20 Inspiring Quotes from John Muir

Nature’s bearded philosopher was also the king of stoke. Here are few of his wise words to get you fired up.


Been outside lately? How about a few reminders from the Poet Laureate of the High Sierra? John Muir was ecstatically writing about the mountains 100 years before you had an iPhone to stare at while your eyes glazed over. He was also writing about how we lose our feeling for being alive by working too much, focusing on making money instead of the things that bring us joy. Sound familiar? Bit of a visionary, that guy. You can thank him for Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park, as well as these little snippets of inspiration.

1. “Most people are on the world, not in it. ”

2. “Who wouldn’t be a mountaineer! Up here all the world’s prizes seem nothing.”

3. “Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.”

4. “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”

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

6. “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

7. “In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

8. “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”

9. “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

10. “There is a love of wild nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties”

11. “I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”

12. “One day’s exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books.”

13. “Most people who travel look only at what they are directed to look at. Great is the power of the guidebook maker, however ignorant.”

14. “I never saw a discontented tree.”

15. “None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.”

16. “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

17. “Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”

18. “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

19. “The mountains are fountains of men as well as of rivers, of glaciers, of fertile soil. The great poets, philosophers, prophets, able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world, have come down from the mountains – mountain dwellers who have grown strong there with the forest trees in Nature’s workshops.”

20. “Going to the mountains is going home.”

Brendan Leonard is a contributing editor to Adventure Journal. Follow him at his blog, Semi-Rad.
Showing 26 comments
  • Amanda Elizabeth
    Amanda Elizabeth

    “Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.” AH.

  • Amanda Elizabeth
    Amanda Elizabeth

    Consider my carcass inspired.

  • Forrest McCarthy

    “The Sun shines not on us but in us. The Rivers flow not past, But through us.” – John Muir

  • Isabel Hotellinksolutions
    Isabel Hotellinksolutions

    Over a thousand reasons, we have over a thousand reasons to be Ecuador Tourist power.
    The place where life has expressed its majesty through a variety of colors, sounds, smells and tastes, that is Ecuador. Here in the center of the world, the people who make this small country, has decided that in their hands is keeping a sustainable paradise.

  • David D

    awesome post.

  • Gareth Alunovich Griffiths
    Gareth Alunovich Griffiths

    The mountains are calling and I must go

  • Tony

    “None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.” That quote is just so right!

  • ziad k abdelnour

    nice and good inspiring quotes,

    “One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder.”

    Thank you

  • Tony Lee

    John Muir is a boss. I love this quote: “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”

  • Jason

    Great list of quotes.

    I especially like 6. “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

  • Jess

    I like the quotes, though you have one quote that isn’t Muir’s – “In William Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, Act III, Scene iii – Ulysses, speaking to Achilles says that “One Touch of Nature Makes the Whole World Kin”.”

  • Josh

    My favorite of them all “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

  • Bret R

    Agree completely with his view on losing our feeling to overworking. Everyday i sit in my cubicle looking out the window thinking “there has to be more than this”…I need the mountains.

  • Jessica Blue Sky

    Beautiful quotes. My heart is afloat as I daydream of wilderness ♡

  • lv

    I have “The Mountains are calling and I must go” tattooed on my arm.

  • Ruthie

    Muir actually said, “God never made an ugly landscape. All that the sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.”

    Source for this version of this quote is: “The Scenery of California,” California Early History: Commercial Position: Climate: Scenery. San Francisco: California State Board of Trade, 1897, 16.

    Some prefer to leave out the appellation, “God” from Muir’s statement – finding it more palatable to them, but truthfully, Muir will not fit into such a politically-correct box. He found nature “the perfect cathedral” for worship and actually read the New Testament often.

  • Roman Dial

    Too bad so many “conservationist” of today, the intellectual (cry) babies of Muir, fail to live by these suggestions, and instead are forcefully shoving their world view down our throats.

  • Marc

    From cityboy i went to countryguy: 800 km through the Norwegian mountains, every meter was bliss.

  • Aaron

    You forgot my favorite Muir quote:

    “Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.”

  • Wade

    Such a great poet who brought such an appreciation to nature by many.

  • jamie

    John Muir is my favorite and I believe everything he said is true. I can always find peace in nature!

  • Zeljka Gmaz

    I simply loved this article. John Muir was truly an extraordinary figure when it comes to preservation of America’s wildlife and he wrote with such enthusiasm about nature, mountains and woods that even today’s readers find inspiration in his quotes and words of wisdom. The one I like the most is this one below, mostly because I find it to be very true.

    “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” – John Muir

  • Dan Acosta

    Great article.
    I just read The Mountains of California by Muir . A veritable treasure . He looks at the alpenglow as the sun is setting on the Sierras and writes” The was the alpenglow, to me one of he most impressive of all terrestrial manifestations of God!” And then adds a spiritual touch when he says “At the touch of this divine light, the mountains seem to kindle to a rapt, religious consciousness and stood hushed and waiting like devout worshippers “. This 900 page tome can be read free on your free books app and is a hidden jewel. I find myself quoting it to friends.. ” How gloriously does the sun greet the mountains in the morning “, I tell them.. I hope to write an article on Muir because he proved the Sanskrit saying that ” the world is as you see it”

  • thefurtureFIT

    Good article! “I never saw a discontented tree.” I love this quote. Trees know when they have enough. They know that they don’t need anything else besides good air and good earth. We could take a lesson from that.

  • Firespider

    Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.

    John Muir is my hero. He is the only human being to walk this earth that not only loved nature and understood it’s universal call to the soul of humanity, but was also wise enough to know that sharing his experiences with those unaware of nature’s ability to raise the consciousness of the mind while reveling in the discovery of your own soul by connecting with it, also connected us to the universe and God. There are not many that can inspire as he does.

    The perfection of a tree and the infinity of a star filled night in the mountains is as refreshing to the human spirit as a sun drenched valley a thundering, majestic waterfall and the awakening of an old soul as it is to the birth of a new one.

    This man has inspired millions. Let him inspire you. Heed the call of the wild and the restlessness of your soul. Give way to your true self and become one with the universe while marveling a giant Sequoia and the endless blue sky. Ponder with amazement the beauty of this earth, the power of its oceans, the simple grace of the changing of its seasons and know that you are as much a part of all that surrounds you as the very air you breathe and the wonderful sights and sounds you see, hear and imagine!

  • Liz

    “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” is William Shakespeare not JM but JM still a boss

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