General Grant Tree, Kings Canyon: Merry Christmas from the Nation’s Christmas Tree
Every year since 1964 a tree has been selected to become the “Capitol Christmas Tree.” The tree makes a publicized trek across the US, ultimately reaching Washington DC for a big lighting ceremony. In 2011 I visited the Capitol Christmas Tree in Sonora, California, when a Sierra White Fir was selected from the Stanislaus National Forest for the honor. It was an impressive sight, the giant tree on the back of a truck, picked out because of it’s size and idealistic representation of that iconic conical Christmas tree look.
Visiting King’s Canyon this year I learned that there is a tradition older than that of the Capitol Christmas tree. In 1926, 90 years ago, President Calvin Coolidge first called the General Grant Tree, a Giant Sequoia, the Nation’s Christmas Tree. The General Grant Tree is not perfectly conical like the White Spruce, but it does make up for it’s unique shape with an impressive amount of volume. The General Grant tree is the second largest sequoia in the world… and pretty darn magical if you manage to visit when it is covered in a dusting in white snow.
General Grant Tree, Kings Canyon National Park
Distance: Short and sweet half mile hike, which takes a lot of time if you are properly gawking at the surrounding scenery. Usually busy, unless it is oddly peaceful under a darkening sky of large snowflakes.
Trailhead: The General Grant tree is the main attraction to anyone traveling into Kings Canyon National Park from the Hwy 180 / Fresno. I trust you will be able to find it. In snow be careful of that last curve. Map
Around Thanksgiving the only campground open in King Canyon is the Azalea Campground. Curtis and I headed into this campground on the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day. Before Thanksgiving the National Park closes down all but one loop of the campground, and due to the nice weather it was almost packed by the time Curtis and I arrived.
If you can make it safely through the snow General Grant is a beautiful sight. It is just a ways down the road from the campground. A series of trails also lead to it, which may be a safer bet in the snow.
Even if you can’t stay the night, chaining up and driving the slow way down to the Grant Grove is well worth the effort. Nothing is quite like having a national treasure to yourself. Also, nothing quite as magical as a one of the largest trees covered in a dusting of frozen magic.