John Muir was born in Scotland and grew up in Wisconsin, but he’s California’s favorite son. He’s our patron saint of California national parks and he singlehandedly did more to conserve our stunning wild lands than anyone else.
He was also one prolific writer. And a scan of his journals, poems, magazine article and newspaper think pieces, will uncover a trove of John Muir quotes. He was a romantic writer, and his descriptive prose is a bit more flowery than modern day nature writing styles. But his enthusiasm for nature in general, and California’s wild lands specifically cannot be denied.
And we are here to share his enthusiasm with you. Whether you want quotable John Muir for an Instagram caption, for a writing project or to simply tuck a scrap of inspiration into your hiking pants, we’ve got you covered.
Discover More of John Muir in California
For starters, it was Muir’s 1903 camping excursion with Teddy Roosevelt that inspired the president to set aside Yosemite as a national park (along with 4 other national parks, 18 national monuments, 55 bird sanctuaries and wildlife refuges, and 150 national forests that Roosevelt established during his presidency). Thanks Teddy!
You can explore this legacy with our guide to ALL National Parks in CA or just focus in on the National Park sites in the Bay Area. The list has obvious parks, like Yosemite, but it also includes some cool finds regarding our funky volcanic geology, our own version of the Galapagos and interesting historic figures.
If you live in or are visiting the Bay Area, stop into the John Muir National Historic site to learn more about his legacy, his family and his orchard.
Muir Woods national monument has a lovely and very accessible grove of coast redwoods. It’s features on our list of all of the Redwood parks in California and makes a great day trip from San Francisco.
Explore Yosemite using this guide from SF to Yosemite as well as a guide for visiting in the winter. Bone up on some of Yosemite’s most interesting facts. We also have a packing list for Yosemite if you are planning a trip soon. And if you are thinking of flying, use our Yosemite airport guide.
Even if you aren’t a backpacker, you can also do some day hikes on the John Muir trail. Try the Vernal Falls hike out of Yosemite valley or the Lyell Canyon hike out of Tuolumne Meadows.
40 of the Best John Muir Quotes
Muir was very prolific, but we combed through his archives to find what we feel are elightening, inspiring and profound quotes on nature, mountains, hiking and life.
John Muir Quotes about Trees and the Forest
“Between every two pine trees is a doorway leading to a new way of life.”
“When one is alone at night in the depths of the woods, the stillness is at once awful and sublime.”
“Happy the man to whom every tree is a friend.”
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
“I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it.”
“Pines gloriously loaded and massed, grand caves of darkness with bits of brown trunk corniced. Jubilee of snow descending ceaselessly from the fields of light.”
“Come to the woods, for here is rest.”
“The night wind begins to flow and sigh over rocks and through the clumpy trees. The rush of the waterfall blends with wind and fire.”
“Behold the King of Glory, King Sequoia! Behold! Hehold!”
John Muir Quotes about Hiking
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”
“The life of a mountaineer seems to be particularly favorable to the development of soul-life, as well as limb-life, each receiving abundance of exercise and abundance of food.”
“In every walk in nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
“The hall and the theater and the church have been invented, and compulsory education. Why not add compulsory recreation?”
“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
General John Muir Quotes about Nature and Mountains
“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
“Nature is a good mother.”
“When we are with nature, we are awake.”
“This national beauty-hunger is made manifest…in our magnificent National Parks…Nature’s sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world.”
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
“Going to the mountains is going home.”
“Yosemite is a place of rest…None can escape its charms. Its natural beauty cleans and warms like a fire, and you will be willing to stay forever in one place like a tree.”
“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.”
“One touch of nature makes all the world kin.”
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”
“Doubly happy, however, is the man to whom the lofty mountain tops are within reach, for the lights that shine there illumine all that lies below.”
“Go where you may within the bound of California, mountains are ever in sight, charming and glorifying every landscape.”
“Go quietly alone. No harm will befall you.”
“I have always enjoyed the hearty society of a snowstorm.”
“There is a love of wild nature in everybody an ancient mother-love ever showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties.”
“We live in ‘creation’s dawn’. The morning stars still sing together, and the world, though made, is still being made and becoming more beautiful every day”
“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains.”
“Nature is always lovely, invincible, glad, whatever is done and suffered by her creatures. All scars she heals, whether in rocks or water or sky or hearts.”
“Mountain peaks stand around as if assembled by their Maker. They do not hold grandly to the sky. They do not brood with thought. They have no language, no gestures. They seem to wait only in the very special presence of the great Soul!”
“…blessed are the eyes that saw morning open upon the glory accomplished in that first stormy night.”
“God never made an ugly landscape. All that the sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.”
“No pain here, no dull empty hours, no fear of the past, no fear of the future. These blessed mountains are so compactly filled with God’s beauty, no petty personal hope or experience has room to be.”
“In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world – the great fresh unblighted , unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and the wounds heal…”
Muir on Conservation
“No blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress.”
“The world, we are told, was made especially for man, a presumption not supported by all the facts. A numerous class of men are painfully astonished whenever they find anything, living or dead, in all God’s universe, which they cannot eat or render in some way what they call useful to themselves.”
“The wrongs done to trees, wrongs of every sort, are done in the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, for when the light comes, the heart of the people is always right.”
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Explore More of Muir’s Life and Works
The High Sierra of California, by Tom Killion and Gary Snyder. This beautiful coffee table book features stunning woodcuts by Killion which are interspersed with writings from Snyder and Muir. It makes a great gift for anyone who loves the Sierra Nevada mountains.
A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir by John Worster. This biography of Muir explores his extraordinary ability to get others to see the sacred beauty of the natural world. The book explores his life as a fruit-grower, a talented scientist, world-traveler, family man, and conservation cheerleader.
The Wild Muir: Twenty-Two of John Muir’s Greatest Adventures, compiled and edited by Lee Stetson. This is a compilation of 22 of Muir’s most epic adventures.
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