Find Yourself Atop California’s Salvation Mountain
It's a divine desert vision.
Located just miles from the Salton Sea, south of Joshua Tree National Park, lies the divine desert vision that is Salvation Mountain. Multi-coloured and covered in words of praise, the mural and its surrounding areas were fashioned by creator and former caretaker Leonard Knight.
Using hay, adobe clay, old tires, sticks, and more than 38,000L of lead-free paint, Knight created his masterpiece (and home) after what he called a spiritual awakening, a one-on-one chat with the big guy in the sky.
Often called a “fantasy land for the spirit”, Salvation Mountain also features an ocean floor (that required almost 265,000L of paint), as well as waterfalls, igloos, and a museum handcrafted from 9000 bails of hay – the perfect space to get lost in, if only for a few minutes.
But the most impressive thing about the mountain is that you can climb to the top and look out over the desert below. You can also walk by the abandoned vehicles on site, one of which used to be Knight’s home (the fire truck).
While it’s covered in bible verses and prayers, ultimately, it’s a space for everyone – religious or not – to find peace and a little love in the blistering heat of the desert.
Know before you go to Salvation Mountain
Before you head off on your journey to Salvation Mountain, there are a few things to keep in mind. It might sound obvious, but the first rule of Salvation Mountain is: use the bathroom before you get there as there aren’t many options on site. Once you finally reach the mountain, it will be hot, busy and there’ll be so much you want to see and explore that you won’t want to waste your time looking for a restroom.
If you visit during the summer months, make sure pack plenty of water. Not only will you be in the middle of nowhere, you’ll also be climbing a mountain covered in paint, and it gets pretty sweaty up there.
Oh, and a word of warning: Don’t wear black. Sure, you’ll stand out against the mountain, but there won’t be a part of you that isn’t sweltering. On that, pack sunscreen – and lots of it.
It’s also important to ensure your shoes have adequate grip if you plan on walking to the top of the mountain because the dry, smooth, paint means there’s nothing for them to cling to.
Besides making sure your camera is fully charged, it also doesn’t hurt to bring a couple of $1 notes with you. While Salvation Mountain is entirely free, there are a number of regular and dedicated volunteers onsite who are more than happy to provide you with all the info you could ever need. By donating a few dollars, visitors help them afford paint for the mountain and cover maintenance costs. Because the climate and surroundings of the mountain are pretty harsh, the up-keep takes a lot of time and effort from a number of people. And, hey, if you happen to have a can of lead-free paint, they’ll take that, too.
If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy a quiet moment, recharge, and remember that sometimes the world has the capacity to be all about love, this is the place.
Located on Beale Road in Niland, California, San Diego the closest major city to Salvation Mountain. To get there, take Interstate 8 to Highway 111 North until you reach Niland (about 50km). Turn east on Main Street (which turns into Beal Road) and continue around 5km to Salvation Mountain.
How to get to Salvation Mountain
(All images: Alanah Wulff)