Share This


When it comes to poetically describing nature and its beauty, John Muir has a vast compendium of quotes. He was the man that came up with the iconic term “Range of Light” for the Sierra. He helped spark a revolution by writing about Yosemite and inspired the creation of a national park. Instead of focusing on his classic words, this is a list of John Muir quotes talking specifically about places or things that exist in the High Sierra.

“Of all the mountain ranges I have climbed, I like the Sierra Nevada the best.”

Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir at Glacier Point in Yosemite Valley
John Muir (pictured on the right with Theodore Roosevelt), spent his life exploring and one of his favorite places to wander was Yosemite. One famous adventure came in 1903 when Muir spent three nights camping in Yosemite with President Theodore Roosevelt. On that trip, Muir convinced the President to turn Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias into a National Park. – Photo from Library Of Congress

When he wrote in the Atlantic about the successful creation of Yosemite as a national park, he trumpeted his love affair for this region. You can definitely see that in this first sentence of his article written in August 1899.

“Nature’s landscape garden, at once beautiful and sublime.”

Yosemite Valley

wildflowers in Yosemite Valley
Photo by: Breeze Turner – Image appears courtesy: Visit Yosemite|Madera County

His writings about Yosemite are the stuff of legends. Although he lived in the park for only a few years, it was the fire of his writings. In the fall of 1869, John Muir stayed full time in Yosemite Valley. It was around that time he penned these words about the legendary valley. Or take it one step further by experiencing Yosemite through John Muir’s exact footsteps via this itinerary by Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau.

“The king of all the conifers in the world, the noblest of the noble race.”

Sequoia Trees

Nelder Grove Bull Buck Giant Sequoia
Image appears courtesy: Visit Yosemite | Madera County – Photo by: Local Freshies

These trees hold a special place for John Muir. It wasn’t just their size in his eyes that made them amazing but also their elegance. For their sheer volume alone, nothing is out of proportion. They’re just BIG! You can see beautiful specimens of the Sequoia tree in nearly all of the national parks including Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Sierra National Forest and the Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

“I never beheld a place where beauty was written in plainer characters or where the tender fostering hand of the Great Gardener was more directly visible.”

Mono Lake

california-high-sierra-mono-south-tufa-mono-lake-sunrise-5This ancient lake, even back in his era, was a marvel to see. When he visited the first time, he even remarked about the brine shrimp as the only permanent residents in Mono Lake. A unique oasis for millions of migratory birds, they feast on those local brine shrimp in its saline waters before heading over the Great Basin desert.

“In the vast Sierra Wilderness far to the southward of the famous Yosemite Valley, there is a yet grander valley of the same kind. It is situated on the south fork of King’s River, above the most extensive groves and forests of the giant sequoia, and beneath the shadows of the highest mountains in the range, where the canyons are deepest and the snow-laden peaks are crowded most closely together.”

Kings Canyon

Majestic Mountain Loop
Kings Canyon – Image appears courtesy: Visit Visalia

Muir’s soliloquy of nature may have been sparked in Yosemite, but as you can see, he considered Kings Canyon “a rival to Yosemite.” Like the more aloof, quiet brother, Kings Canyon National Park holds many treasures that rival its brother to the north. It’s home to the DEEPEST canyon in North America, a host of 14k peaks, and some of the world’s largest stands of Sequoias.

“A country of wonderful contrasts. Hot deserts bounded by snow-laden mountains, – cinders and ashes scattered on glacier-polished pavements, – frost and fire working together in the making of beauty.”

Eastern Sierra

Devils Postpile
Image appears courtesy: Mammoth Mountain

It’s impressive that in his time he was aware of his surroundings enough to realize the mountains and valleys of the Eastern Sierra were formed by both glaciers AND volcanic activity. Attractions like Devil’s Post Pile and Hot Creek Geological Site are great examples of this.

Tahoe is surely not one but many. As I curve around its heads and bays and look far out on its level sky fairly tinted and fading in pensive air, I am reminded of all the mountain lakes I ever knew, as if this were a kind of water heaven to which they all had come.”

Lake Tahoe

Women taking scenic cell phone pic of Emerald Bay in South Lake Tahoe California
Photo by: Brand USA – Image appears courtesy: Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

Although Mark Twain is more deeply connected to “big blue”, the shores of Lake Tahoe were also visited by the legend himself. It was on a journey from summiting Mt. Whitney that John Muir made it here. In a letter from Tahoe City to his friend Jeanne Carr in 1872, he wrote this about Tahoe to her. We’re pretty sure he was talking about D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay State Park area when he described all the heads and bays.

From the most famous to the trivial, his words inspire. They provoke. But most of all, they make you want to pick up the call because “the mountains are calling and I must go.”

Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at https://localfreshies.com



Share This

Follow Us



Stay Up to Date

for updates on hidden gems, events, and more from California's High Sierra.

More Trip Ideas

More Trip Ideas

Keep Discovering

Need more reasons to visit the Sierra Nevada High Country?

Get a glimpse of the stunning scenery to see and activities to do in the Sierra Nevada.

View Gallery