Salvation Mountain in Niland, California is a roadside attraction that draws legions of visitors to the Colorado Desert (which, confusingly, is not located in the state of Colorado). Built by local resident Leonard Knight in the 1980s as a tribute to his love of God, the 50-foot-tall “mountain” is characterized by fantastically large-scale murals and bright colors that would appeal to any lover of art and quirkiness. Here’s a photo tour.
Made of adobe and straw, the mountain is fully interactive (read: climbable). A yellow staircase leads up to the mountaintop — an allusion to the yellow brick road of Oz.
The mountain spreads out over 150 feet. Visitors can explore under archways and in caverns, all hand-painted in Technicolor hues.
While the art here is religiously inspired, the message of hope and love transcends denomination. Visitors can appreciate the way in which Knight continued to add to the artwork year after year, even as his health declined.
The Folk Art Society of America recognized the site in 2000 as one “worthy of preservation and protection.” Since Knight’s passing in 2014, fans and friends have banded together to organize occasional paint parties to keep the spirit of the site alive for visitors.
The immediate area surrounding Salvation Mountain is made up of vast stretches of the Sonoran Desert as well as Slab City — an unincorporated settlement that attracts nomads who camp out in trailers and even run a weekly outdoor music venue near the base of the mountain.
Getting there: Salvation Mountain is an easy detour from Palm Springs. For the most direct route, take the 90-minute drive via the I-10 E and CA-111 S; taking the CA-86 South for the bulk of the route will extend the trip to about two hours. Along the way visitors will pass the Salton Sea, a former resort town in visible decay on the banks of a large salty lake. Continuing further east along the two lane highway, Salvation Mountain eventually emerges from the flat desert terrain.