Throughout the month of September, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is celebrating its 60th anniversary. During its six decades of operations, this engineering marvel has transported nearly 22 million people to the Tramway’s recently-renovated Mountain Station and the 14,000-acre Mt. San Jacinto State Park & Wilderness.
A signature attraction for Greater Palm Springs, the Tram attracts adventure-seekers from around the globe to dine, hike, take-in the spectacular views, and enjoy the thrill of ascending nearly 6,000 feet along the rugged cliffs of Chino Canyon. But all this took nearly three decades of planning and construction before welcoming the Tram’s first visitor.
The idea for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway began in 1935 when a young electrical engineer named Francis Crocker dreamt of a way to escape the summer heat of the desert floor for the cool Alpine forests of Mt. San Jacinto.
After years of setbacks and delays, $8.15 million in private revenue bonds was raised and a land donation was secured from local businessman Culver Nichols for the Tram’s Valley Station. Construction finally commenced in July of 1961. On September 12, 1963, (then) Governor Edmund “Pat” Brown ‘cut the ribbon’ and the Tramway officially opened.
In 2000, the Tramway completed a $15 million modernization program, which included the installation of its new rotating tramcars. These became the first of their kind in North America and remain the largest rotating tramcars in the world.
In 2019, the Tramway’s Mountain Station began its first-ever renovation, which was completed in early 2023. Budgeted at $13 million, this effort was intended to not only bring electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems up to date, but to restore the original architectural vision of its noted Mid-Century architect, E. Stewart Williams.
According to Tramway General Manager Nancy Nichols, “We are very happy that the completion of our Mountain Station renovation has coincided with our 60th anniversary. Members of the Mt. San Jacinto Winter Park Authority, our governing body, have worked for over a decade to make this a reality and what a wonderful way to welcome our 60th anniversary visitors.”
In celebration of the anniversary, a series of events and promotions are planned for September including giveaways for every 60th visitor, a 60th anniversary celebration quiz on the Tramway’s mobile app, a free 60th anniversary sticker for every visitor on September 12, continuous showings of the newly-restored original 1960s Tramway film “The Miracle at Palm Springs” in the Santa Rosa Theater, and other special displays and exhibits.