Located in America’s second oldest national park, Sequoia, the General Sherman Tree is the 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.
General Sherman Tree
History Of The General Sherman Tree
How Big Is The General Sherman Tree?
Located in the Sequoia National Park, the General Sherman Tree is the largest known living single stem tree on earth. The tree is thought to be between 2,300 to 2,700 years old.
It stands at a height of 274.9 feet, with a circumference at the base of 102.6 ft. The branches found on this tree measure up to 7 feet wide in diameter. However you look at it, it’s one incredible tree.
How did the tree get its name? That’s a wonderful story. In 1879, a cowboy and fur trapper by the name of James Wolverton is reported to have discovered the tree. It was the biggest tree Wolverton had ever seen.
Wolverton had served under General William Tecumseh Sherman as a lieutenant in the 9th Indiana Calvary. He therefore decided to name the tree after his commanding officer.
William Tweed set out to prove whether, in fact, this story is true. He writes, “Not until 1897, in fact, did soldiers first write down the name “General Sherman Tree” in a report. That summer, they placed a sign on the tree with that name.”
Was The Tree Originally Named After Karl Marx?
This is where the story gets rather interesting. In 1884, a socialist Utopian group known as the Kaweah Colony explored the area. They were looking for trees for logging.
The group discovered this giant tree and gave it the name “Karl Marx,” after the man who invented communism.
After the creation of the Sequoia National Park in 1890, soldiers were dispatched to the area. They came across these Kaweah Colonists and expelled them. Did the soliders rename the tree?
The only evidence available was a park guide which was first published in 1921. The guide tells the story of James Wolverton and the General Sherman Tree. This is the first published account substantiating the Wolverton Story.
It appeared 42 years after the event was supposed to have taken place. So it’s difficult to say whether, in fact, the story is actually true.
Facts About The World’s Largest Tree – The General Sherman
The General Sherman Tree is classified as a “Sequoia.” It’s not only the largest tree in the world, but it’s also the largest living organism, based on volume, on the entire planet.
General Sherman is not alone. There’s another famous sequoia tree nearby in Kings Canyon National Park.
It’s the second-largest tree in the world, standing at 267 feet tall and nearly 29 feet wide at the base. It’s named the General Grant Tree.
Winston Churchill is reported to have once said, “The winners write the history.” It looks like they get the big trees named after them too.
The “President” Tree
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.” This tree also happens to be the oldest known living sequoia. It has been growing for 3,200 years.
How is it that sequoia trees can grow for so long? They are able to protect themselves against naturals 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 them from the pine cones into the soil.
They’re As Tall As A 26-Story Building
Another interesting fact is that these trees are the third longest-lived tree species and typically have a lifespan of 3,000 years. The largest of these trees are equivalent in height to a 26-story building.
Here’s another fascinating fact. Sequoia National Park was the first park actually created to protect a living organism.
About Sequoia National Park | General Sherman Tree
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.
You don’t have to travel to Brobdingnag to experience what Gulliver did. Travel to Sequoia 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 Sequoia, the winters are relatively mild which makes it a perfect natural habitat for these incredible specimens to grow and thrive.
Sequoia Is Home To The Tallest Mountain In The Lower 48 States
It’s not just tall trees that Sequoia National Park has to offer. Sequoia also has the tallest mountain in the lower contiguous 48 states.
Mount Whitney is the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. It has an elevation of 14,505 feet. The mountain’s west slope is located in Sequoia National Park. The southern terminus of the John Muir Trail is where the summit is located.
Climb Every Mountain
Remember that wonderful song from The Sound Of Music, which Julie Andrews sings? It’s called “Climb Every Mountain.” While you may not want to climb every mountain, if you’re looking for a mountain to climb you won’t find many higher than Mount Whitney.
From the peak of Mount Whitney, you can see the incredible majesty of the Sierra Nevada range and look down into the beautiful Owens Valley. This magnificent mountain is the highest point of the Great Basin Divide.
The First President To Stay At Sequoia While In Office
The average male has 25% body fat. As President, George W. Bush had a a body fat of 14%. How did he do it? According the the White House, he worked on an elliptical machine two days a week, lifted weights two days a week, ran an average of four miles four days each week and did regular stretching exercises.
George W. Bush was clearly one of our more physically fit presidents while in office. When jogging became too difficult as a result of knee surgeries, he took up mountain biking instead. This man did not shy away from rugged physical exercise even on the hottest of days.
He was also the first president to visit Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks while in office. While there, he took a walking tour of Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park on May 1, 2001.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks Feature Over 800 Miles Of Trails
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 Sequoia and its next door neighbor, Kings Canyon National Park.
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 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 kikes unless you’re planning to hike Mount Whitney. Consider going in the early morning or evening hours to escape the heat of the day.
How Do I Get To The General Sherman Tree
There’s a trail in Sequoia National Park called the General Sherman Tree Trail. It’s a 1.2 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Three Rivers, California features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels.
The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips and is accessible year-round.
The easiest way to get there is to park off Wolverton Road. You take the Main Trail, which is roughly half a mile. The path is paved with stairs.
It’s a beautiful hike as it passes through the Giant Forest’s sequoia grove, which features displays and exhibits with facts about the giant sequoias. The walk to the tree is downhill, while the return trip is uphill.
General Sherman Tree In The News
The General Sherman Tree has been in the news as of late. Firefighters have been battling a major wildfire in Sequoia National Park. The 21,777-acre blaze has been dubbed the KNP Complex Fire after two fires merged into one.
In a precautionary move, firefighters wrapped the massive trunk of the tree with special aluminum foil-like material to protect General Sherman from flames of encroaching wildfires.
In a positive report from the brave men and women on the front lines of this massive wildfire, officials said they were feeling fairly confident about protecting the Giant Forest and its thousands of towering sequoias.
Check Out Our Comprehensive Guide
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and learned things you didn’t know about the world’s tallest tree. If you’re interested in learning more about our national parks than please check out our comprehensive guide to all 63 of them.