Salvation Mountain was originally created by someone who worshipped God, but now it’s mostly visited by people who worship color. Social media – and especially Instagram – has been the sole reason that certain places have become popular in recent years, and Salvation Mountain has become popular because it’s basically an Instagram dream. I’m not sure how anyone even found out about it before Instagram existed because it’s out in the middle of nowhere in the southern California desert.
A friend and I took a day trip from LA to visit one day – and if you want to take a day trip, you really need to commit, because it’s 3.5 hours driving each way. Despite the drive, it’s a doable day trip because once you get there, it doesn’t take long to see the whole thing. It’s a giant man-made hill painted in pretty much every color you’ve ever seen. There are painted “waterfalls” (blue and white stripes), a “yellow brick road,” (this is the only portion of the painted area that you’re supposed to walk on, do NOT walk on the waterfall or you will get yelled at), and then there are also painted crosses and bible verses scattered throughout.
Off to the side of the hill is a small cave-like structure that is collaged with photos of Salvation Mountain’s creator and notes that visitors have left for him (he died in 2014 but people are still leaving notes), and then off to the side of that there is a painted forest type of thing made of painted branches.
It didn’t seem like anyone there was visiting for religious reasons. Everyone was there to take photos of this colorful place to probably post on Instagram later – which is why we were there, too.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a religious person anymore – attending Catholic school and memorizing medieval paintings for art history classes has ensured that I’ve seen enough churches in both photos and real life to last a lifetime. So even though I tend to avoid things related to religion when I travel, I can appreciate when faith is expressed in a unique way that I haven’t seen before, and I definitely haven’t seen anything like Salvation Mountain before. So basically, my overall impression of it – don’t necessarily agree with the message, but I respect the approach. And I definitely respect the Instagrammability.