Six places help you discover the man and his continuing legacy.
John Muir’s Birthplace
Dunbar, Scotland Muir lived his adult years in the West, but he spent most of his childhood in Scotland, where his family’s home is now an interpretive center. The town is also the endpoint of John Muir Way—a trail that crosses the country and takes 10 days to walk in full. jmbt.org.uk.
Yosemite National Park
California All of nature inspired Muir, but Yosemite became his favorite muse—“the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter,” he wrote. nps.gov/yose.
John Muir Trail
Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney This 211-mile hiking route mostly follows the longer Pacific Crest Trail, passing through Sierra wilderness that Muir loved to explore, including parts of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Backcountry experience is highly recommended; a permit is required, and the trail is generally accessible only from July through September. pcta.org.
John Muir National Historic Site
Martinez, Calif. In the large home where Muir and his wife settled in 1890 was a quiet room he called his “scribble den.” Muir spent countless hours here penning the prose that helped bring about the founding of the Sierra Club, the creation of Yosemite National Park, and other environmental achievements. Highlights of a visit include spots for picnicking and guided nature walks. nps.gov/jomu.
Muir Woods National Monument
Marin County, Calif. Fifteen miles north of San Francisco stands one of the last remaining groves of the old-growth redwood forest that Muir fought so fiercely to protect. In the early 1900s, U.S. Rep. William Kent and his wife, Elizabeth, purchased the land, setting it aside for preservation and naming it in Muir’s honor. Upon learning of the tribute, Muir said, “This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world.” nps.gov/muwo.
Alaska In 1879, Muir made the first of seven trips to Alaska, traveling by canoe into Glacier Bay. A decade earlier in California, Muir had theorized correctly—and contrary to conventional wisdom—that glaciation helped shape the Sierra Nevada. In Alaska, he saw its forces at work. His namesake sits in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, west of Juneau. Though open year-round, the park offers very limited services in winter. nps.gov/glba.
To read about John Muir's life, click here.
Photography by David H. Collier (Yosemite); Tom Grundy/Shutterstock (Forester Pass); Jennifer Stone/Shutterstock (Muir Woods); courtesy NPS (house); courtesy LCGS Russ/Wikimedia Commons
This article was first published in May 2015 and updated in March 2019. Some facts my have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.