7 California state parks a short drive from Los Angeles


Best for: Hiking, getting a high-up view of the desert

Sure, you can get to Mt. San Jacinto State Park by car or foot from Idyllwild, a popular Southern California mountain town.

Or you can take one of the world’s largest and longest single-lift passenger tramways to the wooded swath of wilderness.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway whisks travelers nearly 6,000 feet through the air, from the Valley Station to the edge of the Mt. San Jacinto State Wilderness. At the Mountain Station, you’ll find restaurants, a museum and more than 50 miles of trails that wind you through forests and meadows — not to mention views of Palm Springs’ golf courses, windmills and desert landscapes below.

Towering above is San Jacinto Peak, which at 10,834 feet marks the highest point in the California parks system.

Tram rides cost $28.95 for adults. Anyone entering the Mt. San Jacinto State Wilderness, even for the day, must get a permit, available at the Long Valley Ranger Station and the park headquarters in Idyllwild.

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