The discovery of the giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada Mountains began in 1852 as rumours of them spread from the gold fields. When a hunter, A. T. Dowd, stumbled onto the Calveras Grove, the story was carried by newspapers nationwide.
The sequoia trees are not the tallest trees in the world, but because of their large circumferences, they are the largest in total volume. They will reach heights around 300 feet and can be more than 20 feet in diameter. They are very old trees, some known to be 3000 years old and some possibly as much as 4000 years. They do not die of old age and are resistant to insects and fire. They grow in elevations between 5,000 and 7,000 feet.
The General Sherman Tree, in the Giant Forest, is claimed to be the largest living thing in the world. It stands 275 feet tall, is 103 feet in circumference at the ground and is estimated to weigh 1,385 tons. It's age is between 2,300 and 2,700 years.
Sequoia is the second oldest national park. It was created on September 25, 1890. Several additions have been made to it since then. In 1926 Kern Canyon and a large scenic area of the Sierra Nevadas was added to the park. Included in this area is the highest mountain in the contiguous 48 states, Mt. Whitney at 14,494 feet. The eastern part of the park is very remote and rugged. Mt. Whitney can only be seen from the east in Owens Valley.
John Muir was an early explorer of the Sequoia area. He named the Giant Forest and opposed the logging of the sequoias.