Giant Sequoias exist as the world's largest single trees and, like the General Sherman Tree, are the world's largest living things (by volume). The average size of these giant sentinels range from 170 to 280 feet in height and 19 to 26 feet in diameter. In addition to being some of the largest living things, they are also some of the oldest. The oldest known sequoia tree, based on its ring count, is approximately 3,500 years old. To put it into perspective, many of these giant sequoias were standing when Cleopatra ruled Egypt, when Mount Vesuvius destroyed the city of Pompeii, and when the Romans built the Coliseum. Being in the midst of these impressive trees is such a powerful and humbling experience. On the Congress Trail in Sequoia National Park, you will have the unique experience of seeing multiple groves of giant sequoias.
The Congress Trail is about a 3.3-mile loop that leads through a portion of the famous Giant Forest, which is filled with four of the largest sequoias in the world. The Congress Trail begins near the General Sherman Tree. The area around General Sherman is almost constantly crowded. However, the majority of these people are solely there to see General Sherman and do not venture off on any of the hikes in the area; this is one of the reasons why the Congress Trail is so inviting. The lack of crowds leaves hikers to explore the beautiful forest of sequoias in an atmosphere of peace, quiet and tranquility. If you start the trail early in the morning or later in the afternoon, it is possible that you will seemingly have the entire forest to yourself.
Along the way you will see isolated sequoias such as the McKinley Tree and the Chief Sequoyah Tree, and small groves of sequoias that are composed of multiple trees in close proximity. The diversity of this hike, which includes not only sequoias but also fields of wildflowers and often bears and coyotes, is what makes it so worthwhile.
You may notice that many of the sequoias seem to have been burnt and scarred by wildfires. What makes these trees even more interesting is that their bark is fire resistant and not fully-susceptible to these wildfires. Strangely enough, sequoias require wildfires to ensure their survival. The heat from the fires causes the sequoia cones to open and release the seeds to plant new trees. In addition, the fires clear competing vegetation so the trees can absorb more nutrients from the soil.