Climbing Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain, Imperial County, California, art, desert

I’d seen photos of Salvation Mountain for years, especially on Instagram, and had always wanted to go. I knew it was in California, but only recently discovered that it was just off I-10 on the way to L.A. from Phoenix. To think I’ve been driving right by it all these years! So when a camping trip to Joshua Tree NP came up last month, I seized the opportunity to have a bit of a weird and wonderful road trip with a stop by this lovely attraction.

Salvation Mountain is the brainchild of Leonard Knight. Located just east of the Salton Sea (and about 30 minutes south from I-10) in Imperial County, CA, this outdoor artwork is 50 feet high and 150 feet across, made of local adobe clay, and has one glorious and profound theme – love.

The mountain is maintained largely through the efforts of volunteers who show up with paint, brushes, and a helping heart. A public charity was established in 2012 to help with maintenance and preservation of this unique gem – Salvation Mountain, Inc.

You can follow the yellow brick road up the mountain and you can also wander through the connecting “grotto” to see various other works. All the colors were so vibrant even on a cloudy day, I can’t imagine how beautiful they must be in the desert sun!

Personally, I admit that I wanted to visit Salvation Mountain because it did just seem so weird and colorful and fun. It was a location that demanded to be seen and, well, photographed. What I didn’t expect was the sense of joy and peace that I felt while there. I was like a child roaming some oddly fantastical museum/playground. It’s kind of hard to describe really. It made me want to pick up a brush and help preserve this desert beauty and, frankly, if I hadn’t been on a bit of a schedule with the camping trip, I probably would’ve done just that. The people who were there doing maintenance were super friendly and more than happy to spend a few minutes talking about the history and goings on of the project. And although it is a very Christian-themed space, it didn’t actually feel overwhelming. It just felt, well, loving. (smile)

Salvation Mountain, Imperial County, California, art, desert

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