If you live in Los Angeles, you probably make it out to Palm Springs at least once a year. Pack up your car and you’re two hours away from lounging on your donut floatie with a Mai Tai. What if I told you to keep driving past Palm Springs, past Joshua Tree, and into the less explored part of the Southern California desert? Look I get it, after an hour in the car you are ready to just arrive to your air conditioned 60’s revival hotel, but there is a hidden gem known as Salvation Mountain. And the detour is totally worth it!
How the hell did I even hear about this place?! Honestly, if it weren’t for Instagram I would never have known it even existed. The beauty of the “Explore” page, you know that tab you spend hours of your day perusing between boring meetings and before hitting the sack. I saw the picture of a stranger (I know, creepy) posted up against a giant red heart of the side of a mountain and I knew I had to be there.
Salvation Mountain is definitely a detour. You’re looking at about an hour and a half drive from Palm Springs in the middle of nowhere. This nowhere is known as Niland, CA. Really close to a once popular destination called the Salton Sea. You’ll know you are close when you enter a tiny town full of trailer park homes. Yes, it’s a little sketch, but you’ll be fine. (Side note: only visit in daylight). If Billy Bob asks you for a light, run! Just kidding. There’s a whole lot of nothing on this road. The isolation makes the experience that more interesting. After checking Google Maps about 30 times to make sure we weren’t lost, the colorful mountain top starts to peek out. Hallelujah, we made it!
Believe me, it took some convincing to get my friend to head out this way. “Imagine all the awesome pictures we can take up there! And hardly anyone makes it up here so it’ll be super unique!” was a big part of my argument. The masterpiece by artist, Leonard Knight, uses the landscape to showcase his tribute to God and the message of love. Regardless of your religious beliefs, we can all agree that this world could use a lot more of love. It truly is something off the beaten path. It has even been declared a national treasure by Senator Barbara Boxer. Using the 50ft mountainside, Knight has created a colorful backdrop where visitors can climb up and take some pretty remarkable pictures. Where else can you go stand on top of a mountain with a giant red heart on it! There’s even a painted yellow-brick road that feels like you’re stepping into “The Wizard of Oz”.
Oh yea, before you go… remember this is the desert. It’s hot AF out there! There is zero shade so you’ll feel like an ant under a magnifying glass. Would I take the detour out to Salvation Mountain again? Yup, the Mai Tai can wait. There is nothing like being out in the middle of nowhere and sharing in something so very out of the ordinary.