Add

Palm Springs – Tramway Road Climb (to Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)


Palm Springs. Yes, you read that right. Absolutely not a city known for cycling. Between the abundance of elderly drivers, excessively high temperatures and strong winds, this is one area that will test you. And yet, this wasteland for cycling has one of the best climbs in southern California – Tramway Road. This awesome road basically heads straight up from Palm Springs to the bottom of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

I found this climb in The Complete Guide to Climbing (By Bike) in California (full disclosure: if you purchase the book from the link above I do earn a commission – with that said, I highly recommend the book as it is the most complete resource for climbs in California).

So, a couple of stats on this climb.. First, from the above book:

  • 2nd steepest climb in southern California at a 9.5% average grade
  • #1 fastest descent in southern California
  • #1 climb with the greatest length of > 10% grade in southern California (1.6 miles long)
  • #5 most scenic/spectacular climb in southern California
  • Additionally, a few more stats:

  • Length: 3.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1910 ft
  • Average Grade: 9.5%
  • Last 1.2 miles: 12%
  • Last 1/2 mile: 14.3%
  • Needless to say, this is a stout climb. To put it simply, this is a road that does not believe in switchbacks. In 2k feet of climbing, you get some slight curves and one 90 degree bend…and nothing more. Up, up and up some more is an accurate description of the climb. During summer (and late spring, and fall…), the temperatures are generally unbearable. In the afternoon, the winds are strong. This climb has a small window of opportunity. If you hit that window, however, you will be rewarded with a challenging, beautiful climb. This last week, I enjoyed an altogether too hot week in Palm Springs (temperatures hit 115-118 degrees). Given these excessively hot temperatures, I headed out to climb Tramway as early as possible. While I left my hotel before 7AM, I didn’t actually get to start climbing until about 7:20AM (the drive from La Quinta to Palm Springs takes a while). At this time, temperatures were already hovering around 90 degrees. Hot? Yes. Bearable? Just barely.

    Anyway, I started climbing Tramway Road from the intersection with 111 (aka Palm Canyon Dr) and enjoyed the views from the start:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    Such incredible mountains that you climb into:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    Starting at just below 700ft in elevation, you will quickly hit the 1k marker:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    As you continue to climb, the views just get more spectacular:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    Turn off your air conditioner:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    Given the 10%+ nature of this road and the summertime temperatures of 110+…that sign is probably necessary. If you (or your car) can make it beyond that sign, the scenery just gets better:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)
    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    Wow, a stream crossing:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    Definitely unexpected. Coming to the Palm Springs desert in July, I did not expect to cross a running stream. Tramway Road, it would seem, delivers the unexpected. This is nice – you get to climb the rest of the climb with some greenery (helped out by that stream):

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    But what an amazing (and steep) road to climb:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    2,000 feet elevation and lots of green along the stream:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    Climbing up to the last, challenging steep section:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)
    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    Entering through the gates:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    Ridiculous Scenery:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)
    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)
    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)
    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    Success!

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)
    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    The tram itself is a marvel of engineering:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    And the view down Tramway Road is not too shabby:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    The only photo I took that accurately represents the grade of the road:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    Steep.

    The speed limit is 25mph. Descending, you will go faster:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    This first part is very fast. Scrub some speed before the 90 degree turn at the bottom of this section. After the 90 degree section (and the awesome, smooth asphalt above it), you will get one last fast, smooth descent before the rough road begins. The first half of the descent is smooth and very fast (except for that one 90 degree turn). 50+ mph is easily doable. The second half, however, is torture. Still steep, but riddled with creases and bumps, this section of roadway is just no fun. Too bad. The grade and lack of curves would make for a truly epic final descent. Maybe someday. Until then, enjoy that fast top section. And enjoy the views. They really are quite nice:

    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)
    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)
    From 2010-07-14 – Palm Springs Cycling – Tramway Road Climb (to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway)

    Tramway Road is one great climb. If you find yourself in Palm Springs in the winter, give this a try. In any other season, give this a try in the early morning hours. Weekdays, the tram opens at 10AM. Weekends, it opens at 8AM. Climb the road before 10/8AM and you will basically have the road to yourself.

    Anyway, mapmyride maps..

    The full climb:

    The last 1.2 miles at 12%:

    And, the tough, final 1/2 mile at 14%:

    Not bad. Click the Elevation Profile buttons for those maps. They might just entice you (or scare you away).

    Here is my GarminConnect page for the ride:

    Prost!

    The Discussion

    see what everyone is saying

    • Bill July 18th, 2010 at 3:12 am #1

      Great write up and pictures. Having been up that road many times to take the tram up and hike to the top of San Jack, I have always wanted to take the bike up there. Now that you wrote your ride up so nicely, it is almost like I have done it myself and do not need to do it , but I will, Once again, great write up. Hillbasher

    • rallison July 19th, 2010 at 12:45 am #2

      I am a bit surprised Hillbasher has never climbed Tramway! This is a climb meant for you! After all, what road haven’t you climbed? Anyway, I hope you get the chance to try this sometime soon..it is an excellent climb. Of course, I wouldn’t blame you if you wait until winter and its cooler temps..

    • Daniel November 8th, 2010 at 6:38 am #3

      Great write up! I just climbed this hill for the third time yesterday. Definitely much more pleasant in November rather than early September. No trip to Palm Springs will feel complete without doing this climb for me now. But yes, that descent on the buckled bumpy road on the way down whilst trying to keep from breaking the sound barrier is pretty nerve-wracking for me – I need a new pair of brake pads now!

