By Lizzie Wasilewska

Sequoia National Park, which celebrates its 123rd birthday today, is home to three national champion big trees. These trees occupy a remarkable forest that contains more than 8,000 sequoia trees, some of which can reach the height of a 26-story building, with base diameters wider than an average city street.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park. Credit: Rene Rivers

Among the national champion big trees in Sequoia National Park are a piute cypress, a California fremontia and the renowned Giant Sequoia known as General Sherman, which is often considered the largest tree in the world. This tree is just one of record breakers in California’s Sequioia National Park: The park also contains the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states, and the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park has the country’s deepest canyon — its namesake, Kings Canyon. These attractions are popular with visitors, who can explore a variety of trails throughout the wilderness.

Hikers are not the only visitors who have been attracted to the park’s forests. It is the second oldest national park in the U.S., and researchers continue to carefully study its artifacts and cultures with the number of recorded historical sites in its territory growing each year. Over the centuries, it has been home to several cultures, including the Western Mono, the Foothills Yokuts and the Tubatulabal. For many years, its resources also appealed to trappers, sheepherders, miners and loggers.

Luckily, its designation as a national park in 1890 prevented humans from depleting its resources. In the Giant Forest, which is one of the largest sequoia groves in the park, all commercial activity has been removed, and about 70 years ago, thanks to the efforts of then-park superintendent Colonel John Roberts White, 282 buildings were demolished, and the health of 231 acres was restored.

The sequoia trees in the Giant Forest, some of which can live for up to 2,000 years, are living documents of this park’s history. Combined with several other tree species, including three of the top 10 oldest tree species in the world, these sequoias make up a landscape that is renowned for its beauty and diversity.