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A Guide to Visiting Salvation Mountain

A Guide to Visiting Salvation Mountain

One of the coolest places in California has to be Salvation Mountain. Here is a full guide to this surreal location.

Natasha Kouyoumjian


3 min read

June 30, 2022

If you think your adventure days are behind you, think again. The road to Salvation Mountain, Palm Springs, offers one of the trendiest and coolest Instagram-able spots in the Golden State. Unlike others, this unique mountain is man-made, colorful, and equipped to redeem all its visitors. To give you a little backstory, when Leonard Knight first started building this with his bare hands, he wasn’t planning on devoting 28 years of his life to it. Paints, donations, and its non-profit caretakers preserve this enormous artifact as a “roadside” museum. Visiting Salvation Mountain, California, can get a little tricky, so we took the liberty of patching together a list to guide you on your trip to this picturesque destination.

Salvation Mountain is a tribute to love.

A Man-Made Mountain?

If it didn’t sink in before, Salvation Mountain is a man-made mountain. Yes! A man-made mountain. The whole thing started with a 36-year-old man wanting to leave a mark after experiencing a spiritual awakening. What’s more to building it from the ground up is that he did it twice! After a raging rainstorm, the formation cracked and fell apart, but that didn’t discourage Leonard Knight. Without a smidge of discretion, he found the energy to rebuild it and make it stronger the second time around.

Dwelling on the arts wasn’t an anchor of the artist; instead, he carved this relic simply as an homage to his spirituality. What we witness today is a molding of native adobe clay cemented together with straws. Being one of the weirdest places to visit in California, this hillside museum piece has doubled the number of its visitors in the last year and a half!

Through the gates of love you go.

Where is Salvation Mountain?

The road to Salvation is beautiful and so is the road to Salvation Mountain, C.A. At times, the simplest activities leave you in a state of serenity and groundedness, and for a true Cali, road trips do just that! Hop in the car and journey down a phenomenal solo road trip. Drive across the Salton Sea for a smooth trip to the Sonoran desert and into the gates of Slab City. Less than a mile away, you’ll find Salvation Mountain resting prominently under the golden desert sun.

Enjoy a detour full of culture.

Also, If you’re up for an incredible weekend road trip, instead of heading straight to the Salvation Mountain consider taking a detour to Joshua Tree National Park. Being the gift that keeps on giving, the Sonoran Desert is home to the world's rarest cactus tree, which barely grows 3 inches a year. Take your snacks and water, stock up on fuel or gas, and be an eye-witness to this spiky treasure. The fees change per season and year, so be sure to dig your info out in advance.

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What to do in Salvation Mountain?

If you are hesitant, you don’t need to choose between Instagram-able and spiritual. Salvation Mountain ticks all boxes for a dazzling trip. Get a load of the bragging colors, while the mountain comes to life under the golden desert sunset. If you’re a gram junky, have your camera ready for the most memorable selfie of the year. Don’t worry, you can hike to the top to get a picture. Wear white to accentuate the mise-en-scène and don’t forget to tag their page!

Hiking on the mountain, you can closely observe all the biblical scriptures that Leonard has forged with the adobe. While “God is Love” is the main message, the Sinner’s prayer covers the mountain landscape. According to stories, Knight came to see that love is the answer to unity, hence the name “Salvation Mountain”.

If you’re a fan of blockbusters, then you’ve undoubtedly seen Into the Wild. The rise of the popularity of Salvation Mountain came about through an appearance in the movie. Not only did it grasp the attention of critics, but an entire generation of movie fanatics. Fans were pumped to visit this real-life stage to reenact the scene of the stars placing their hands in the clay.

Intention is an invention. Feel, scrabble, and post!

Slab City is one of many bizarre cities in California, with Knight’s precious mountain putting the city on the map. Starting with the intent of a simple statement, Leonard inspired many. Feel the fuzzy blanket of the atmosphere wrap around you, set an intention,  an ambition, a plan, and leave a message in the magical mailbox.

How to preserve the mountain?

The hillside gallery survives even after the creator’s passing, but it's fully supervised by a non-profit. Since the place charges no entrance fees, visitors often donate to preserve its architecture. The most common donations are paint and financial gifts. If you’re thinking of pledging a donation, make sure to directly contact the non-profit to avoid mishaps.

What’s another way of preserving this assemblage? Like every other museum or national preserve you visit, Salvation Mountain has its own set of rules. Although super friendly, locals have a quite short temper for those who, in all respects, don’t follow the rules. Well, can you blame them for safeguarding one of the most beautiful places in SoCal? You might want to take notice of the signs when touring around and stay out of trouble!

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