The General Sherman tree, a giant sequoia tree (Sequoiadendron giganteum) growing in the mountains of central California, holds the world record for the most massive living thing on earth. Since 1890, General Sherman and the other giant sequoias growing in the area have received protection through the national park system.
The General Sherman sequoia reaches a towering 275 feet in height and more than 103 feet in diameter at its base. While other trees grow taller, General Sherman offers the most wood of any tree with up to 52,500 cubic feet of board. Scientists estimate the age of the tree at 2,300 to 2,700 years old.
General Sherman features a wide base that tapers as it reaches higher. The trunk consists of reddish-brown bark with deep furrows. The greenish-blue needles on huge branches appear towards the top of the tree. Small woody cones up to 2.5 inches long provide food for squirrels and other wildlife.
General Sherman and the other sequoia trees grow in groves on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range of central California. The trees grow at elevations between 4,600 and 8,000 feet. The northernmost grove of trees, located near Lake Tahoe, features just six trees. The trees become more abundant further south with groves of the trees existing in Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park.
Like many other giant sequoias, General Sherman relies on its fire-resistant bark to make it less susceptible to fires started by lightning or destruction from forest fires. Sequoias also contain a natural wood preservative that makes them far less immune to diseases and pests than other trees.
General Sherman lives in Sequoia National Park in central California. The highlight of the park includes a trip through Giant Forest, a 3-mile square grove in which General Sherman continues to grow. The huge tree lies on the northern fringe of Giant Forest. Walk the 2-mile Congress Trail to see General Sherman up close, then visit Washington Tree, another sequoia rapidly gaining in height on General Sherman. Stop by the Giant Forest Museum, then take the 1.2-mile Big Trees loop trail to see even more huge sequoias along with plenty of wildflowers in the summer. To get a different feel for the size of the sequoias, take Moro Rock-Crescent Meadow Road and watch for the Auto Log, a sequoia so large that the roadway used to go through the tree. Drive to the end of Moro Rock-Crescent Meadow Road to a trailhead that takes you to Tharp's Log, a fallen sequoia that Hale Tharp turned into a rustic summer cabin. Enjoy the view of wildflowers in the meadows along the way.