Really, Really BIG Trees.

I hardly know where to begin. I can’t rely on my photos to tell you about the giant sequoias in Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks. I was disappointed in my photography overall, but I’m sure you’re willing to overlook the difficulties with shadow and inconsistent forest lighting. But how can I show you just how HUGE these trees really are?

General Sherman

Maybe another view will aid in gaining perspective?



Early in the national park history many of the more spectacularly sized trees were given names. We traveled the Generals Highway to the General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest tree, measured by volume.

The tree’s circumference at ground is 103 feet/31 meters with the height of the first large branch above the base at 130.0 feet/39.6 meters–and still growing.


The tree is a very impressive specimen, although it is not the tallest tree. That honor is claimed by a coastal redwood in the Redwood National Park.

The General Sherman has an estimated age of between 2,300 and 2,700 years old. Giant sequoias are only the second oldest living trees, with Bristlecone pines, found in the White Mountains to the east, believed older.


Giant sequoias thrive in higher elevation habitats than giant redwoods and grow naturally only along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.



The Centennial Stump is only one of many, many remnants of Gold Rush-era forest devastation. In one of the best books I’ve found on the subject of these trees, “Trees in Paradise: A California History,” by Jared Farmer, I learned the degree to which avarice and hubris could have ultimately wiped out these giants were it not for very dedicated early conservationists and the National Park system.

In an effort to prove that the claims of the trees and their size were not exaggerated, trees were cut down and even reassembled on display and “touring” all over the world. Men were searching for gold. Trees were a novelty.

It was interesting to me to learn that after news of the giant sequoias traveled worldwide, seeds were exported to Europe, where horticulturists of the 1850’s campaigned to make certain the Big Trees would not go extinct. British gardeners suggested the United States establish a national park or arboretum to protect them.

Downed tree with hollowed stump.

Downed tree with hollowed stump

European concern was warranted.

“In a gesture characteristic of their national culture, Americans simultaneously degraded and sacralized nature’s super arboreal creation. Hucksters turned the downed trunk of the Discovery Tree into a bowling alley and erected a dance gazebo on its stump.” Jared Farmer, “Trees in Paradise.”

Just like I couldn’t accurately photograph the huge trees, I also found it hard to document the areas of destruction. More than 100 years later, the giant stumps are ringed with smaller, younger trees. It’s another natural wonder that so often nature recovers. Slowly.


We couldn’t resist driving through one of the car tunnel logs.


Carved in 1938 out of the trunk of a sequoia that fell over the road in 1937, it certainly serves as a “touristy” photo shoot. Here’s our little car. There’s plenty of room for a much larger vehicle!


Sequoia National Park is only a 3.5 hour drive from Los Angeles, yet so often Southern Californians will bypass Sequoia and King’s Canyon for another hour’s drive to Yosemite.

Sequoia and King’s Canyon offer hours and hours of invigorating hiking trails and gorgeous views. We walked many trails with groups of enthusiastic tourists from all over the world, drawing our attention to the fact that European and Asian visitors had come a long way to visit one of our beautiful national parks, while many of our local friends have told us the last time they visited Sequoia was as a child.

It’s a noisy world. And for some of us living in high density  population centers it’s even more important that we find time to pull out of the noise once in a while.

“Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. We need hours of aimless wandering…observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetops.” Maya Angelou

I so agree!