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Visit the General Grant Tree: A Living Sequoia Called the "Nation's Christmas Tree"

For almost a century, hikers have gathered in its presence for a special ceremony.

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Photography by: ckhartsell/Getty

For 92 years, people have been hiking to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to witness "The Nation's Christmas Tree." It's exactly what you'd think it is: a beautiful, massive tree that would make anything standing next to it appear ant-like. This tree, named the General Grant Tree, is the second-largest Sequoia in the world, measuring in at nearly 270 feet tall and 29 feet wide. It's located within Grant Grove, which can be found at Kings Canyon National Park, according to the National Parks Service website. But there's much more to the history of this giant that keeps people coming back year after year.

 

In 1926, President Coolidge designated the General Grant Tree as the official Nation's Christmas Tree. But it doesn't start there. According to the National Parks Service, two years prior in 1925, Sanger Chamber of Commerce President R.J. Senior was paying a visit to the tree when he found himself taking in its glory alongside a young girl who exclaimed "What a wonderful Christmas Tree it would be!" From there, Senior planned the very first holiday program for noon on Christmas day that would be held underneath the tree in 1925. It was this event, and a letter from Senior, that caught the President's eye. Since then, people around the world have returned to celebrate the holiday under the giant tree's boughs and watch the park rangers place the annual wreath upon the tree.

 

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Photography by: © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Pay a visit during the holiday months and you're likely to find repeat visitors—the National Park website shares that locals who participated in early Christmas programs often return to deliver the annual holiday message and share their stories of General Grant Tree celebrations past.

 

While you can surely plan your own hike to the site, the Sanger Chamber of Commerce comes together every year on the second Sunday of December to lead the annual "Trek to the Tree." (This trek does include a ride on a chartered bus, so factor that into your planning.) The General Grant Tree is certainly not to be missed, but there are other notable sights along the 1/3-mile hike: the Gamlin Cabin, America's first house in the country's deepest canyon; the Centennial Stump, which was once displayed at the 1876 World's Fair; and the Fallen Monarch, a hollowed-out Sequoia that was one used as temporary housing by the Gamlin brothers.

 

Needless to say, this is the ultimate bucket list for holiday travellers. (And talk about a holiday card background.)

 

Feeling inspired? Watch how to decorate a Christmas tree from top to bottom: