Create a Pilgrimage Close to Home


Mount Kailash, the most sacred mountain on the planet.

Your Soul Needs a Walkabout; Create a Pilgrimage Close to Home

Take your losses and disappointment to the sea, the desert or anywhere in Nature. Go alone! Unplug. Let the space and solitude you discover breathe away pain and smallness.

Mount Kailash sits amongst the Himalyas in western Tibet and is the most sacred mountain on the planet to four religions: Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Bons (old indigenous religion of Tibet). Although it is 21,778′ in elevation, it’s considered sacrilegious to climb the mountain and instead, thousands of pilgrims of many faiths circumambulate the 32 miles around it, clockwise or counterclockwise depending on one’s religious beliefs.

Located in an inhospitable area, the actual walkabout takes only three days, which includes hiking over mountain passes at 18,000′, but just to travel there and back takes two weeks and a jeep, a driver, a guide and a military permit. I don’t imagine any readers of this post will be off on this pilgrimage soon.

But you can create your own spiritual adventure close to home. A pilgrimage requires three things:

       Solitude. Intention. Nature.

The following suggestions take into consideration that many folks are uncomfortable being alone in Nature due to fear of being lost in the wilderness or a wildlife attack. That’s okay, but not a good excuse to hold you back from creating a time of solitude for yourself out in Nature, in a way that is comfortable for your needs. Schedule your pilgrimage on a weekday or off-season. If there are others around you, simply do not engage with them. Create a cloak of invisibility and sacred space around you for your healing purposes.

Seven suggestions for a walk about:

1. Crystal Cove State Park. Love the ocean? Visit Crystal Cove. Linger along the three miles of coastline included in the park, check out the tide pools, or walk some of the 17 miles of trails that head inland on the 2400 acres of undeveloped woodlands north of Laguna.

2. Lone Pine. This destination requires a longer drive, however once you take in the eastern side of the Sierras and gaze up at Mt. Whitney, you’ll be glad you made the effort to get to Lone Pine. Many small motels and campgrounds are right in town or very close to the main street (Highway 395). Drive up to the Whitney Portal where the trailhead for the climb up Whitney begins and wander around the waterfall there. Visit the  windswept ancient Bristlecone Pine forest or take a gander at the grandeur of Death Valley.

3. St. Andrews Abbey. Located in the high desert, the abbey in Valyermo is a Benedictine Monastery, rich in history and in a restful setting. The abbey offers fascinating workshops, however take advantage of their offer for you to design your own private retreat, and return another time to attend one of their events. Room and board are very affordable.

4. The Huntington Library. You’ve probably visited The Huntington Library before, but this time go by yourself and skip the art exhibitions. Instead, unhurriedly walk the garden paths and breathe.

5. Forest Falls. You’ll find solitude just a few minutes from where you park your car! Drive through Mentone on Highway 38. Follow the sign for the cutoff to Forest Falls (15 minutes past Mentone). When you come to the end of the road just past the tiny hamlet of Forest Falls, park. Most of the visitors are picniking or hiking to the falls, but if you walk up the wash (in the opposite direction of the falls) for a few minutes, scampering over river rocks and boulders, you will easily find a quiet place to rest your spirit. Much of the year you’ll find the creek running.

6. Self-Realization Fellowship Temple. Take the train to Solano Beach, then a bus or taxi to Yogananda’s exquisite temple in Encinitas. Wander through the gardens in a contemplative manner. Time your walkabout to include one of their scheduled meditations or kirtans.

7. Lake Gregory. Take your time walking the three miles around Lake Gregory. Drive up Highway 18 and follow the signs for Crestline. It’s only a thirty minute drive to find cool, fresh air and the scent of pine trees.

Take time for yourself to be alone in a garden, a temple or natural setting!

And share with us other places you have found for a nourishing spiritual retreat that doesn’t require a lot of money, huge amounts of travel time or a military permit.



  1. Appreciate the suggestions heather, thank you!, Another great spot is Yokoji Zen Mountain Center a working Zen monastery, near Idyllwild, open to all, anytime. grounds and buildings are exquisite, and people very welcoming. Also Spirit Mountain retreat in Idyllwild has a wonderful meditation garden also open to all.

    • Heather says:

      Beth, thank you for these wonderful additions to my list and the links! Idyllwild is indeed close to home.

Speak Your Mind