Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California ~ General Sherman Tree and More

Thick bark of sequoia trees

Thick bark of sequoia trees
Thick bark of sequoia trees | Source

Sequoia Trees

Information and pictures of the General Sherman Tree, the General Grant Tree and more will be shared as my friend and I wove our way back and forth between the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks while on vacation one year. Getting to see the magnificent sequoia trees was our primary reason for visiting these parks. Of course we were blessed with getting to see so much more scenery of interest in addition to those long lived trees and will long remember that visit.

Elevations changes were many and range from about 2,100 to 7,500 ft. ( 640 to 2,300 m.) at the various campsites and the elevations proceed on up to almost 14,450 ft. above sea level although beyond the higher elevations of the camps, it is no longer accessible by roads.

One day in the latter month of May we experienced every type of weather from bright glistening sunshine to pelting rain to a fairly heavy snowfall and even sleet. The more inclement weather was at the higher elevations.

Kings Canyon National Park (the more northern one of the two) adjoins the Sequoia National Park and tall redwoods and the sequoias are to be found in both of the parks.


Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park | Source

Kings Canyon National Park

My traveling companion and I actually stayed in Kings Canyon National Park for the duration of our visit to both National Parks.


Cabins were built amidst the trees and each structure had two units under one roof, each providing one bedroom with two beds and a bathroom. That is nice for families who travel together but might wish to have a little privacy. There was a shared landing.


At the main lodge strict warnings were given to take all foodstuffs out of one's vehicles to keep bears from smashing windows and entering the cars. Anything with a scent including toothpaste, talcum powder and the like was also to be taken inside. Graphic pictures of the damage done to vehicles was posted to ensure people adhering to the guidelines having to do with safety for both the bears and people.


Bears in Sequoia National Park

Snow and Ice

Snow and Ice
Snow and Ice | Source


Driving in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks


There was snow on the ground with banks of about three to five feet and more upon our arrival. When we awakened the next morning a fresh snow had fallen overnight bejeweling the tree branches with pearly and sparkling white adornments and making my German friend fearful that we might become stranded. However the roads were passable and we proceeded to explore the parks.



Because of the twisting and turning roads winding through the parks, most speed limits are at 25 MPH or even less...so if driving, plan to spend some time. One would wish to do that in any case because of the spectacular scenery.

Fallen Monarch Tree

Approaching the Fallen Monarch tree
Approaching the Fallen Monarch tree | Source
Fallen Monarch
Fallen Monarch | Source
Inside the Fallen Monarch
Inside the Fallen Monarch | Source

Fallen Monarch

Sequoia trees are known to live up to 3,000 years and even longer.

They actually predate most of the world's major religions!

When giants like these topple and have been hollowed out by fires, they make great shelters.

There was a sign posted near one tree that gave the following information:

"After the grove was set aside as General Grant National Park in 1890, the log was used for a while as an employee camp.

Bears and other lesser creatures have most likely used the Fallen Monarch for shelter. Undoubtedly, the Indians that came to the high country in the summer-time used the hollow trees. Homesteaders Thomas and Israel Gamlin used the log as a house and a saloon to serve visitors to the area. Also, the U.S. Cavalry used the tree as a stable for their horses.

Early day visitors to the Big Trees were served meals and liquid refreshment here."

While no longer utilized in this manner, visitors can walk upright through the Fallen Monarch and with its massive size understand how and why it has been utilized in these various manners throughout the years.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon

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Source


Geology of Sequoia and Kings Canyon

The location of these parks is in the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range of California.


Many areas of these parks were scoured by glaciers which came down from the north during the Ice Age and carved valleys and lakes in this region. Recent theories have also upheld the idea of tectonic plate movement as also being responsible for the landscape.


The fact of calcium deposits originating in the sea from shells and bones of sea creatures found on top of the granite peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range tend to confirm that idea.


The Pacific ocean plate moved under the the western part of the North American plate causing this uplift. There are also numerous caves in this region with calcium deposits.


Because of the snowy weather and our time constraints, my friend and I did not get to explore any of the caves in these national parks but rather spent our time hitting some of the highlighted areas more easily accessible by car.

Even the trails except where short and well traveled became obliterated by snow in the upper elevations of the parks.


At one point venturing off of the hard packed snow, my legs sunk into the snow and I was almost waist deep. It took some maneuvering to get out of that predicament and I was fearful that I would actually lose my shoes in that frantic effort to wiggle myself out of that snowbank...but all ended well.

You can be certain that I stayed on the paths after that experience!


