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General Grant Tree: Everything You Need To Know About The World’s 2nd Largest Tree

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Located in Kings Canyon National Park, the General Grant Tree is the 2nd largest tree in the world. Just how big is it you ask? In this article, you’ll learn all about this amazing tree and the park which is its home.

Kings Canyon National Park | General Grant Tree
The General Grant Tree is located in Kings Canyon National Park

General Grant Tree

History Of The General Grant Tree

The General Grant Tree was named after Ulysses S. Grant
The world’s second largest tree was named after victorious Union General and 18th president of the United States Ulysses S. Grant | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The General Grant Tree is the largest giant Sequoia tree in the General Grant Grove section of Kings Canyon National Park. It is the second largest tree in the world.

The largest tree in the world is its neighbor, the General Sherman Tree, which is located in nearby Sequoia National Park.

RELATED: General Sherman Tree: Everything You Need To Know About The World’s Largest Tree

The Naming of the General Grant Tree

So how did this tree get its name? This is a story that’s not without controversy. Lumberman Joseph Thomas Hardin discovered the tree in 1862. He claimed to have named it to honor then Civil War General U.S. Grant.

Most park historians, however, give the credit for naming the tree to Lucretia P. Baker who camped near the tree with her family on August 20, 1867.

Hudson D. Barton’s Letter

Those who support Baker’s claim cite President Grant’s letter to her thanking her for the honor. Those who support the Thomas claim cite fellow lumberman Hudson D. Barton’s statement that the tree was already named in 1866 when it was officially measured.

Whether it was named in 1862 or 1867, there’s no debate that it was named after the victorious Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant.

The Nation’s Christmas Tree

President Calvin Coolidge named the General Grant Tree the "nation's Christmas tree."
President Calvin Coolidge named the General Grant Tree the “Nation’s Christmas Tree.” (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

On April 28, 1926, President Calvin Coolidge named the General Grant Tree the “Nation’s Christmas Tree.” At the time, it was thought to be the largest tree in the world.

In 1931, however, precise measurements indicated that the General Sherman Tree was slightly larger. For once, it appears that Sherman went father than Grant.

National Shrine

President Eisenhower made the General Grant Tree a “National Shrine.” Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Another victorious general and president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, declared the tree a “National Shrine,” a memorial to those who died in war. It is the only living object to ever be so declared such a memorial. 

Each year, during a Christmas ceremony, park rangers place a large wreath at the base of the General Grant Tree, in remembrance of those who gave their lives.

About the General Grant Tree

So, just how big is the General Grant Tree? Pretty massive. According to the NPS the General Grant Tree is as tall a 16-story building!

Height: 267 feet tall

Width: 29 feet wide (at its base)

Age: 3000 – 4000 years old

Trunk Weight: 565 Tons

Trunk Volume: 45,232 Cubic Feet

RELATED: 10+ (GIANT) Sequoia Tree & Kings Canyon National Park Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

Getting to The General Grant Tree

The General Grant Tree Trail | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The General Grant Tree is located in the Grant Grove at Kings Canyon National Park. It’s one of the world’s premier sequoia habitats with several of the world’s largest trees.

A paved 0.8-mile loop will take you to this magnificent tree and a grove of giant sequoias around the General Grant Tree.

The General Grant Tree Trail is typically filled with hikers. There you will find informative panels and astonishing trees.

“No other tree combines such massiveness of trunk with such height…. Spruces and pines of majestic port standing around look like saplings….

They look up, but the Sequoias look—not down but out, indifferent to all that is transpiring below them. They see only the limitless reaches of the eternal sky…”

-Julia Ellen Rogers, “The Big Tree and the Redwood,” The Tree Book: A Popular Guide to a Knowledge of the Trees of North America and to their Uses and Cultivation, 1905

The “President” Tree

The "President" is the thirds tallest tree in the world | General Grant Tree
The third largest tree in the world is called the “President.” Which president? We’ll leave that up to your imagination (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

As long as we’re listing the world’s tallest trees, here’s another. The third-largest tree in the world, based on volume, is a giant sequoia known as the “President.”

It is approximately 247 feet (75 m) high, and 27 feet (8.2 m) in diameter at the base. This tree also happens to be the oldest known living sequoia. It has been growing for 3,200 years.

