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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)

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