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Take the High Road
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 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 10.
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 an Adventure Pass or America the Beautiful 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. The Lemon Lily Restoration Day is held annually in June at the Idyllwild Nature Center, and is designed to foster an appreciation for the area’s threatened native Lily, Lilium parryi, and restore it to its historical range. Music lovers won’t want to miss the Jazz in the Pines festival each August, held in a shaded meadow setting on the Idyllwild Arts Campus. This year’s festival—the 25th annual—is scheduled for August 10-12 and features 26 acts performing everything from jazz and blues to gospel and R&B.
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.