The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada

The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada
Paperback, 8.5 x 11, with full-color illustrations throughout, 288 pages.

By John Muir Laws

In this groundbreaking and meticulously field-tested guide, the rich variety of Sierra life—trees, wildflowers, ferns, fungi, lichens, fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals, and insects—comes alive.

Easy-to-use features include:

  • Intuitive organization, color tabs, and simple keys
  • Similar-looking species side by side
  • Over 2,800 full-color illustrations
  • Range maps of species that are otherwise difficult to distinguish
  • Index of common and scientific names
  • Lightweight and compact—ideal for backpacking

Impressively detailed and comprehensive, the guide includes:

  • More than 1,700 species
  • Descriptions of behavior, adaptations, and interactions between species
  • Species and topics not found in most guides, including aquatic life, spiders and webs, plankton, plant galls, bark beetle galleries, animal tracks and evidence, seasonal star charts, weather patterns, and cloud formations

Published in conjunction with the California Academy of Sciences.


"There are lots of Sierra field guides, some specialized, some general, but this is the best both for beauty and usefulness. Laws as an artist knows how to bring out the features that help people identify a species; his paintings are realistic, abstracted to help understanding, and beautiful. The organization and key systems are very clear. It's wonderful that the Sierras have such a great guide." Kim Stanley Robinson
''From fungi to forest to frogs and fish, the book is a small but powerful treasure of reference to nature.'' The Sacramento Bee
''He took his first hike into the Sierra Nevada, the landscape of his obsession, while still in the womb. His parents named him John Muir Laws. He once spent a week searching for a single perfect orchid to paint. He says 'I am constantly amazed by things'--Such as? 'The diversity of chipmunks.' He is not joking. He cares about newts. If asked, he does an excellent imitation of a startled vole. He has opinions about beetles... The new field guide, already praised by outdoor connoisseurs as a naturalist's bible, begins with 'Small Fungi growing on Wood' and ends with stars. It is small enough to slip in your pocket but includes 1,700 species of flowers, trees, bugs, frogs, snails, skinks, birds, fish, rodents. It took him six years. The world needs more of this--this kind of sustained, informed, deep gee-whizdom... Laws painted every wildflower in his book from sketches in the field. The same with the birds, except for the great horned owl which he kept missing. 'We have this idea that all robins, for example, look the same,' says Laws. 'But they don't. Any more than collies look alike or all humans. It's because we are not looking hard enough.'... When he was a boy hiking on the John Muir Trail, he dreamed of creating the perfect field guide, not a guide made by experts, but a book by an enthusiast. 'My criteria for inclusion in the book: Either it is so common you'll trip over it all the time. Or not so common--maybe it is just some subtle little thing, but they are so stunning or their story is so great, I had to include it,' he says. Why? 'Because the more people fall in love with the diversity of life, the more people will fight to protect it,' Laws says. '...The point really is not to identify a creature or a plant and move on. The point is to learn the story.'' William Booth, Washington Post
''Laws was so determined to make it easy for people to use this gude, he crammed a wide range of species into one book so hikers and backpackers would find it easy to take with them. Then he arranged it by species and primary characteristics so, from the inside cover, they can flip quickly to the pages that cover the plant or animal they've seen for a quick identification. Laws' stunning illustrations are accompanied by observations and requests, like on page 309: Keep an eye out for the wolverine, now feared extinct.''--The San Francisco Chronicle ''If you have room for only one Sierra Nevada guidebook in your pack, make it this little gem....Dense with illustration, it's the perfect all-ages introduction to field guides. Well-researched natural history notes pull the reader more deeply into the story of these iconic mountains.'' Sierra Magazine
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About the Author

John Muir Laws

John Muir Laws

John Muir Laws is a naturalist, educator, and artist with degrees in conservation and resource studies, wildlife biology, and scientific illustration. His books include The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada, The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, and (with Emilie Lygren) How to Teach Nature Journaling, all published by Heyday. He is cofounder of the Wild Wonder Foundation, an organization encouraging nature connection through art and science. Visit his website at (author photo by Jim Morris)

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


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