General Grant Trail & Grove: Exploring the Nations Christmas Tree in Kings Canyon National Park

One of the main draws for both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is, of course, the massive trees that can be seen in many of the area’s groves. General Sherman is the largest tree in the world by volume, and General Grant is the third largest, plus the nation’s official Christmas Tree. No visit would be complete without sitting at the base of General Grant and just staring up in awe. You can do that while taking a half-mile loop that also brings you to the epic Fallen Monarch as well, here is all the information. 

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  • .5 miles round trip
  • 100 feet of elevation
  • The shuttle drops off here
  • Information from my visit in 2016

Getting Here

After passing the Kings Canyon Visitor Center, you will see a turn off for General Grant Grove on the left-hand side about half a mile later. This parking lot is pretty big, but it can get crowded during the summer months. The Big Trees Transit Shuttle also goes to the General Grant Grove as well if you want just to skip driving and ride the shuttle.

The Trail

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After getting to the trailhead, you can either go right or left as the trail is a loop, so you will see both areas. I chose to head to the right, but there is no wrong way. Here are some of the things you will see on the trail:

Lincoln Tree

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At the first bend in the trail, you will reach the first of many large trees. This tree was affectionately named after the US president and is a sight to behold.

Fallen Monarch

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From here, you will head up to the park’s second most popular attraction, the fallen monarch. This tree fell decades ago and maintained its shape through the fall. It even used to be a spot for people to camp and get away from the weather in the early 1900s.

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Now it is a hollowed-out tree that you can walk entirely through. It is super unique as there are not any other trees like this that I can think of. I spent a decent amount of time just exploring it and taking it all in.

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Oregon Tree

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Another massive tree on the trail about 150 feet from the fallen monarch.

Centennial Stump

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Like many of the trees in the park, including the famous Mark Twain Tree, they have become nothing more than stumps due to early logging in the area and / or people cutting these trees down to try to prove they existed to others on the East Coast. This tree is one of those stumps, and the stump was even used for early church services in the area.

Gamlin Cabin

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At the top of the trail, you will see Gamlin Cabin, an old rustic cabin that housed everyone from military men to early park rangers. You can walk inside and see its dirt worn floor and fireplace as well.

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History – Built in 1872 by Israel Gamlin, who had a timber claim on 160 acres. In 1890 General Grant National Park was established, and the cabin was used by the US Cavalry to protect the land.

General Grant

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Tree Stats

  • 1,700 years old
  • 107 ft in circumference
  • 40 ft diameter
  • 1,254 tons

After checking out the cabin, you will finally reach the main reason for the trail, the humongous General Grant Tree. You can walk entirely around it, and I would recommend doing that so you can see it from all sides. 

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The plaque with information about it being the nation’s Christmas tree is on the left-hand side of the tree itself, but the best angle for viewing is around the right-hand side. I brought my wide-angle lens so I could try to fit it all in one photo, but a standard camera would need to do a panorama to capture its majesty. 

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This is one of those trees that you just want to sit near and enjoy, so I would recommend you do that before continuing on. Also, I saw people cross the fence line to take a picture by its base; PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS. The fence is there for a reason, to protect this tree and keep it for generations to enjoy.

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Here is a video I made of my time in the General Grant Grove in the winter as well.

After that, you can head back down the trail and back to your car. I spent about an hour and a half in this area as I just took my time and enjoyed each of the different attractions; it was a lot of fun and something I would recommend you do as well. Be sure to let me know in the comments if you have any other spots you love on this trail. 

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