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Salvation Mountain California: A Fun Palm Springs Day Trip

Salvation Mountain California is a giant rainbow-colored art monumentmade of adobe clay. The whole family will enjoy a visit to this huge folk art painted mound. A fun day trip from Palm Springs, kids and adults alike will love to explore this interesting and colorful monument in the middle of the California desert. 

Salvation mountain California image graphic

Salvation Mountain was created by Leonard Knight to profess his love of God. The mountain is in Niland, California about 74 miles south east of Palm Springs at the entrance to Slab City, which is where a community of snow birds and squatters live off grid in the former WWII era Camp Dunlap Naval Reservation. Right next to Salvation Mountain is an area called East Jesus which is an experimental art compound you can also explore.  

What is Salvation Mountain made of?

The mountain is made of adobe, straw, and thousands of gallons of lead-free paint. All the supplies are donated and the builders are volunteers. It encompasses numerous murals and areas painted with Christian sayings and Bible verses, though its philosophy was built around the Sinner’s Prayer. There is other religious scripture such as the Lord’s Prayer, John 3:16 and also painting of flowers, trees, waterfalls and other collages and murals featuring recycled objects. 

The mountain requires constant maintenance due to the harsh surrounding desert environment. Visitors often bring paint to donate to the project and a group of volunteers work to protect and maintain the site. In 2012, a public charity, Salvation Mountain, Inc., was established to support the project. If youhappen visit during one of the work parties you can leave your mark by helping to paint and build a piece of the mountain.

Painted folk art on Salvation Mountain.

How tall is Salvation Mountain?

The mountain is 150 feet wide by 50 feet tall, and is really more of a large painted folk art clay mound. In fact The Folk Art Society of America declared it “a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection” in the year 2000.

How to get there

To get to Salvation Mountain drive about 90 minutes from Palm Springs via Highway 111 South. Cruise past the Salton Sea and turn left onto Main St in Niland. Once you’re on Main St. head a few miles down the road. You can’t miss it. Salvation Mountain will be on your right hand side. 

Art inside Salvation Mountain.

Can you camp at Salvation Mountain?

Slab City is called “the last free place in America,” and the town’s motto refers to more than just the zero cost of living there. It relates to the easy-going, more-than-relaxed rules of living too.

Camping is allowed, just not on or inside the mountain area. Immediately across the mountain is also a free place to camp.Although camping is allowed I’m not sure I would recommend it. The Slab City area is generally safe and people are friendly but technically laws do not exist in Slab City. It’s a place for people who are down on their luck, who want to escape society, for criminals, for drugs addicts, and anyone in between. It’s fine by day but I personally wouldn’t feel safe camping with my family there at night. Also keep in mind there is no running water, sewage, or trash pickup, and the nearest hospital is a 40-minute drive away.

Salvation Mountain appearances in the media

Salvation Mountain has been featured in countless movies, documentaries, television shows and other media. It was featured in the 2007 movie Into The Wild, written and directed by Sean Penn and was also seen in a large portion of Kesha’s music video for “Praying.

Is it dog friendly?

Dogs are welcome at this piece of art in the desert. There are usually many stray and pet dogs hanging around the mountain and East Jesus area, so please drive slowly and carefully. 

Truck painted with folk art.

Where to eat near Salvation Mountain

World Famous Ski Inn

9596 Avenue A

Niland, California

92257

This fun dive bar is Lowest Bar in the Western Hemisphere, it sits at 237 feet below sea level. It is located at Bombay Beach, a short drive away from Slab City. Bombay actually has some unique outdoor art installations, so it’s a great place to drive around and check out on your way home from Salvation Mountain. The Ski Inn was featured in a season 4 episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain and in an episode of the show The Mentalist. 

Oasis Date Gardens and Café

59-111 Grapefruit Blvd, 

Thermal, CA 

92274

The Coachella Valley is known for its date farms. You can seevast fields of them as you drive around the Palm Springs area. The Oasis Date Gardens is a great place to head for one of their signature date shakes (the have 10 different varieties). They also have a sit down café with homemade chili, fresh salads, sandwiches and more!

Where to Stay

Most people who visit Salvation Mountain stay in the Palm Springs area. There are a ton of fun hotels in downtown Palm Springs for you to choose from. If you are road-tripping and just stopping by Salvation Mountain on your way through town you may want to try one of the many RV parks throughout Imperial County. 

Glamis North Hot Springs Resort

10595 Hot Mineral Spa Rd, Niland, CA 92257

Glamis North Hot Springs Resort is California’s largest off road and Hot Springs resort. They have cabins and full hook up RV sites. Ride from your site and explore hundreds of miles of off road trails in your Jeep or 4- Wheeler. Come back and soak in natural hot spring water. There are 4 pools, 14 hot tubs and 2 saunas on the property.

If you prefer an inexpensive hotel all the usual chain hotels are nearby like the Ramada Inn, Days Inn and Best Western Plus. 

Have you been to Salvation Mountain before? Let me know about your experience in the comments! 

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