Now that the Portland Aerial Tram is up and running, no picture of the city’s panorama is complete without a space-age sphere dangling above the skyline. Opened one year ago, the tram travels between South Waterfront and Marquam Hill. On a clear day, take in the city on a ride up the hill—gleaming skyscrapers, leafy neighborhoods, heavily trafficked Interstate 5, and the snaking Willamette River quickly fall away as you rise 500 feet. The snowy cap of Mount Hood looms to the east, Mount St. Helens winks into view from the north. But a trip at sunset—when the sky melts into striations of red, amber, and amethyst— might top it all. Closed on Sundays. $4 roundtrip. www.portlandtram.org.
May to September (and sporadically in winter), the Wallowa Lake Tramway in northeast Oregon ferries riders above crystalline lake waters and green forest thickets to the summit of Mount Howard, where views stretch as far as Montana. (541) 432-5331, www.wallowalaketramway.com/winter.
Lone Peak Tram at Montana’s Big Sky Resort hauls skiers 1,500 feet up a craggy, vertiginous face. On top, they can soak up sweeping views into three states and then navigate challenging slopes and chutes or ride the tram back down. (800) 548-4486, www.bigskyresort.com.
After gliding across the sunbaked desert floor of California’s Coachella Valley, the rotating passenger cars of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway ascend Chino Canyon’s jagged cliffs to the snowy summit of Mount San Jacinto, nearly 6,000 feet above. (888) 515-8726, www.pstramway.com.
Photography by Tim Jewett
This article was first published in January 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.