16—and will bring distinguished faculty to teach the students of Idyllwild Arts as well as to perform on campus and in local venues. Art in the Park is a juried art festival held on select weekends, and showcases an eclectic mix of artists and media. Looking further down the road, the Idyllwild Renaissance Faire returns on September 23-25 and transforms Camp Emerson into “La Mancha” for a trip to the Spanish Renaissance.

Looking for more information on Palm Desert and our easy escapes to the mountains? Contact us! Call Palm Desert Visitor Services at 760-568-1441 or message us on this website, and we’ll be sure to point you in the right direction.

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Palm Desert Visitor Services

Planning a trip, or just arrived? The Palm Desert Visitor Services staff is ready to help you find your happy place. We're open inside Palm Desert City Hall’s North Wing where you can browse our brochures, guides and maps, and ask for assistance and advice.

Our friendly and knowledgeable staff is also available by phone, email or the chat function in the lower right hand of this screen to answer any questions you may have.

Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Closed weekends and major holidays

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73510 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert, CA 92260


760-568-1441       800-873-2428