What Is the Story Behind Salvation Mountain?

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We’ve discovered some interesting places during our adventures. However, few are more intriguing than Salvation Mountain.

Visitors from all over the world come to experience this unique tourist attraction. Like any piece of artwork, the beauty of this creation is in the eye of the beholder.

Whether you’re hoping for a religious experience or want to appreciate a work of art, a trip to Salvation Mountain is worth considering.

Let’s dive in and look at the story behind this creation!

What Is Salvation Mountain?

Salvation Mountain is a piece of art made from mud, straw, and half a million gallons of paint.

The manufactured mountain is one of the big draws to Slab City, a remote and nearly lawless city in the California desert. The work of art intentionally has religious undertones.

The purpose of this bright multi-colored mountain is to communicate a message of hope found in God’s love. Its popularity has grown over the past four decades as it was in movies, music videos, and more than 100,000 posts on Instagram.

Who Created Salvation Mountain?

The creator of Salvation Mountain was Leonard Knight, a resident of Vermont. He first came to Slab City in 1984 and only intended to stay a week. However, he was inspired to create the piece of art, and the mountain took shape over the next several years.

Many don’t know that the current Salvation Mountain is really Salvation Mountain 2.0. That’s because, in 1989, a massive rainstorm caused the original structure to crack and collapse.

Knight wasn’t discouraged and instead took it as a divine sign that the mountain wasn’t safe. The mountain was over a hundred yards wide and several stories tall when complete.

Unfortunately, Knight, at the age of 80, was placed in a long-term care facility in December 2011. He visited Salvation mountain one last time in May 2013 and passed away on Feb. 10, 2014.

While Knight has passed, Salvation Mountain lives on. A group of volunteers formed Salvation Mountain Inc. and are responsible for the constant upkeep the massive artwork requires.

Can You Still Visit Salvation Mountain?

If you enjoy folk art, it doesn’t get much better than Salvation Mountain.

The site is open to the public year-round from sunrise to sunset. However, the official website shows the museum remains closed due to damages.

While some fancy art museums may have a suggested donation, visiting Salvation Mountain is free. The mountain sits just off Beal Road in Calipatria, California, and is an inspiring place to visit. Take your time to appreciate the intricate details of this unique piece of work.

View of Salvation Mountain

Is Visiting Salvation Mountain Safe?

While Slab City has a rather negative reputation for seedy activity and a lack of presence from law enforcement, Salvation Mountain is safe. As long as you remain respectful and responsible while visiting the art, you shouldn’t have a problem.

However, the area is very remote. Ensure you have plenty of water and gas in your tank before visiting. You won’t find many facilities in the surrounding area, and the few nearby are rather expensive. Additionally, you’ll want to ensure you have plenty of food on hand. 

While you can climb on the monument, it’s very fragile. Some sections of the mountain close occasionally while volunteers make needed repairs. 

The desert environment can be harsh on the mountain and your skin. So protect yourself by wearing sunscreen and sunglasses, and keep as much of your skin covered as possible.

Pro Tip: While you’re on a roadtrip, use the Roadside America App to find unique tourist areas along the way!

Tips for Visiting Salvation Mountain

If a trip to Salvation Mountain is in your future, we have some tips to help you make the most of your visit. Let’s look at some things you need to know when visiting this epic piece of art.

Plan Your Visit

If you plan to visit during the summer, remember that the area experiences extreme heat during this time of year.

Temperatures in the triple digits are relatively common and can be a bit overwhelming, especially for anyone sensitive to heat. You must consider the weather when planning your trip.

Additionally, ensure you have the proper supplies no matter the time of year. Food, water, and gas are all hard to come by in this neck of the woods. Ensure you have plenty of these supplies no matter when you visit. If not, you could find yourself in a very dangerous situation.

Respect the Site

As with any piece of art, you must respect the site. Keep pets on a leash, and clean up after them.

In addition, you must keep the entire area as clean as possible. Don’t add to or alter the mountain in any way, especially with graffiti.

In general, you and anyone visiting Salvation Mountain must use good judgment. If you’re asking yourself whether you should do something, you probably shouldn’t. This helps keep you, others, and the art safe.

Take Your Time

To truly appreciate this piece of art, take your time. One of the main reasons Salvation Mountain is so incredible is the intricate details Knight took the time to create. 

Even after several trips to the mountain, guests find something they missed or didn’t notice during previous visits. Since you won’t have any admission fees or time restraints, allow yourself to enjoy a change of pace.

Learn About the History

Salvation Mountain is more than just an ordinary piece of art; it’s a story. Take the time to read about the personal life of Leonard Knight and his other art pieces. Learn more about Slab City and how the surrounding area is a unique art-loving community. 

Understanding and knowing the area’s history can help you have a deeper appreciation for the efforts that Knight and many others have put into the site. It’s a story that may inspire you to create your own work of art for others to enjoy.

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Follow the Rules

Stay off closed areas and follow any rules volunteers post. Those who care for Salvation Mountain want your visit to be safe, for your sake and the mountains. You’re not an exception to any rules and must follow them.

Is Salvation Mountain Worth It?

Salvation Mountain is an inspiring story of one man’s vision becoming a reality. It may not be the easiest area to access, but it is worth it, especially if you appreciate folk art. 

Take the time to prepare for a visit to this area. You could end up in a sticky situation if you don’t have the proper supplies. Take some common sense safety precautions and be aware of your surroundings; you’ll likely have no issues. 

Have you visited this unique piece of art? Or do you plan to add Salvation Mountain to your future travel plans?

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