Salvation Mountain

2 minutes read

How a bag of cement became a 50-foot high and 150 feet wide mountain? Let’s discover Leonard Knight’s history and his “God is Love” masterpiece.

Welcome to Salvation Mountain!

A faithful Man

At age 35, Leonard Knight (1931-2014) found God while visiting his sister Irene in San Diego. He repeated the Sinner’s Prayer: “Jesus, I’m a sinner, come into my heart.” After this revelation, he wanted to spread this love message.

In 1970, he saw a hot air balloon over his home in Vermont. Inspired, Leonard spent the next 14 years building his own. He worked multiple jobs to buy a sewing machine, textiles, and various materials. He tried multiple times to make it fly, without success.  

The Mountain

In 1984, Leonard traveled to Niland, a small town south of the Salton Sea. As an ultimate statement after his hot air balloon failure, he started a small art craft to prove that God is love.

As he stated “I got out here about twenty years ago to let people know that God and Jesus love everybody they ever created. I only really wanted to stay a week and make something about eight feet tall, but twenty-year land 100,000 gallons of paint later, I’m still here.” Source: Weird California by Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran.

The first mountain, a combination of dirt, old junk, and cement, fell after four years. Leonard started it again. For the second mountain, he used adobe clay and straw to reinforce the structure. 

Salvation Mountain Today

Saved from demolition in 1994 (the government claimed that the structure was illegal and toxic), Leonard added two structures: the Hogan and the museum.

The Hogan
The museum on the right
The Museum

Did you know?

Leonard lived in his truck year-round. He painted it to match the mountain.

By 2007, the popularity of the site grew with Sean Penn’s movie Into the Wild. Art lovers, Christians, and tourists alike are visiting Leonard’s masterpiece and experiencing his“God is Love” message.

Note: paints or cash donations are welcome to preserve and reinforce the mountain.

Article based on my visit in March 2023


  • Location: Salvation Mountain, Beal Rd, Calipatria, CA 92233
  • Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
  • Admission: Free, donation suggested
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Parking: Free on-site lot
  • More information is available at

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