The western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is the sole habitat for the native Sequoiadendron giganteum, or giant sequoia. These enormous trees may not be the world's oldest (bristlecone pines are) or the world's tallest (a coast redwood holds that distinction), but they are among the world's largest trees by volume. General Sherman holds the superlative distinction at the moment, but this tree is not alone: this grove of giant sequoias contains five of the planet's most voluminous trees. A number of walks leading through the Giant Forest will tour these trees, but the Congress Trail that begins at the General Sherman Tree gives you a chance to see many of the largest specimens, including the President Tree, which recently surpassed General Grant Tree as the world's second largest tree by volume. Of course, reading about it is one thing; actually standing beside one of these beautiful trees is both humbling and awe-inspiring.
The Giant Forest Museum is a great place to start your tour of the forest. There are miles of hiking trails to choose from, so ranger input and a little research can help you narrow down the choices. Many paths are wide, level, and built to accommodate visitors of all ages and ranges of mobility. After visiting the Giant Forest's core near the General Sherman Tree, consider exploring the periphery on hikes around Crescent Meadow, which is also one of the trailheads for the High Sierra Trail. Summer crowds are naturally an issue in an area such as this, so if you are looking for a little quiet time in the Giant Forest, early morning visits are best. Or better yet, try to attend the area in the off season. The trails are open for snowshoeing in the winter, and a dusting of snow lends an almost sacred look to these giants. Plenty of animals aside from humans enjoy this forest, so keep your eyes open for black bears, as well.