Giant Sequoia Trees

Giant sequoia
Giant sequoia | Source
Giant sequoia tree
Giant sequoia tree | Source


General Grant Tree


Did you know that the United States has a living Christmas Tree? Back in 1926, President Calvin Coolidge bestowed that honor. In addition, that same tree was declared a living National Shrine in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower.


Located in Kings Canyon National Park in the Grant Grove section of the park, it rises 267 feet (81.4 m) high above the ground. It is reputed to be over 1,600 years old.

General Sherman sequoia tree

There I am seated in front of the General Sherman sequoia tree.
There I am seated in front of the General Sherman sequoia tree. | Source

The Largest Sequoia Tree - General Sherman


General Sherman Tree


This is reputed to be the World's Largest Living Thing on Earth!

It is neither the tallest, widest at the base nor oldest of the giant sequoia ( Sequoiadendron giganteum) trees but due to its rapid growth it has attained an overall mass that exceeds any other measurable tree anywhere else on the earth.

The General Sherman Tree is estimated to be between 2300 to 2700 years old. The General Grant tree runs a close second by way of overall volume of wood and has a 40 foot diameter.

According to a sign posted near the General Sherman tree, the first large branch is 130 feet (39.6 m.) from the ground!

One can stare upwards in awe towards the sky as this tree and others in these parks seemingly stretch towards the heavens.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

A markerSequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks -
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, 220 N Santa Fe St, Visalia, CA 93292-6436, USA
[get directions]

Sequoia pine cones

Sequoia pine cones
Sequoia pine cones | Source

Giant Sequoia Tree

Look at the size of that sequoia tree!  Not all of the base is even in the picture!
Look at the size of that sequoia tree! Not all of the base is even in the picture! | Source

Effects of Fire on Sequoia Trees

In the case of sequoias, occasional fires can actually be good. Their thick reddish tinged bark
which can be up to a foot and a half thick is fire resistant. If the tree is harmed by fire, new bark encases the wound and grows over it.


While the forest can be cleared of other less fire resistant trees and plant life, this clears the way for sequoia seeds to find fertile soil and some needed sunlight in order to propagate the species.


In fact, the tight scales of sequoia pine cones actually open and release their seeds from the heat generated by fire. Without that heat they can stay closed tightly for a matter of years!

Another seed distribution method occurs when squirrels feast on mature pine cones and inadvertently scatter the seeds. Probably best known is the pine squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) also known as the Douglas Squirrel or Chickaree who severs thousands of cones from sequoia trees each year.


Each cone contains 100 to 300 minuscule seeds but once released and finding just the right growing condition that tiny seed can germinate and begin its long life. Since a mature sequoia tree can live for thousands of years, it only takes one successful germination to keep the species going.

Cross section of a cut giant sequoia tree.

Cross section of a cut giant sequoia tree.
Cross section of a cut giant sequoia tree. | Source

Sequoia trees

Sequoia trees
Sequoia trees | Source

Giant Forest and the Lumber Industry


What helped save the sequoias for numerous future generations of people to see and enjoy when the lumbering industry started clear cutting these old growth forests is the actual wood of the sequoias.

Back during the late 1800's lumber companies became enamored with the thought of harvesting these giant sequoias for the amount of wood each tree would furnish. However after weeks of work by lumberjacks attacking just one massive tree with saws, when a sequoia would finally topple to the ground, the wood shattered. Amazingly the wood is very brittle so was ultimately used just for little things like stakes, shingles and fence posts.

Harvesting of these giants ceased by about 1915 as it was just not profitable for the lumber companies. Sawdust still surrounds tree stumps left behind when these sequoias were toppled as if the lumbering process just happened recently!

So amazingly while the wood does not have great strength, it does not decay easily.

Cabins amidst the sequoia trees

Some of the cabins that were due to be relocated in order to preserve the sequoia trees from damage.
Some of the cabins that were due to be relocated in order to preserve the sequoia trees from damage. | Source

Giant Sequoia Trees and Man


One thing learned through the years since man has become more mobile with the use of automobiles and ease of travel is another factor with regard to preserving these long lived giants of the forest.

Cars used to be able to drive through hollowed out sections of a few of these sequoia trees. Cabins were built amidst these groves of beauties and millions of people have walked around these trees.

The consequences of all of this increased activity helped to compact the soil and also cause much of the soil to be eroded exposing sequoia roots to irreparable damage.

