After spending a couple of days exploring the sequoia groves, marble cavern, picturesque meadows, beautiful trails, stunning views of Sequoia National Park, it was time to check out Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Monument.
Located just 1.5 miles from the Kings Canyon Visitor Center, at 6,600 feet elevation, Grant Grove is one of the oldest and most popular regions of Kings Canyon National Park. First protected in 1890 as General Grant National Park, it contains the park’s largest sequoia tree, the General Grant Tree, which was proclaimed the Nation’s Christmas tree by President Coolidge in 1926.
General Grant Tree Trail
The big parking lot for the General Grant Tree Trail has views of towering sequoias. Across from the trailhead, there is a pair of sequoias joined at the based named the Twin Sisters and at the other end of the lot there is another cluster of trees that are fused together called the Happy Family.
The General Grant Loop Trail is a 0.5 mile paved trail that explores the grove of giant sequoias around the General Grant Tree and passes the historic Gamlin Cabin, the Centennial Stump, and the Fallen Monarch.
QUICK TIP: You can purchase an interpretive guide at the trailhead that includes 15 entries corresponding with numbered markers along the trail.
Right away, the General Grant Tree Trail splits to start the loop. We headed right but rather than follow the loop in a full circle, we used the Fallen Monarch — an enormous sequoia hollowed out by fire — to walk a the trail in a figure eight. At one time, the Fallen Monarch was used as temporary housing for loggers (the Gamlin brothers), a hotel and saloon, and later as stables for the U.S. Cavalry.
Along the trail we passed many giant sequoias, including:
- The Lincoln Tree, named after President Abraham Lincoln
- The Tennessee, California, and Oregon trees
- The Lightening Tree
- The 24 foot wide Centennial Stump
- The Robert E. Lee Tree, named after General Grant’s Civil War adversary
The highlight of the trail obviously was the incredible General Grant Tree.
The General Grant Tree
Named in 1867 for Civil War General and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, the General Grant Tree is the world’s third largest tree.
The 1,500+ year old sequoia stands 267 feet tall, weighs over 1,250 tons, has a volume of 46,608 cubic feet, and boasts the largest base diameter of any sequoia at 40.3 feet The tree is also a national shrine in memory of members of the Armed Forces who served, fought, and died for our freedom.
A small loop trail circles the tree with informational panels on one side, a large fire scar on the other, and a short trail out to the 140+ year old restored Gamlin Cabin that has been reconstructed and relocated three times.
It’s pretty impressive to stand at the base of this enormous tree but it’s hard to get a great picture of it up close. The best photos of the General Grant Tree are actually taken at the Photo Point earlier on trail where you can see the whole tree across the forest floor.
Hiking In Grant Grove
There are a variety of options when it comes to dayhiking in Grant Grove. We chose to hike the North Grove Loop through the majestic Grant Grove sequoia grove to the General Grant Tree, through the logged Big Stump Grove, and out to breathtaking Panoramic Point.
Other hiking trails in Grant Grove include:
- North Grove Loop, a 1.5 mile out and back trail that passes through meadows, creeks, and mixed conifer and sequoia forest.
- Buena Vista Peak, a 2.0 round trip trail to the summit of Buena Vista Peak that delivers a 360 degree view of Redwood Canyon, Buck Rock Fire Tower, and the High Sierra.
- Redwood Canyon, one of the largest sequoia groves, has sixteen miles of trail are available for short walks, day hikes and overnight backpacking trips.
- Big Baldy Trail, a 2.2 mile out and back trail totaling 4.4 miles that follows Big Baldy Ridge to the top of the granite dome. This trail climbs 600 feet to an elevation of 8,209 feet.
Know Before You Go
About Grant Grove:
- Grant Grove is located just 1.5 miles from the Kings Canyon Visitor Center off Highway 180 in Fresno County.
- Many websites reference a free park shuttle, but the Big Trees Transit shuttle is no longer operational, which means there is no park shuttle in Kings Canyon.
- General Grant Loop Trail is a 0.5 mile paved trail that takes you to the General Grant Tree and passes the historic Gamlin Cabin, the Centennial Stump, the Fallen Monarch, and other notable sequoia trees.
About Kings Canyon National Park:
- Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park are basically treated as the same park — even the National Park Service combined both parks into one website.
- The combined area of these two parks is 865,952 acres with most of that area being wilderness backcountry.
- The parks are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Occasionally, winter storms will close roads leading into the parks until they can be plowed.
- Admission fees are good for seven days and both parks. They are $35.00/vehicle, $30.00/motorcycle, $20.00/individual entry on foot or bicycle, $15.00/person for a non-commercial group.
- There are five free admission days: the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the first day of National Park Week, the National Park Service Birthday, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.
- Visitor centers, ranger stations, and a museum offer opportunities to explore the nature and history of these parks, watch park films, and get trip-planning information. Park stores within visitor centers offer books and other products related to the park.
- Weather varies a lot by season and elevation, which ranges from 1,370 feet to 14,494 feet. Bring layers and be prepared!
- Cell service is not available in most areas. You may get service in Grant Grove and at the Foothills Visitor Center. WiFi is available at the Foothills Visitor Center, the Grant Grove Visitor Center, and in the lobby of Wuksachi Lodge.
- Pets are not permitted on any trails at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. In campgrounds and picnic areas, pets must be kept on a leash of no more than six feet at all times.