The Other National Christmas Tree
The official Christmas tree of the wild, wild west
We Americans have the National Christmas Tree Lighting in Washington, DC, to ring us into the holiday season year after year—but few people know that the Wild West also celebrates its own National Christmas tree, a giant sequoia and the second largest tree in the world, in the General Grant Grove section of Kings Canyon National Park in California.
As you might have guessed, the grove and the tree were both named after Union Army general and 18th president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, but it was in 1926 that President Calvin Coolidge finally ordained the majestic tree the "Nation’s Christmas Tree". The idea was inspired by a little girl who had imagined the giant as a Christmas tree and shared the thought with Sanger, California resident, Charles E. Lee. From then on, Lee began organizing yearly Christmas programs around the tree, in the enchanted grove of sequoias, until the event became an annual ceremony.
And to this day, every Christmas, many campers, hikers and nature lovers come to honor this venerable pillar of the American Christmas spirit, and the Sanger Chamber of Commerce continues to sponsor the annual holiday, "Trek to the Tree" on the second Sunday of December each year.
You can visit the General Grant tree almost any time of year on a short half-mile loop trail. The trailhead is one mile beyond the Grant Grove Visitor Center on the west side of the road. If you're going overnight, make reservations for Lodgepole Campground. You can start making reservations for July as early as January, but be sure and check back in the spring to find out if snow melt allows the campground to open earlier.