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6 Places to Learn About John Muir

Six places help you discover who Muir was and how his legacy lives on.

One of the Bay Area's most popular sites, Muir Woods is known for its towering old-growth redwood trees.

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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.

a rock monolith in Yosemite Valley, picture

Muir speculated that Yosemite Valley was carved out by a combination of glaciers, a theory that was borne out in time.

David H. Collier

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. 

Forester Pass and high Sierra granite country, picture

Forester Pass, at 13,153 feet, is the highest pass on the John Muir Trail.

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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.

John Muir's house at the national historic site in Martinez, picture

At the John Muir Historic Site, you can see documents and artifacts, as well as over 1,000 plant specimens Muir collected.

Photo: courtesy NPS

John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, California

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. 

a trail in Muir Woods lined by a wood fence, picture

Muir Woods National Monument, one of the last old-growth coastal redwood forests on the planet, is open 365 days a year.

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Muir Woods National Monument, Marin County California

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.” 

Muir Glacier in Glacier Bay in Alaska, picture

Between 1941 and 2004, Muir Glacier retreated more than seven miles. It is currently about 11 miles long.

Courtesy LCGS Russ / Wikimedia Commons

Muir Glacier, 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. 

 

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.