John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez

I’ve always loved this quote, and it’s one I experience each and every time I head out into nature.  For anyone who knows me, it should come as no surprise that John Muir, one of the greatest conservationists in history, is one of my heroes.  What is surprising, however, is that I’ve never visited the John Muir National Historic Site, located right here in the San Francisco East Bay.  But I finally made it this week!

I’m sure many of you already know the important things about John Muir.  For those who love Yosemite, we have John Muir to thank.  His passion for the beauty of the region and his passionate letters to the president are what saved the area from being plundered for its abundant natural resources.  His campaigning helped pass the 1890 National Park bill that not only created Yosemite and  Sequoia National Parks, but also set the stage for so many other natural treasures to be preserved.  Muir today is considered to be the “Father of National Parks”.  Just a couple of years later, Muir helped found the Sierra Club, and was elected as the first president of the influential organization.  His many books and writings live on with us today.

But how many of you know that after many years of traveling (his “Thousand Mile Walk” from Kentucky to the Gulf of Mexico, his exploration of Alaska, and his many years in the Sierra Nevada Mountains), he settled down in the Martinez area?  He married and took over operations of the fruit ranch he inherited from his wife’s family.  Muir was raised on a farm, and he easily took over management of the fruit orchards.  He focused on this entirely for five years of his life, before his wife encouraged him to get back out into nature and to return to his writing and advocacy work.  Martinez, however, remained his home for the remainder of his life.  Much of his writing took place here.

If you have the opportunity, I recommend a visit to this historic site.  If you go, the movie about the life and work of John Muir is wonderful.  Don’t miss it!  You can pick up a self-guided tour booklet in the visitor center before heading out to explore the grounds.  The house is interesting to see.  After John Muir died in 1914, the house was sold by his daughters.  It passed through several families before being abandoned.  Homeless moved in, setting fires inside the house for warmth.  By the time the National Park Service acquired the house, it was in horrible shape.  It’s been renovated and decorated, with help from the memory of one of the daughters of Muir.  After touring the house, we enjoyed a lovely walk around the fruit orchards.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

-John Muir

Interested in going?  The visitor center, house, and grounds are open to the public Wednesday-Sunday, 10:00am-5:00pm.  For additional information, visit the National Park Service website…

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

-John Muir


  1. I went there for the first time back in 1973. However, my most enjoyable visit was in 1994 when I was working in Lafayette. I went there again and then over to Muir Woods National Monument where I went on a six-mile hike over the mountain to the Pacific Ocean. That’s when I realized that the mind wanted to do a lot of things that the body was no longer willing to do……


    1. Hahaha. Hiking in Muir Woods can do that to someone! I’ve done that hike up and over (and back), and it’s a tough (but beautiful!) one. When my son was two, I realized I’d have to start running in order to keep up with him (I’m in my 40s, by the way, and was never a runner before). Decided to try my first trail running event last year… started with a 7-mile run on the Dipsea. Foolish… but oh so pretty!!


  2. I loved this article. Have good friends who live in Martinez. I too have found that there are many wonders at our doorstep which we can sometimes be oblivious to.
    I have traveled to many national parks, museums, and art haunts within 100 miles of my home in Superior, Arizona. This country is full of beauty – we just need to open our eyes. Thanks for this blog entry! 🙂


    1. Thanks and you’re welcome, John! There are quite a few things in the Bay Area that I haven’t yet explored…. such as Alcatraz!! There’s always something new to see, especially closest to home.


  3. I grew up in the Martinez area so this house was a prominent feature of my childhood. I went back and visited recently. There’s also a great hike on the Mt. Wanda side of the park.


      1. The house seemed very similar to what I remembered. Except for the wedding dress not being on display. I asked the ranger and he said they take it out very rarely because it’s so delicate. I think the exhibit in the adobe was new, and I’d never been to Mt. Wanda before.


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