How Do These Trees Grow So Long

How is it that sequoia trees can grow for so long? They are able to protect themselves against natural threats. The tannic acid found in their sap helps the trees fight off fungal rot, protects them from parasites and acts as a fire repellent against low-intensity burns. 

The only way these amazing trees reproduce is through seeds. These seeds remain in their pine cones for almost twenty years without seeing any sunlight.

Believe it or not, the heat which results from naturally occurring forest fires helps to release these seeds from the pine cones into the soil.

The largest sequoia trees are equivalent in height to a 26-story building | General Grant Tree
The largest sequoia trees are equivalent in height to a 26-story building | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“The sequoias belong to the silences of the millenniums. Many of them have seen a hundred human generations rise, give off their little clamors and perish. They seem indeed to be forms of immortality standing here among the transitory shapes of time.”

-Edwin Markham

Kings Canyon National Park

Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Kings Canyon National Park | General Grant Tree
Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Kings Canyon National Park in 1940 (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

History of Kings Canyon

Sequoia National Park is our nation’s second oldest having been created in 1890. A week after its creation, General Grant National Park was established to protect the sequoias in the General Grant Grove.

In 1940, Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Kings Canyon National Park.. It incorporated the area of General Grant National Park with the spectacular canyons and high Sierra country to the east.

Kings Canyon’s origins go back to General Grant National Park so it shares the title of the nation’s third oldest national park with Yosemite.

RELATED: 10+ AMAZING Yosemite National Park Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

The First Visitors To Kings Canyon

The Paiute Nation were among the first to see Kings Canyon National Park | General Grant Tree
The first native peoples to inhabit the Kings Canyon area were members of the Paiute Nation | General Grant Tree

The first Native Americans to live in the area were a part of the Paiute Nation, migrating westward over the mountains to the Mono Lake area. They subsisted on deer, and other small game for food and developed a trading network that stretched across the mountains and into Owens Valley.

The first Europeans arrived in 1806. Spaniard Gabriel Moraga and his expedition discovered a major river which they named it El Río de los Santos Reyes – The River of the Holy Kings, later changed to Kings River

The Gold Rush

California Gold Rush | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Americans did not start arriving in any numbers until the Gold Rush of 1849. These newcomers came in search of gold and began the first comprehensive exploration of the Sierras.

What they found, instead, was smallpox, measles, and other diseases which devastated local Native American hamlets. The Epidemic of 1862 almost wiped them out entirely.

From John Muir To The Present Day | General Grant Tree

John Muir came to Kings Canyon in 1871 | General Grant Tree
John Muir came to Kings Canyon in 1873 and called it “a rival of the Yosemite.” (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

John Muir, America’s legendary conservationist, arrived in 1873. He called it “a yet grander valley” and “a rival of the Yosemite.”

In 1926, National Park Service Director Stephen Mather, Congressman Frederick Gillett and Gilbert Grosvenor, president of the National Geographic Society, joined forces to add nearly 2,000 acres to General Grant National Park.

Two Parks Managed As One

When Kings Canyon was created in 1940, General Grant National Park became part of the new park instead. During World War Two,

Sequoia and Kings Canyon were managed as one park to save the government money. This management policy continues to the present day.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks Feature Over 800 Miles Of Trails

Rae Lakes Wildflowers at Kings Canyon | General Grant Tree
Rae Lakes Wildflowers at Kings Canyon National Park | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

To paraphrase Nancy Sinatra, “These parks are made for walking. That’s just what they do.” While you’re visiting the world’s tallest tree, why not check out some of the incredible hiking trails at Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.

If walking’s what you love to do then check out the John Muir Trail. It’s a 221-mile trail stretching from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney. It travels through Kings Canyon and into Sequoia so you get two national parks for the price of one.

If you’re a hiker then know that the best hiking season is from July to September when the weather is sunny and dry. Permits are not required for day hikes unless you’re planning to hike Mount Whitney. Consider going in the early morning or evening hours to escape the heat of the day.

More About Kings National Park | General Grant Tree

Travel to Sequoia National Park to see the mighty trees and you’ll feel like Lemuel Gulliver in Brobdingnag. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

If you’ve read Jonathan Swift’s classic, Gulliver’s Travels, or Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, it’s the story of Lemuel Gulliver who journeys to four amazing lands.

