In this life, some things just have to be seen to be believed. One of these things is the General Sherman, the largest tree by volume in the world. I realize that statements like the “largest tree by volume in the world” provide no context, so let’s talk hard facts about the General Sherman. First, the General Sherman is a Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) that was named for General William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the famous generals of the American Civil War. In terms of essential information, it is 275 feet tall from its base to its top; the circumference of its base is 102.6 feet, its maximum diameter at its base is 36.5 feet, and its estimated total volume is a whopping 52,500 cubic feet! (All statistics provided by the National Park Service here). Or as I say, there are Giant Sequoias – and there is the General Sherman. If those statistics weren’t impressive enough, the General Sherman is also an old tree, estimated at over 2,000 years of age. The General Sherman is located in Sequoia National Park, and based on its enormous size and impressive notoriety, is one of the signature attractions of the park.
Directions: The General Sherman is located directly off Wolverton Road, which is accessible by the Generals Highway, and is located in the Giant Forest and Lodgepole Region of the park. Even though it should be obvious, because of the tree’s popularity, this is one of the most popular areas of Sequoia National Park, if not the most popular area. Because of this popularity, during the summer months I would highly recommend that any potential visitor who is not disabled take the free National Park Service shuttle to the area. While there is a parking area at the trailhead to the tree, this parking lot regularly fills to capacity during the off-season; and during summer months, it is nearly impossible to find a spot.
So: if you are not disabled, and you are attempting to visit the General Sherman from Memorial Day to Labor Day, save yourself some trouble: take the free shuttle. It will save you the hassle and stress of looking for a parking spot that you cannot find; and it will make your visit to the tree much more enjoyable. From the parking area or shuttle drop-off, it is a half mile one way walk on paved paths to the tree. Although there are many Giant Sequoias in the grove by the General Sherman, there will be no doubt in your mind which tree is the General Sherman once you see it; and even if there is doubt in your mind, the tree itself is very well signed. Once you are done admiring the tree, either walk back to your car or the shuttle to continue your Sequoia National Park adventure.
Tips: All of Sequoia National Park is home to black bears. These bears are active during the majority of the year. Be bear aware; and utilize the food storage lockers that are present in the parking area to store your food from your car. Irrespective of whether you will be at the tree for five minutes, or five hours, bears can and will break into your car for food, which will most definitely ruin your visit to the tree and your visit to the park. Even though this is a high traffic area for humans, I have seen bears in the forest on many occasions, so don’t take any chances: store your food properly. Finally, I am always asked if the tree is worth visiting, as it is so popular, and usually has a crowd of people around it, or in the area. While everyone has to answer this question on their own, I don’t see why you wouldn’t visit the tree if you came to Sequoia National Park. Clearly, there are more remote – and less popular giant sequoias around the park that you can get up close and personal with, but the fact remains that there is only one General Sherman. Also, if you are truly looking to beat the crowds, the time to visit the tree is anytime after September 30 through May 15th.