No trip to Palm Springs is complete without a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The rotating tram cars take you 8000 feet up Mount San Jacinto, past amazing rock formations as the palm trees give way to fragrant pine trees. The views are spectacular, and at the top you can have a meal, get a drink at the bar, hike along the numerous trails, or just take in the views of the entire Coachella Valley all the way to the Salton Sea.
During winter, there is often snow, so you are more likely to hang out at the upper tram station and enjoy the views, or possibly do some cross-country skiing or inner-tubing. The rest of the year, all the trails are available to you. You can take a leisurely walk through Long Valley just below the upper tram station and along a creek that runs through a meadow. Or you can take the 3-mile Round Valley loop and get away from the crowds. The more adventurous might make a day of it and go all the way to the San Jacinto Peak, which is another 2000 feet up.
For some amazing views with not too much hiking, take the Long Valley trail to Notch 3. From there you get a clear view of the south side of Palm Springs and all the other desert cities to Palm Desert and beyond, along with mountain views looking towards the Santa Rosa mountains, Garner Valley, and Idyllwild.
Recommendation: Go up early in the day or later in the afternoon during high season to avoid crowds. In summer, there are hardly any crowds, and it’s great to go up during the hottest time of the day since it is 30 degrees cooler up there. The food at the Tram restaurants can be expensive and unremarkable, so consider bringing along a picnic lunch. In the coldest times of the year, there may be a lot of snow up there which will limit hiking. The tram website has a couple webcams so you can check the conditions.