I first learned about the General Sherman tree when I was exploring the Champion Trees of Arkansas. With my curiosity piqued for big trees, I wanted to learn where the biggest tree in the world is. It turns out that the tree is within the United States and accessible to the public. You can hike to see General Sherman, the largest tree in the world, along the Congress Trail at Sequoia National Park in California.
Finding the Trailhead
The trailhead for the General Sherman Tree and Congress Trail is off of Wolverton Road, which is about 1.5 miles south from the Lodgepole complex.
After you turn on Wolverton Road, you will make a right on Sherman Tree Parking, which dead-ends at the trailhead. There are two large parking lots and restrooms at the trailhead.
An ADA trailhead is along the Generals Highway a little further south from the Lodgepole complex. To plan my trip, I used the Falcon Guide for “Hiking Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.”
Exploring the General Sherman Tree complex
You begin your hike on a paved path which gently leads you downhill through the forest of giant trees. As you make your way downhill, placards inform you of where you are in relation to the height of the tree. I really enjoyed this part because it truly gave me the perspective of how tall the General Sherman Tree is.
After about a half of a mile, you come to an intersection with the Congress Trail. Here you can go to the left and explore the General Sherman Tree complex on your return, but I chose to go see the world’s biggest tree first.
The complex has a few interchanging loops with several interesting sights noted by placards. The Tough Twins, are two large sequoias you can walk in between. Here a placard explains the relationship between fire and the sequoia’s growth cycle.
You can also view the General Sherman Tree from various angles and learn why it is so big and old.
Congress Trail –– Intersection to the President
After you explore this section, head back to the intersection with the Congress Trail and this time follow it. A sign will direct you which way to go. You will quickly cross over Sherman Creek and begin heading slightly uphill through towering trees.
As you make your way through the forest, keep an eye out for the Telescope Tree to your right. Around mile 0.7, you will pass a cutoff trail. Those who do not wish to hike the entire loop can head back here.
At mile 1, you make a right on the Alta Trail and follow it for a few steps. You then make another to stay on the Congress Trail. You can stay on the Alta Trail if you wish to shorten the hike. It serves as another cutoff and reconnects with the Congress Trail.
But if you make a right to stay on the Congress Trail, you can see the President, Chief Sequoia Tree, the Senate Group, the House Group, and General Lee Tree.
I personally loved the Senate and the House Group because they are clusters of massive trees. Walking in and around them makes you feel like you are exploring another world. It’s amazing to lean your head way back to look up at the trees, but it’s even more amazing to me to see the massive trunks clustered together.
Alta Trail back to General Sherman
The Congress Trail snakes around these giant trees and then begins to head west and intersects again with the Alta Trail. Here you can see the McKinley Tree, another massive sequoia. Here you will want to go to the right.
The Congress Trail parallels itself as you head back to the General Sherman Tree. It passes under a fallen Goliath where a tunnel has been carved into the trunk for the trail to pass through. Take note here of how long the tree is. It’s one thing to see them towering above you, but it’s another to compare their size horizontally to you.
Once back at the General Sherman Tree area, you can explore the interpretive sections if you chose to do so on the return trip. Or you can explore them again as I did.
Congress Trail –– General Sherman Tree to the trailhead
From the General Sherman Tree retrace your steps back up the paved path toward the parking lot. Because you are climbing a hill, you will be moving slowly. You might want to take advantage of that by spending more time at the placards and enjoying the giant trees.
Congress Trail and General Sherman Tree
Going to visit the General Sherman Tree and hiking along the Congress Trail was my first stop when I got to Sequoia National Park. Words can’t describe and pictures can’t do justice to the feeling of walking in and around some of the biggest trees in the world.
- 3-mile lollipop loop
- Elevation gain and loss 614 feet
- Dogs not allowed
- Backcountry camping not allowed