If you’re a lover of all things color then listen up!
What if I told you there is a man-made mountain located in the middle of the desert here in California? Not sure how this relates? Well, what if I said it was the state’s most colorful mountain, quite mostly the country’s, too? Yep, a mound of vibrant color soaring into the sky. I can sense your eyes getting larger.
Close your eyes for a second. Okay, wait. Scratch that. Don’t really close your eyes or else you won’t be able to read this post. Instead, try your hardest to push any nagging thoughts out of your mind. This way you’ll be able to imagine what I’m about to describe. Ready?
Picture this: thousands of hay bales spread out wide and stacked up high. Countless buckets of adobe clay. More than half a million gallons of paint — now that’s a lot of paint. Okay, combine all of those things with about three decades of hard labor and a relentless amount of faith. Can you guess what all that creates? California’s most colorful mountain.
Driving along the remote arid desert of Southern California, you might expect a monochromatic experience. Warm earth tones spanning the flat land as far as the eye can see. But the closer you get to the secluded, off-the-grid neighborhood of Slab City, your eyes will uncover a different picture. One filled with a riot of color. Bursts of bold blues, golden yellows, and fiery reds rising high from the desert land will signal you to draw closer.
And you will, out of overflowing curiosity.
As you finally arrive and are confronted by the lively hues and biblical messages, you’ll know you have crossed the threshold into another world — the candy-colored wonderland of Salvation Mountain.
So, what is Salvation Mountain?
The visionary behind this masterpiece of art went by the name of Leonard Knight. He arrived in this area in 1986 after visiting his sister in San Diego. His vision? To spread the simple yet powerful message “God is Love.”
The 50-foot-high mountain is completely man made. For nearly three decades, Leonard built this mountain from the ground up with thousands of hay bales, endless buckets of adobe clay and more than half a million gallons of paint. Each morning he was greeted by this land of color, as he lived at the mountain and worked on it little by little each day, constantly adding new sculptures and messages.
Leonard dedicated his life to this vision of spreading the word of God. While I did not have the pleasure of meeting him when we recently visited, as he passed away in 2014 at the age of 82, I read he was a very charming fellow, filled with love and passion, and welcomed all that came to visit.
Standing on the grounds of Salvation Mountain was such a surreal moment. Despite being smack in the middle of an isolated desert, I felt nothing but love as I toured this beautiful work of art.
From the yellow brick road leading up to the white cross perched high at the top, to the calming blues of the Sea of Galilee at the bottom, and the giant red heart painted directly in the middle of the mountain, the repeated theme of “love” was everywhere.
If you look closely, you’ll see sculptures of flowers, trees, birds, suns, waterfalls and other fascinating colorful objects. This remarkable tribute to God illuminated happiness and bliss at every corner.
How much does it cost to visit?
Would you believe it if I told you it costs absolutely nothing to visit this colorful mountain? Even when Leonard was alive, he wouldn’t charge visitors. He simply enjoyed sharing his life’s work.
Today, donations are welcome, but they don’t have to be in the monetary form. Visitors can bring along cans of paint to donate to the continuation of this project.
How do you even get to Salvation Mountain?
Getting here is easy. We came from Joshua Tree on our way to Palm Springs. While it was a bit out of the way, it was totally worth it. Whether you’re coming from Palm Springs, Los Angeles San Diego, or any other place on the map, you can find step-by-step instructions here.
Salvation Mountain is one of those unique places in this world that must be seen to fully appreciate its beauty. So, if you’re ever in the area — or even slightly close —– I urge you to go.
I promise, once you’ve seen this mountain and all its glory in person, you’ll leave feeling uplifted and inspired, all thanks to one dedicated man and his unwavering faith.
This colorful mountain is now kept up and running by a non-profit group, Salvation Mountain, Inc. If you want to know more, you can visit their website at salvationmountain.us.