    • rallison December 2nd, 2010 at 11:08 pm #4

      Catching up on the comments – sorry for the long delay! November I imagine would be much more pleasant. You could actually ride it during the day instead of early in the morning. What a novel concept! I like your thinking – I think I’ll make this climb my ritual on every PS trip. The first part of the descent is great though – easy 50mph.

    • ian thompson June 20th, 2011 at 4:38 am #5

      I was injured when I drove up this road and so sad that I could not ride down it on my longboard. Now that the sr330 has re opened I will have to make my way down there again!

    • Greg Tice May 18th, 2012 at 10:21 am #6

      Sorry for the delayed comment, just found your website. This is the most deceptive climb that I’ve ever done. With no switchbacks, you think that you should be in a harder gear. Instead, you keep banging the shifters looking for one more cog. Great climb… too bad they got ride of the time trial.

    • New Asphalt from top to bottom June 21st, 2012 at 2:25 pm #7

      As of about 2 weeks ago… they’ve completely repaved this road. I’ve lived here in PS for 12 years now and have climbed tramroad at least a dozen times on my bike… but gave that up a few years ago due to the fast speeds coming down… I reached 53mph once so am now happy to walk it on average once a week… or twice a week if I’m training for something.

      If you do plan on climbing it, either as a biker or a hiker, you’ll be very pleased to know there’s brand new asphalt from top to bottom and after a slight widening there was even enough room to segregate foot traffic on their own pedestrian path… something you can appreciate as you speed down the hill over 50mph. Yah… I know… I had brakes but I was afraid of using them too much and overheating my wheel and/or tire… my wheels would get so hot as it was when I squirted water on them they would sizzle.

    • Tour De Palm Springs January 3rd, 2013 at 3:49 am #8

      Thats the post I am looking for. keep it up.

    • pianolover88@hotmail.com June 28th, 2013 at 2:37 pm #9

      I’ve got to climb this on my 700c…UNICYCLE!

    • Jim November 7th, 2013 at 7:06 pm #10

      Palm Springs and the rest of the Coachella Valley is a great place to ride a bike. Yes the Tram Road is the great hill climb of the area, unless you include the 100 mile loop that takes you up over 6,000 feet of climbing out of Palm Desert, through the mountain community of Idyllwild and back down through the pass community of Banning and back into Palm Springs.
      A multi-use trail, CV Link, https://www.facebook.com/pages/CV-Link/513577858709174 , is also in the works. When completed it will follow the Whitewater River Wash from Palm Springs down the valley to near the Salton Sea. Biking weather is great in the valley between mid-October through the end of May. Check out my cycling blog at http://desertroadkill.blogspot.com/ .

    • […] it’s the sort of ride people do and then keep to themselves. The best description comes from Tough Ascent. He quotes some pretty compelling stats from The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike) in […]

    • Melissa Luna March 17th, 2014 at 11:17 am #12

      Hello, I plan on participating in the 6k in October at the Palm Springs Tram. First time for me and I understand its quite the incline. If someone can share their experience and some pointers for preparation I would greatly appreciated it. I typically participate in the 5Ks and wanted to push my limits and do this. YIKES!!

    Respond

    get in on the action.

    * Required

    Random Posts Recent Comments

    • jogo do bicho bicho Says:

      What's up, all is going sound here and ofcourse every one is sharing data, that's in fact fine, ke...

    • Earnestine Says:

      Spot on with this write-up, I really feel this website needs a lot more attention. I'll probably b...

    • kinderklamotten aus china Says:

      Und zu guter letzt Lovely seit Monaten eine meiner Stoffserien, as Sweetie. Ich habe daraus ein Nag...

    • Trent Says:

      Every weekend i used to pay a quick visit this site, for the reason that i wish for enjoyment, as ...

    • Chester Says:

      Have you ever faced the problems caused by water damage. You should inquire from your water damage ...

    • rebelmouse.com Says:

      Great blog here! Also your site loads up very fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affili...

    • David L Says:

      Terrific article and pictures. I did the ride from Encanto Park to Crystal Lake last weekend, after ...

    • cyclist Says:

      sorry for not clarifying...the two gates I was referring to in my message are 1) at about 1/2 from t...

    • cyclist Says:

      there are new white and black signs posted on the orange gates at tbe road closures which read, "ped...

    • fibromyalgia bracelet Says:

      I do accept as true with all the concepts you have presented in your post. They are very convincin...

    Tag Cloud

    2nd Street 33 Angeles National Forest Belmont Shore Buellton CA-84 Camino Cielo Cleveland National Forest Costa Rica Decker Deer Creek Double Metric Encinal Figueroa Mountain Glendora Glendora Mountain Road Glendora Ridge Road Happy Canyon Jalama Beach La Honda Loma Mar Long Beach Los Olivos Maple Spring Road Mt Baldy Lodge Mt Baldy Road Mt Baldy Ski Lifts Ojai Ojai Valley Century Old San Marcos Pass Organized Rides Painted Cave Pescadero Playa Flamingo San Bernardino National Forest San Gregorio Santa Barbara Santa Monica Mountains Santa Paula Santa Ynez Valley Santiago Canyon shared lanes Silverado Canyon Ventura Yerba Buena