The Nation’s Christmas Tree is a giant sequoia that towers above a grove of redwoods in Kings Canyon National Park, in lush green forest with crisp, clean air just over an hour drive from Fresno.

While holiday activities are limited this year as a result of the pandemic, a trip on Highway 180 to the forest can be easy, safe and bring much-needed holiday cheer to children and grandparents alike. There’s plenty of parking and trails wide enough to allow for social distancing.

What better way to get into the holiday spirit than a trip to the forest to see the Nation’s Christmas Tree?

Also called General Grant Tree, it’s the third-largest tree on Earth, stretching 268-feet high with a trunk that is 107 feet around. In the fall sun, the bark glows red and needled branches look like puffy green clouds against the blue sky.

It was dubbed the Nation’s Christmas Tree by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926 in response to a suggestion in a letter from residents of nearby Sanger. For years, the Sanger community Chamber of Commerce hosted a Trek to the Tree event on the second Sunday of December. There, they held a war memorial ceremony at the base of the tree while a choir performed.

Those events are canceled this year, but the paved trail to the tree remains open. Along the .08-mile trail, visitors can also walk through a massive fallen tree and explore a cabin from the 1800s.

Most visitor centers and all restaurants in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are closed. However, Grant Grove Market on the way to General Grant Tree remains open.

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How much? Park entrance fee is $35 per vehicle, or $70 for a year-long pass to both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Why go now? Roads are clear of snow (as of Dec. 7) and nearby wildfires have been extinguished.

How to stay safe? Stay home if you feel sick. Maintain social distance from other park visitors. Wear a mask in public places. Wash your hands with soap and warm water or use hand sanitizer.

How to prepare? Weather in the mountains can change quickly. Check the weather and road conditions for snow. Always carry chains if there is a chance of snow. For current road conditions, call 559-565-3341 (press 1, then 1 again).

What to bring? Food, warm clothes and water are the basics. Hot chocolate in a thermos would make a festive treat.

Grant Grove is a .08-mile loop trail that winds through some of the largest trees in the world, including General Grant Tree that was dubbed the Nation’s Christmas Tree. Monica Vaughan

General Grant Tree is a giant sequoia standing nearly 270 feet tall. Monica Vaughan

Grant Grove Market on Highway 180 through Kings Canyon National Park remains open through the COVID-19 pandemic. Monica Vaughan

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