While his most famous voyage was to Lilliput (ergo the “Lilliputians” or “Little People”), in one of Gulliver’s other journeys, he travels to the land of Brobdingnag where a blade of grass is as tall as a tree.

Publicity photo of the cast of Land of the Giants television program. Shown left to right: Don Matheson, Heather Young, Kurt Kasznar, Deanna Lund, Gary Conway, and Don Marshall. Visiting Kings Canyon National can make you feel like you’re in the “land of the giants,” too, only in this case the giants are trees. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

You don’t have to travel to Brobdingnag to experience what Gulliver did. Travel to Kings Canyon National Park where the trees are so tall and so amazing that you’ll feel like a Lilliputian in this land of the giants.

These massive Sequoia trees actually grow between 5,000 and 8,000 feet in elevation.

How is this possible you might ask? At Kings Canyon, the winters are relatively mild which makes it a perfect natural habitat for these incredible specimens to grow and thrive.

Ansel Adams Helped To Create Kings Canyon National Park | General Grant Tree

Ansel Adams was instrumental in getting Congress to create Kings Canyon National Park | General Grant Tree
Photographer Ansel Adams helped to create Kings Canyon National Park | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Ansel Adams was born on February 20, 1902, in San Francisco, California. As a thirteen-year old, he took his Brownie box camera with him and began to photograph the natural wonders around him including Yosemite.

Adams met some of the great conservationists of his time including Joseph N. LeConte, William E. Colby and Stephen T. Mather. Adams became a conservationist himself. He used his magnificent photographs of Kings Canyon to lobby members of Congress to create a national park there.

RELATED: Meet The Real Life Batman & Robin Of The National Parks (Masking Included)

Adams Lobbies Congress

As Phil Archer of the National Parks Conservation Association notes, “He toted his portfolios from Senate to House, meeting with more than 40 members of Congress, telling his story of finding his life’s purpose in the parks.

He spoke before a conference on the National Park Service and there met Harold Ickes, secretary of the Interior, and shared his photographs with him.”

“Adams assembled his Kings Canyon images with others made in the Sierra and published them as a book, “Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail,” in 1938.

He sent a copy to Secretary Ickes, who shared it with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Kings Canyon National Park was created the following year, putting half a million acres under protection.” (Source: Phil Archer, ‘A Silent but Most Effective Voice’: Ansel Adams and Advocacy, NPCA)

The Deepest Canyon In The US

Kings Canyon has the deepest canyon in the U.S. | General Grant Tree
The Grand Canyon is truly magnificent, but it’s not the deepest canyon in the U.S.

If you ask someone to name the deepest canyon in the United States, odds are he [or she] will say it’s the Grand Canyon. At over 6,000 feet, the Grand Canyon is very deep indeed, but it’s not the deepest canyon.

That honor goes to Kings Canyon. It reaches a depth of 8,200 feet. And, best of all, you can drive right down to the bottom of the canyon on the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, which links the park’s main visitor centers of Grant Grove and Cedar Grove.

RELATED: 11 (BEST) Best National Parks To Visit 2021

Protected From The Wildfires | General Grant Tree

firefighter, fire, flames-5799151.jpg
The General Grant Tree & Kings Canyon National Park have been in the news as a result of a major wildfire which has threatened the park and its iconic trees.

Currently, 3,741 firefighters continue to ensure the safety of California residents by keeping in check the Rough Fire – one of California’s 12 currently burning wildfires – firefighters for the US Park Service have been tasked with keeping something else safe: the world’s second-largest tree.

“It’s really important for us to make sure that those values are protected,” Mike Theune, Kings Canyon National Park fire information and education specialist said. “They mean so many things to so many people worldwide. We have visitors that come to us that show us pictures of their parents visiting the tree and want to have that same experience.” (Source: The Guardian)

The fire, which has spread to 139,133 acres, was started as a result of a lightning strike.

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The Pattiz Brothers | More Than Just Parks

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and learned things you didn’t know about the world’s second largest tree. If you’re interested in learning more about our national parks, we hope you’ll please check out our complete rankings for all 63 of them.

Tony Pattiz

Tony Pattiz is a retired history teacher currently researching and writing articles for More Than Just Parks.

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