Desert Fever: Road Trip to Salvation Mountain

yellow brick road
Yellow Brick Road
God is Love
God is Love

Last Friday, my little sister and I headed down to Palm Springs for the weekend.  When I told her I’d be waking her up early Saturday morning to get “saved”, her only question was “What should I wear?”

Ever since I made the New Year’s Resolution to get into more trouble, my little sister has been my biggest supporter in kicking off my goody two-shoes.  She is my good bad influence.  Even if she’s been out partying until 4 am, she will show up at my door by 8am, ready for whatever I have in store.

So when I jumped on her bed at 8am on Saturday morning, she woke up long enough to transfer her body to the car and fall back asleep.  We drove one and half hours from Palm Springs to Salvation Mountain in Niland, CA.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Salvation Mountain is the masterpiece of artist Leonard Knight.  It’s made of local adobe clay and thousands of gallons of donated paint.  The mountain is painted with biblical verses to spread Leonard’s message of “God is Love.”  For 26 years, Salvation Mountain was Leonard’s home and full-time job.  He lived in the back of an old 1939 white fire truck without electricity or air conditioning until old age forced him to move to a care facility.

Visiting Salvation Mountain in the dead of summer when it’s 120 degrees is a slightly different experience than visiting in the spring.  We did not see a single soul.  I had a brief moment of panic when I realized we were completely alone.  I actually felt like we were trespassing.  But I got over it.


If Leonard was still living there, he might have greeted us and given us a tour.  But instead, we showed ourselves around, transporting ourselves to another world filled with technicolor trees and secret layers.  We followed the “Yellow Brick Road” to the top of the 50-foot mountain and realized we weren’t alone after all.  There was a shirtless man napping next to a trailer, probably keeping an eye on the place for old Leonard.

Follow the yellow brick road.
Follow the yellow brick road.

When we couldn’t stand the heat anymore, we began our return to reality on Highway 111.  I kept pulling off the road to take photos of abandoned buildings along the shore of the Salton Sea.  My sister worried that we might pop a tired and have to return to the “Tire Shop” in Niland, which was a man with a shotgun standing next to a stack of tires.  Sorry I did not stop to take a photo of him.  My sister wouldn’t let me.

Love is all around us.
Love is all around us.

Fortunately, we made it back to Palm Springs in one piece.  I need to plan another road trip out there soon to explore Bombay Beach and the Salton Sea.  If I’m feeling brave, I hope I make it to Slab City.  And then I hope I make it out again.

Note: When I visited Salvation Mountain, there was no entrance fee.  Just make sure you come prepared with plenty of drinking water and a spare tire, or you really might need saving.

Salvation Mountain

  • Road-trip Distance: 3 hours from Downtown Los Angeles
  • For directions, visit the official website of Salvation Mountain.

Get Directions

[mappress mapid=”23″]


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3 replies on “Desert Fever: Road Trip to Salvation Mountain”
  1. Great pictures! I love the panoramic one. I went to the mountain this past summer as well and it was HOT. but the fact that the place was less crowded made up for it.
    The place is truly better when you’re just the only one.

    1. says: Alyx

      Thanks for stopping by, Snook! I couldn’t agree more about going when no one else can stand the heat. I felt like I got to experience what life was like for Leonard. Such an amazing place.

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