Since rising onto the scene as an instant icon in 1963, the landmark Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has hauled nearly 18 million passengers from cactus to clouds within the rugged Chino Canyon. Scaling North America’s steepest escarpment, the world’s largest rotating tramcars progress through 12 climate zones along a 2.5-mile vertical climb to the 8,516-foot Mountain Station.
While this engineering feat is nothing short of amazing, human feet hitting the road from Highway 111 to the 2,638-foot elevation Valley Station is extremely impressive in its own right. Each October for the past 30 years, diehards hydrate, lace up and pound the pavement during the 6K Tram Road Challenge that tackles Tram Road’s 1,890-foot vertical ascent in slightly more than 3.7 miles. It’s no wonder that the grueling run and walk challenge is referred to as the “Toughest 6K in the World.”
Sponsored by Klein Clark Sports, the annual athletic event benefiting the United Way of the Desert welcomed nearly 1,400 entrants in 2015 – with the top dog finishing in a blazing 27 minutes, 19 seconds.
While Tram Road paves the path for additional walk, run and bike competitions, organizers can take contests to a loftier level. “The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway transports groups from Sonoran desert to Alpine forests in approximately 10 minutes,” says Greg Purdy, public affairs manager. “Once at the top, they’ll have access to over 50 miles of hiking trails in the 14,000-acre Mount San Jacinto State Park.”
Up to 40 degrees cooler than the Valley floor, Mount San Jacinto’s pristine wilderness pivots from hiking to winter Alpine cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Between mid-November and mid-April, gear rentals are available at the onsite Winter Adventure Center.
Naturally, post hoc endeavors reward with stunning scenery from the Mountain Station’s viewing deck. “We’ll offer this as part of a daytime tour or rent out part of the Mountain Station for private evening events,” Purdy says. After a fierce competition or session in one of the station’s meeting rooms, everyone is a winner while toasting the sunset with nosh and catching the moonlight as it dances on the Salton Sea from Lookout Point.
- Francis Crocker Room – 136-seat capacity
- Culver Nichols Room – 24-seat capacity
- The Pines Cafe & Peaks Fine Dining Restaurant – 137 to 275-seat capacity