John Muir, father of park conservation, spent his last couple of decades in a beautiful Victorian home overlooking orchards and vineyards in the East Bay of California. When John Muir and his family lived here, along with a full staff, their fruit ranch stretched 2,600-acres. Today, the National Park Service protects 335-acres of this original property, known as the John Muir National Historical Site. John Muir was an extremely successful fruit farmer, but he is famously known for establishing Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, among many others, as National Parks by gaining the awareness of President Roosevelt. Muir Woods is located across the bay.
The land is also significant because it was originally a part of a 17,700-acre Mexican land grant. The home of Don Ygnacio and his family is also on the property. Built in 1840, it is one of the earliest examples of adobe architecture in the Contra Costa County.
Property Shuttle Cart: If you have difficultly navigating the hills of the property, the National Park Service operates a small shuttle cart that can transport one wheelchair along with a few other visitors.
Spend some time exploring the property and learn more about its history. A docent is always at the home to assist visitors who need the lift to access the ground floor. Each room is full of detailed accents and serves a specific purpose. Photographs and other documents are laid out on the dining room that tell the story of John Muir’s life. For those unable to ascend a staircase, a video is shown to complete the picture (captions available).
The Pathway: There are two paved pathways leading from the Visitor Center to the home; one has been modified to decrease slope. A level pathway also wraps around the entire house, though one section narrows considerably, so proceed with caution.
Surrounding the home are historical remnants of John Muir’s life, including his fruit ranch (still edible) and garage. The home of Don Ygnacio is also a historical point and the oldest building on the property. People are welcome to stroll around, eat some fruit (if in season), rest or even picnic under one of the many trees, such as the Sequoia John Muir brought from the sierras as a sapling.
Touring Tool: 11 call-in exhibits that describe different historical points are marked along the pathway.
The Adobe Home of Don Ygnacio is located at the end of the paved trail, about 250 yards away. The pathway wraps around to the left to the accessible entrance. On this side you can also see a white adobe oven for outdoor cooking. Inside are visual and audio displays about the family who journeyed to lived here.
Picnic Areas (3 of them): In addition to the picnic area at the Visitor Center, there are three others. One set of tables is under a covered shelter behind the adobe home of Don Ygnacio, but these two tables do not have extended ends. Another set of picnic tables are located under a lovely grove of redwoods and two tables have extended ends, but the pathway to get there is not very accessible due to numerous holes and uneven surface. The last set is just to the left of the pathway as you approach the adobe home; a couple of tables have extended ends but no designated pathway to reach them.
- Entrance Fee: None
- Hours: Open 7 days a week from 10:00am to 5:00pm, year-round, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day.
- Transportation and Parking: 1 designated parking space with van access. The Country Connector bus line also has a stop directly in front and has connecting routes to BART and AMTRAK.
- Pathway and Doors: The pathway from the parking spot to the front doors is paved asphalt. Both the front and the back doors are automatic via push-button.
- Information Desk: Is lowered to provide the most access to the most people. Large-print and braille documents are available.
- Drinking Fountain: A modified drinking fountain is just outside the backdoors. Another drinking fountain is behind the adobe house.
- Bathrooms: 3 bathrooms are located at the Visitor Center; 2 have been modified for access needs with grab-bars, a roll-up sink, and lowered hand-dryers.
- Picnic Tables: A few tables are outside just to the left of the drinking fountain on top of a flat grassy area; 2 have partially extended ends for better wheelchair access. Trees are nearby offering some shade.
- Day Trip Tip: This Visitor Center also services Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, another National Historical Site a few minutes away.