Historic John Muir House in Martinez
The home of one of America’s most dedicated naturalists
Inventor, teacher, writer, husband and father, John Muir—probably the country’s most extreme naturalist—made his home in Martinez from 1880 until his death in 1914. Married to Louie Strentzel, the daughter of a fruit rancher who owned 2,600 acres in the Alhambra Valley, Muir took over the family business in 1882. After the former Wisconsin farmer made enough in a ten-year period to last his entire lifetime, Louie convinced him to turn the daily operations of the ranch over to her so that Muir could return to his first love—travel and conservation—which eventually led to the development of the National Park Service.
Today guests can wander the grounds of the John Muir house, which now sits on a 9-acre park, tour the Muir home and walk through what remains of the orchards. The trees still produce a limited amount of fruit which guests are welcome to enjoy.
Start your tour of the Muir site at the visitor center. There you can watch a 20-minute video that gives an overview of Muir’s life and works. A paved path will take you around the grounds and up to the house. Along the way, take time to listen to the self-guided cell phone tour that will give you insight to what life was like when the Muirs lived there. The home itself is cozy and open all day to welcome guests. Tour the house on your own (there are no cell phone stops in the house) or take a ranger guided tour at 2pm each day. A park ranger is in the house at other times to answer questions.
Bring a picnic to enjoy in the orchards, or head over to Mount Wanda, named after Muir’s eldest daughter, which consists of 326 acres of oak woods and grasslands. The out-and-back hike is approximately 3 miles long with about 500 feet of climbing up to a view of the Carquinez Straits. Dogs on leash are allowed.
A second national historic site, The Martinez Adobe, is located on the western edge of John Muir’s historic orchards. Once where Wanda Muir made her home, the building now features bilingual exhibits from the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. Here you can learn about the Anza Expedition, when Spanish Lt. Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza led 240 men, women and children up the California coast in 1775.
Things to know: John Muir National Historic Site is located at 4202 Alhambra Avenue in Martinez. It’s open daily from 10am to 5pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. No food or drinks are available for purchase. Restrooms are located in the visitor center. The visitor center and the first floor of the home are wheelchair accessible. Find Mount Wanda ¼ mile south from the visitor center on Alhambra Avenue. There is a parking lot at the trail head next to Franklin Canyon Road. Mount Wanda is open daily sunrise to sunset, but has no water or restrooms. For more information, visit nps.gov/jomu or call 925.228.8860.