Literature of the Trail

In this first of a series of articles, I present a list of some books which both inspire and educate, and that personally relate to my journey on the John Muir Trail.

Various John Muir Writings

Firstly, let’s take a look at some of the writings by the man himself, John Muir. John Muir was a Scottish born naturalist that emigrated to America and who was a primary advocate

for protecting wilderness regions. His activism in this area assisted in the preservation of Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park and many other regions. He was an avid writer, documenting his time in the mountains through letters, essays and books that described his explorations and connections with the wilderness.

Written in an old English style, there are literally hundreds of books which draw on the collective writings of John Muir during his time spent exploring the Sierras during the late 1800’s. He is a man that saw and described the beauty of the outdoors unlike anyone else at the time. Here’s just a few of my favourite quotes :

“A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from
“Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.” ― John Muir

the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God’s first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself.” ― John Muir

“And after ten years spent in the heart of it, bathing in its glorious floods of light, seeing the sunbursts of morning among the icy peaks, the flush of alpenglow, and a thousand dashing waterfalls with their marvelous abundance of irised spray, it still seems to me above all others the Range of Light?” ― John Muir

And a few mini quotes, of why are also my favourites:

“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.” ― John Muir

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” ― John Muir

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” ― John Muir
Now, a list of other books of integrity:

“Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you.” ― John Muir

The Mountains of California
By John Muir

National Geographic: Guide to National Parks of the United States
By National Geographic

Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada
By John Muir Laws

An Illustrated Flora of Yosemite National Park
By Steph Botti & Walter Sydoriak

Ishmael: An Adventure of Mind & Spirit
By Daniel Quinn

Tree: A natural History of what trees are, how they live, and why they matter
By Colin Tudge

The Wild Trees: A story of Passion & Daring
By Richard Preston

The John Muir Trail: Through the Californian Sierra Nevada (Cicerone Guide)
By Alan Castle

John Muir Trail Map Pack: Shaded Relief Topo Maps
By Tom Harrison

Your Camino
By Sylvia Nilsen with Greg Dedman

Well there you have it. A collection of books I would recommend to those who might be seeking inspiration for walking. On that note, and mirroring the sentiments of John Muir himself…

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

* Thanks for your images, you’re awesome.

One thought on “Literature of the Trail

  1. Good day, Anthony & Greg,

    Could I suggest another, admitted more humble, addition to your list? My book, “Planning Your Thru-Hike of the John Muir Trail”, is a great place to start for someone who is actually thinking about hiking this trail. It’s not literature, but it will tell you what you need to know!

    It is available for seven bucks at

    Good hiking, Ray