One of the most incredible yet bizarre roadside attractions I’ve seen. This guy really loves God…a lot. So much so that he created a tribute to him near Niland, along the Salton Sea, in California. It’s a good thing that his God is a loving God. Salvation was created by Leonard Knight, a Korean War veteran, and is his gift to the world broadcasting a simple yet powerful message: “God Is Love.”
What To Expect
If you’re traveling near here, I would definitely recommend stopping and checking it out even if you’re not religious. It’s one of those wonderfully weird places you have to see to fully understand. It was more impressive than I thought it would be. The mountain is 50 feet tall and 150 feet wide. That’s five stories tall!
I did feel a bit uneasy at times with some of the messaging, such as a large “REPENT” warning on the side of a truck.
- Cost: Free
- Crowd Factor: Light
- Time: 30-60 mins
Salvation Mountain is open from dawn to dusk and camping is allowed, just not on or inside the mountain area. You can actually go inside the mountain. There’s a “burrow” area that looks like it’s something out of a Dr. Seuss book to the right of the mountain. It’s full of brightly colored clay trees and could fit the entire village of Whos in Whoville.
Please be respectful when you visit. They ask for no drugs, keeps cars at 5mph, keep dogs on a leash, recycle your trash, and only give donations via the donation box or their website. This is a true desert community of off-the-grid “free people” where everyone is welcome. It’s where the outlaws live, and it feels that way, so don’t disrespect it.
I would also note to be prepared that since so much of the mountain is made using hay and clay and sits in the sun all day, it does smell a bit like a horse farm (minus the manure part).
Guided tours are available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
Salvation Mountain has gained notoriety more recently due to the upswing of photos on social media, but originally it started as a small dirt monument. Over the following 28 years Leonard Knight would continue to build and add to this monument using over half a million gallons of latex paint, hay-bales, clay, telephone poles, car pieces, and pretty much anything he could find laying around. The mountain went through a few different iterations before becoming what it is today.
Leonard died in 2014, but before that he lived on the premises and slept in the Salvation Truck – a painted truck with a house on the back.
Before his death, some locals had volunteered to help him maintain the mountain, many of which still live nearby, but the maintenance has been dwindling. Given the drop off, it would be best to visit the mountain while you still can. The property is owned by the state, but the artwork is preserved and protected solely through the efforts of dedicated volunteers. Learn more about Leonard here.
How to Get to Salvation Mountain
The closest town is Niland, along the Salton Sea, and is the gateway to Salvation Mountain. The mountain is in the middle of NOWHERE and it’s hard to miss given it’s size. The closest actual address is: East Beal Rd, Niland, CA
From Los Angeles or Phoenix: Take I-10 to Rte. 86S (just east of Indio.) Travel south 11 miles to 66th Avenue (Hwy 195.) There is a big gas station and truck stop on the left. Turn left (east). IMPORTANT: If you miss this turn, you’ll end up on the wrong side of the Salton Sea. Go about a ½ mile to Highway 111. Turn right (south) and go about 42 miles to Niland, California. Turn left (east) on Main Street (which eventually turns into Beal Road). Continue for a little over 3 miles and look to the East – you can’t miss it. You will cross a train tracks before putting up to the mountain.