15 John Muir Quotes That Are Deeply Inspirational

Updated February 16, 2022
Half Dome in Yosemite National Park and Portrait of John Muir with quote
    Half Dome in Yosemite National Park and Portrait of John Muir with quote
    Half Dome: bluejayphoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus / John muir: Heritage Images / Hulton Fine Art Collection / Getty Images editorial
    Used under Getty Images editorial license

If Scottish-born naturalist John Muir were ever to lose his first field journal, its finder would see the following address inside: “John Muir, Earth-planet, Universe.” While the address wouldn’t do much to help the journal get back to Muir himself, it does indicate his — and accordingly, our — relatively tiny spot in a place much larger than our own. Like the melted glaciers through his beloved Yosemite Valley, Muir’s appreciation of both the enormity and intricacy of nature flows through his writing.

John Muir Quotes on the Life Force of Nature

Whether it was the slow determination of water carving its way through the mountains or the rapid acceleration of a winter snowstorm, John Muir could always see the pure life force behind natural phenomena. Often, he felt so at home with the elements of nature that he would anthropomorphize the stones, wind and snowflakes around him.

  • “Who publishes the sheet-music of the winds, or the written music of water written in river-lines?” - John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

  • “Everything is flowing going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches; the air in majestic floods carrying minerals, plant leaves, seeds, spores, with streams of music and fragrance; water streams carrying rock... While the stars go streaming through space pulsed on and on forever like blood globules in Nature's warm heart.” - My First Summer in the Sierra

  • “When I reached the [Yosemite] valley, all the rocks seemed talkative, and more lovable than ever. They are dear friends, and have warm blood gushing through their granite flesh; and I love them with a love intensified by long and close companionship. ... I bathed in the bright river, sauntered over the meadows, conversed with the domes, and played with the pines.” - "A Geologist's Winter Walk" in Overland Monthly

  • “How lavish is Nature building, pulling down, creating, destroying, chasing every material particle from form to form, ever changing, ever beautiful.” - The Writings of John Muir

  • “Nature chose for a tool, not the earthquake or lightning to rend and split asunder, not the stormy torrent or eroding rain, but the tender snow-flowers noiselessly falling through unnumbered centuries, the offspring of the sun and sea.” - The Mountains of California


John Muir Quotes on Learning Through Adversity

To John Muir, nature was not just a pretty picture to look at. It provides valuable insight into the human experience — especially when conditions seem unavoidably adverse.

  • “There is no estimating the wit and wisdom concealed and latent in our lower fellow mortals until made manifest by profound experiences; for it is through suffering that dogs as well as saints are developed and made perfect.” - Stickeen: John Muir's Adventure with a Dog and a Glacier

  • “Many of Nature's finest lessons are to be found in her storms, and if careful to keep in right relations with them, we may go safely abroad with them, rejoicing in the grandeur and beauty of their works and ways.” - Stickeen: John Muir's Adventure with a Dog and a Glacier

  • “By forces seemingly antagonistic and destructive Nature accomplishes her beneficent designs now a flood of fire, now a flood of ice, now a flood of water; and again in the fullness of time an outburst of organic life.” - “Mount Shasta” in Picturesque California

  • “It has been said that trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment rooted in the ground. But they never seem so to me. I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!” - John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

  • “Raindrops blossom brilliantly in the rainbow, and change to flowers in the sod, but snow comes in full flower direct from the dark, frozen sky.”- The Great Outdoors: The Mountains of California


John Muir Quotes on Protecting the Environment

John Muir wrote to Mrs. Ezra S. Carr, “I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature’s loveliness.” The quote captures his life goal of making public the beauty of nature — for the purpose of protecting the natural environment from civilization.

  • “The world, we are told, was made especially for man — a presumption not supported by all the facts.” - A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf

  • “In nothing does man, with his grand notions of heaven and charity, show forth his innate, low-bred, wild animalism more clearly than in his treatment of his brother beasts. From the shepherd with his lambs to the red-handed hunter, it is the same; no recognition of rights - only murder in one form or another.” - The Cruise of the Corwin

  • “I suppose we need not go mourning the buffaloes. In the nature of things they had to give place to better cattle, though the change might have been made without barbarous wickedness.” - Our National Parks

  • “I have precious little sympathy for the selfish propriety of civilized man, and if a war of races should occur between the wild beasts and Lord Man, I would be tempted to sympathise with the bears.” - A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf

  • “These temple-destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar. Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.” - The Yosemite


A Beauty Beyond Words

While John Muir’s immortal quotes and efforts ring throughout America’s national parks, he is not alone in his ebullient love of nature. For more nature lover quotes and expressions, check out: