day trippin’ to salvation mountain.
by Kristen Waltman comment


day trippin’ to salvation mountain. / sfgirlbybay

Years of hearing friends’ accounts of a bizarre Candy Land-like place that exists beyond the Salton Sea in the Colorado Desert, inspired my recent journey to Slab City, aka “the last free place on earth”, in search of the technicolor folk art installation referred to as, “Salvation Mountain”. I made the 3-hour drive from Los Angeles in February to see the 50-foot-tall and 150-foot- wide “mountain”, which is actually made entirely out of discarded junk, local adobe clay, straw and donated lead-free paint, and the trip was totally worth it.

salvation mountain. / sfgirlbybay

scripture painted on salvation mountain. / sfgirlbybay

The colors and patterns and sheer mass of this beautiful creation warmed my heart and flooded my brain with childlike wonder. My smile grew larger with every step I took along its painted yellow paths—excited to see what strange treasures lay beyond the next bend.

This place really spoke to the kid in me that wanted so badly to frolic in the colorful landscapes I saw depicted in my Dr. Seuss books.

inside salvation mountain. / sfgirlbybay

kristen waltman's day trip to salvation mountain. / sfgirlbybay

Constructed over 30 years as a tribute to God by local resident, Leonard Knight, it is estimated that over 100,000 gallons of paint were used to create Salvation Mountain. All of which were donated by people who traveled to witness Leonard’s labor of love before his passing in 2014. Since then, a group of volunteers protect and maintain the site.

painted branches at salvation mountian / sfgirlbybay

handpainted flowers and trees at salvation mountain. / sfgirlbybay

kristen waltman at salvation mountain. / sfgirlbybay

All over the mountain, you’ll find images of flowers, trees, waterfalls, suns, bluebirds, flags, and biblical and religious scripture—all of which touch on Knight’s reoccurring theme of love. You can learn more about him and the history the mountain, here.

Fun Facts: Coldplay filmed their music video for “Birds” at Salvation Mountain. The site was also featured in the 2007 film Into the Wild, in which Knight appears in a scene as himself.

entrance to salvation mountain. / sfgirlbybay

salvation mountain folk art installation. / sfgirlbybay

Travel Tips: There isn’t much else in the area besides a liquor store and a couple of restaurants (I grabbed a quesadilla at the Buckshot Deli & Diner. It was pretty underwhelming.), and there were no amenities at the mountain (translation: no bathrooms in sight.), so plan accordingly if you make the journey. For more images of the mountain and the man who built it, I highly recommend this photo essay by photographer Aaron Huey.

old truck painted at salvation mountain. / sfgirlbybay

• photos by kristen waltman.

8 responses to “day trippin’ to salvation mountain.”

  1. I so enjoyed this! Salvation Mountain is magical. I was lucky enough to day trip there on my honeymoon in September. It was amazing to finally be there and see it in all its glory! Funnily enough, I used a photo from that day for an unrelated blog I just posted!

    Katie /

  2. We went there around Christmas last year on our road trip of the west coast. It is indeed magical. We got stopped at a border patrol check and had quite the memorable experience!

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