Exploring Grant Grove, Kings Canyon National Park


You don’t have to drive all the way down into Sequoia National Park to see some of the area’s best Sequoia trees.  Kings Canyon National Park has plenty of them, as well — including the General Grant Tree, the world’s second-largest tree by volume — in the General Grant Grove area of the park.


Grant Grove is located off Highway 180 in Kings Canyon National Park.  From the junction with Highway 198, drive 1.6 miles east (north) on Highway 180.  Just after passing Grant Grove Village, turn left to head towards the Sequoia grove.  The parking area is near the end of the road.

My Visit

General Grant Grove offers an easy loop trail that can just take a few minutes, or an hour, depending on how much time you spend looking upward and marveling at its excellent collection of trees.  The show starts even before you hit the trail, with this cluster of giant Sequoia trees, known as the Happy Family, looming over the parking lot.

I think you’re supposed to go counter-clockwise around the loop, so that the General Grant Tree is among the first you encounter.  But for some reason, I went the other way.

There are some impressive trees along this route, and many of them look much more impressive than the General Grant Tree.  Many of the trees are named after U.S. states.  This one was in the vicinity of the Oregon and California trees, but I’m not sure if it’s one of those.  They all kinda look the same once you get back home.

General Grant Grove

Near the beginning of the loop, and again near the end, you’ll pass by the Fallen Monarch.  It’s hollow inside, and big enough to walk through.

One of the Grove’s most famous trees isn’t there.  The Centennial Stump is all that’s left of a giant tree that was cut in 1875 and shipped to Philadelphia for display at an exposition the following year.  Even after seeing a section of the log, most people back east refused to believe the giant trees existed, calling it the “California Hoax”.

The General Grant Grove was a national park, all by itself, from 1890 until 1940.  Kings Canyon National Park was created in 1940, at which time General Grant National Park was absorbed into the new, larger park.

Halfway around the loop, the Gamlin Cabin is a relic that remains from one of the park’s earliest settlers: Israel Gamlin.  He built it in 1872, and lived here until 1878.  He and his brother had a timber claim that included Grant Grove.

A decade earlier, I had visited Grant Grove in winter, but I didn’t get to see much of the park because of the snow.  I did, however, get to walk around General Grant Grove, and I took a picture of the cabin.

Continuing around the loop, I wandered off the main trail a bit (in an area where it’s allowed).  Not far from the General Grant Tree, there’s a huge log that fell downhill — I think it’s the Vermont Log — with several other big trees towering over it.

The log is hollow, and if you wanted to, you could crawl through it.  And if you visit at the right time of day, you might catch a sunbeam piercing through a hole in the log.

Finally, the trail loops around and arrives at the General Grant Tree. It’s the second-largest tree in the world (behind the General Sherman Tree to the south, in Sequoia National Park).  While it looks somewhat chopped-off at the top, it’s actually as tall as a 27-story building, and at its base, it has a circumference of 107 feet.  But, as trees go, it’s definitely one of the less attractive ones in the grove.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the drive out of Kings Canyon to Grant Grove…

… and out of Grant Grove to Buck Rock Lookout:

The Bottom Line

You probably won’t find serenity in General Grant Grove — it’s one of the most visited parts of Kings Canyon National Park.  But, you will find a nice collection of giant Sequoia trees, and a nice, short walking trail.  And of course, a visit to Kings Canyon isn’t complete without seeing the General Grant Tree, which makes Grant Grove a mandatory stop for everyone.

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