The California Bucket List: Your daily guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State

California Bucket List

Here’s your daily travel guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State. Each of these essential California adventures has been tried and tested by a Travel section staffer or contributor.

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Family-friendlyHigh Sierra

Salute General Grant (the tree) in Kings Canyon National Park

Ranger wreath ceremony, 2014. (Dick Sheppard/Sanger Herald)
Ranger wreath ceremony, 2014. (Dick Sheppard/Sanger Herald)

Why: Any way you look at it, General Grant stands tall. First of all, it's a massive sequoia, one of the largest living things in California. Moreover, the White House has named this "the nation's Christmas tree."

What: General Grant is 268 feet high, the base of its trunk is 107 feet around. In 1925, Central Valley resident Charles E. Lee (an officer of the Sanger Chamber of Commerce) asked President Coolidge to have this giant sequoia in the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon designated the national Christmas tree. In 1926 the president complied. Ever since, the Sanger Chamber has staged an annual Trek to the Tree, drawing hundreds of people each year for a winter program that typically includes songs and prayers. No tinsel, no lights. Just the tree as it has stood for about 2,000 years, and a wreath contributed by park rangers.

This year's event will be Sunday, Dec. 10, at the base of the tree. and it's a free admission day in the park. For reservations or information on shuttle buses to the site, contact the Sanger Chamber of Commerce by phone at (559) 875-4575 or by e-mail at

Whether you reach General Grant in holiday season or not, you can impress the other tree-lovers by pointing out that in 1956, Congress gave General Grant another distinction, naming it the nation's only living national shrine in honor of the men and women of the Armed Forces.

And if you really love the idea of big trees with high ranks, make a bonus stop at the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park. It's bigger, about 275 feet high. In fact, it might be the world's largest living thing, depending on how you quantify coral reefs, fungus networks and redwoods.

Where: General Grant stands along a 0.8-mile paved loop trail from the General Grant Grove parking lot in Kings Canyon National Park. The grove is 245 miles north of downtown L.A. And it's more than 6,000 feet above sea level, so snow is common in winter. Be sure to check weather and road conditions before driving into the area.

How much: Admission to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks (which operator jointly, as if they were single unit) is $30 per car for up to seven days.

Info: Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks

 (Dick Sheppard/Sanger Herald)
(Dick Sheppard/Sanger Herald)

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