Salvation Mountain: A colourful desert masterpiece


Salvation Mountain is a tribute to God located deep in the Southern Californian desert.

 It was home to Leonard Knight (he sadly passed away in 2014) who had no gas, electricity, running water, heating (not that heating was needed on the day I visited. It was over 40 degrees C, which, in case you had ever wondered, is far too hot for an iPhone as my friend’s overheated within about 5 minutes there!), or air conditioning. However, he was described, on numerous occasions, by many as one of ‘the happiest people they’ve ever met’, which just goes to show that a simplistic lifestyle can be a great one. Today, it’s maintained by volunteers and visitors.

 Fun Fact: The Mountain that stands today is actually the second mountain to be built after the first one collapsed four years after Knight started to build it!


The mountain itself is made of clay and adorned with various biblical writings and many painted on colourful objects like flowers, birds, trees, and my personal favourite- a yellow brick road which goes up and around the mountain (and you can actually walk over it, but stay on the yellow brick road as you’ll get shouted at!). There’s a painted waterfall flowing down the front of the mountain with the words ‘God is love’ and ‘Love is Universal’ emblazoned on either side. It is so colourful and in order to keep all of the colours so bright must take a lot of upkeep.

 Yellow Brick Road

sv-5The view from the top

When you first arrive at Salvation Mountain it’s easy to think it is just the part you first see until you walk a little further down where there are hidden enclaves, and underground caves galore. In these people have left little notes and trinkets in which they thank God for helping sick relatives or where they have left a prayer for their missing loved one to return, or where they had simply left thanks to the people running it for the opportunity for a moment of serenity. I’m not religious myself but it was so touching and I genuinely did feel very thankful to have had the opportunity to visit. I don’t think many of Salvation Mountain’s visitors are religious these days; they visit just to see this colourful masterpiece.

 Fun Fact: Salvation Mountain has had a few appearances in the media; it featured in the film ‘Into the Wild’, it featured in Coldplay’s ’Birds’ music video, and it’s been the focus of a few documentaries, including one by Jarvis Cocker!

‘The Museum’

If you are ever in California I do urge you to pay a visit to Salvation Mountain. It’s a little tricky to do without a car, but I’m sure that if you get in touch with the people running Salvation Mountain itself then they will be able to inform you of any tours operating. If you’re doing it on your own, however, it’s about a 2 ½ hour drive from San Diego, just over three hours from Los Angeles, and about 1 ½ from Palm Springs. None of these are long drives by American standards so there’s no excuse not to see this wonderful place with your own eyes!

sv-4Has anyone ever been to Salvation Mountain? What did you think?


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Great piece EmilyLW and welcome to TravelGumbo! I've been wanting to visit Salvation  Mountain and now it's definitely high on my list  the next time I visit Southern California.

If you want a thing done, ask a busy man.

I didn't even know about the place.  Will definitely have to look it up when I'm in the southwestern desert next time.  Thanks for sharing this piece with us!

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"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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