Now people are encouraged to stay on well marked paths and cabins are being moved out of these sequoia groves to help further preserve these beauties so that they do not come crashing down to the earth. What a sound that must make!!!

The cabins shown in this photo were due to be removed the following year after our vacation there.

Old photo when cars drove through sequoia trees.

My grandparents, great-grandmother and aunt back in the late 1930s or early 1940s going through a similar cut out portion of a sequoia tree in Yosemite National Park located to the north of Kings Canyon.
My grandparents, great-grandmother and aunt back in the late 1930s or early 1940s going through a similar cut out portion of a sequoia tree in Yosemite National Park located to the north of Kings Canyon. | Source


Wawona Tunnel Tree

The photograph above shows my relatives and my grandparent's car which had just driven through a sequoia tree in Yosemite National Park...just to the north of Kings Canyon National Park back in earlier years. The tunnel was created in 1881 and sadly the tree collapsed in 1969 which is why this type of activity is no longer allowed in any of the parks where sequoia trees reside.

Sequoia trees within the National Park

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Giant Forest area of Sequoia National ParkGiant Sequoia tree within the park.Area within the Giant Forest where cabins used to be located.Gazing towards the top of a sequoia tree.
Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park
Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park | Source
Giant Sequoia tree within the park.
Giant Sequoia tree within the park. | Source
Area within the Giant Forest where cabins used to be located.
Area within the Giant Forest where cabins used to be located. | Source
Gazing towards the top of a sequoia tree.
Gazing towards the top of a sequoia tree. | Source

Flowers in Kings Canyon

Flowers in Kings Canyon
Flowers in Kings Canyon | Source


Kings Canyon


President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the papers in 1940 creating Kings Canyon National Park.

Kings Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the United States.

The famous naturalist John Muir and photographer Ansel Adams can be credited with bringing attention to these beautiful areas and helping to ensure their preservation for the masses by ultimately succeeding in having them protected as National Forests and National Parks.

Commercial development within the heart of the giant sequoias has now been removed and a more pristine and natural environment is the goal. Even where there are no roads, access to the wilderness areas of the parks is controlled with a quota system of governance in order to help preserve this glorious environment.

Kings Canyon National Park

Roads and scenery in Kings Canyon National Park

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Roads in Kings Canyon National ParkRoads taken through the national park.Portion of Kings CanyonSnow in the upper elevations and bright sunlight here in Kings Canyon.Varied scenery in Kings CanyonRoads traveled in Kings Canyon National Park
Roads in Kings Canyon National Park
Roads in Kings Canyon National Park | Source
Roads taken through the national park.
Roads taken through the national park. | Source
Portion of Kings Canyon
Portion of Kings Canyon | Source
Snow in the upper elevations and bright sunlight here in Kings Canyon.
Snow in the upper elevations and bright sunlight here in Kings Canyon. | Source
Varied scenery in Kings Canyon
Varied scenery in Kings Canyon | Source
Roads traveled in Kings Canyon National Park
Roads traveled in Kings Canyon National Park | Source

Have you or would you like to visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks?

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One could obviously spend weeks or longer exploring Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and viewing sites like the General Sherman Tree and more. Highlights of this hub may entice you to vacation there and view some of this grandeur for yourself someday.

Beautiful slide show of Sequoia and Kings Canyon with music "Somewhere in Time"

From another hubber...

Did you like this article? Please put some stars on it. Thanks!

5 out of 5 stars from 3 ratings of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

© 2011 Peggy Woods

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Comments are welcomed. 74 comments

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 14 months ago from Houston, Texas Author

Hi SweetiePie,

You are fortunate in that you live in a state where those magnificent sequoia trees live and breathe and dazzle us with their beauty and sheer size.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 14 months ago from Southern California, USA

I love the large and stately sequoia trees.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 15 months ago from Houston, Texas Author

Hi Au fait,

Nice that you have gotten to see these magnificent trees in person. As you said, everyone would be fortunate to get to visit these national parks and get to experience seeing these amazing tree specimens someday. They cannot be captured in a single photo and any description falls short of the feeling one gets by standing next to these living centuries old massive sequoias. Thanks for the visit and share.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 15 months ago from North Texas

I have been to Sequoia National Park, and Kings Canyon. These trees are so huge you can't fit the entire tree into a photograph! You have some great photos here as always. Everyone needs to see these trees. They are magnificent. Pinned to my 'Purple 5' board and sharing with followers.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas Author

Hi Sheila,

I hope that someday you get to see those massive and impressive sequoia trees. They must be seen to be believed! Thanks for the votes and shares.


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