I stand in the middle of a small group of very large trees.  I am tiny.  The trees are impossibly wide and incredibly tall.  I feel small and insignificant and totally in awe of the power and majesty of nature.  These are the biggest trees on the planet and I feel so lucky to be walking among them.


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The Congress Trail Sequoia National Park
How to Hike the Congress Trail Sequoia National Park

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Guide to Hiking the Congress Trail

Hiking the Congress Trail, Sequoia National Park

Whilst Redwood trees are the tallest trees in the world, sequoias are the largest, and they are very impressive. I love hiking, but when choosing which of the Sequoia National Park hikes to do, I was looking for an easy trail, since Kevin had dislocated his shoulder and wasn’t up for anything too strenuous.  I also wanted to see the best and biggest trees, of course.

The Congress Loop Trail is one of the best hikes in Sequoia National Park.  It’s an easy trail along a mostly paved path through some of Sequoia National Park’s most magnificent trees. It is one of the most interesting of the Sequoia National Park trails because the main trees along the trail are named after important American historic and political figures.   It’s in the heart of the Giant Forest and goes past most of the major named trees in the park, especially if you take small side trips along other out and back trails.

Congress Trail Details

Congress-Trail-burnt-trees Sequoia National Park

Congress Trail distance/ elevation change

The Congress Loop is two miles/ 3.2 km in total (230 feet/ 70 meters elevation change).   Combined with the General Sherman Tree trail, it is 3 miles/ 4.8 km (250 feet/ 76 m elevation change).

Congress Trail difficulty

The Congress Trail is easy. The main trail is paved and can even be done with small kids and a stroller. The elevation change is gradual.

Congress Trail trailhead

To get to the trail head, head north on the Generals Highway from the Giant Forest Museum. You will pass the General Sherman Tree handicapped parking after about two miles.  Another mile down the road, turn right on Wolverton Road then another right to the Sherman Tree Trail. The road ends at the General Sherman Tree parking lot.

Hiking resources

Although the Congress Trail is an easy hike, if you are a beginner hiker, check out my additional hiking resources:

Sequoia National Park Hiking Trail Map: Congress Trail Map

congress-trail-sequoia-national-park-map-and-Sherman-Tree-Trails-map

For more detailed trail maps, pick up the National Geographic topographic trail maps for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Sherman Tree Trail, Sequoia National Park

To get to the Sequoia National Park Congress Trail, start at the General Sherman Tree Trail in the Sherman Tree parking lot.  This first section, the General Sherman Tree hike, is about a mile to the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world.  After walking through a tunnel through the trunk of a fallen giant, you soon get to an intersection with a short spur to the right to the General Sherman tree.

Sherman-Tree-Trail Sequoia National Park

It’s a 200-foot/ 61-meter descent on the final section of the General Sherman Trail to the tree.  It’s hard to miss, because there are crowds of people.  The enormous sequoia, Sherman Tree, is awe-inspiring.

General-Sherman-Tree-Trail-Sequioa-NP

And crowded.  In fact, the Sequoia National Park General Sherman Trail is one of the most crowded trails in the park. 

Sequioa-National-park-General-Sherman-Tree
General Sherman Tree

However, opposite the spur off the Sherman Tree is the start to the Congress Loop Trail, which is much less crowded, but no less impressive.   This is my favorite big trees trail in Sequoia National Park.

The Start of the Congress Loop Trail

Near the start of the Congress Trail, Sequoia NP, there are several giant sequoias. 

Hiking-Congress-Trail Sequoia National park

The forest then thins out and it is mostly pine forest, with a few sequoias scattered around.

Congress-Trail-pines Sequoia National park

The Congress Trail is clearly marked (so you won’t need to know how to read trail markers), and perfect for beginner hikers. It’s not that long, but you should always be prepared, so be sure to check out some useful hiking information.

0.7 miles/ 1.1 km along the path, there is the poorly marked (and unpaved) Alta Trail on the left with the General Lee tree nearby.  This is the start of a long path to Alta Peak, but 0.4 mile/ 640 m along this path, past a small creek, there is a small field surrounded by sequoias, which makes this a nice side trip.

Back on the main trail, 0.1 miles/ 160 m further along is a path to the right.  If you want to cut the hike short, this is a shortcut to the other side of the loop, but if you do this, you will miss some of the top attractions along the Congress Trail.

The President Tree

Go another 0.2 miles/ 320 m and take the paved path to your left to the enormous Chief Sequoyah Tree and President Tree.

Chief-Sequoya-Tree-Sequoia-National-Park-Congress-Trail
Chief Sequoya Tree

The President sequoia tree is the fourth largest giant sequoia in the world.

The-President-tree Congress Trail Sequoia National Park
The President Tree

The Senate and the House

Soon after is the Senate, which is a group of six slightly smaller trees, but seeing them clustered together is impressive.  This really is one of the best day hikes in Sequoia National Park.

The-Senate-Sequoia-National-park Congress Trail
The Senate

Back on the main trail, soon after is another path off the left.  If you take this, you will end up at Circle Meadow and on the Huckleberry trail, where the Washington Tree is.

Congress Trail Sequoia National Park

Back on the main trail, another 0.2 miles/ 320 m or so takes you to The House, another group of enormous trees growing close together.  Some of the trees in this area of the Giant Forest are fire damaged, but still growing.

Giant-sequoias-and-me
The House

Another 0.1 miles/ 160 m takes you to the McKinley Tree.  There is a four-way junction here (with a sign) with a couple of unpaved paths.  The first on your left takes you to the Room Tree, which you can climb inside.

room-tree-sequoia national park
Room Tree

A little further along is the Founders Group and further still is the Cattle Cabin.

Giant-sequoias

The other path takes you past the Cloister to the Lincoln Tree (the world’s fifth largest).

after-the-room-tree-Congress Trail sequoia-national-park

The return loop

Back on the main loop trail, it is another 0.6 miles/ 1 km past an enormous fire-damaged tree stump back to the start of the loop trail, then another 0.4 miles/ 320 m back the parking lot.

Tree-stump-Sequoia-national-park congress trail

This last section of the loop trail is again through mostly pine forest, with an occasional smaller sequoia dotted around.

walk-back-on-congress-trail Sequoia National Park

The verdict: Hiking the Congress Trail, Sequoia National Park

This is definitely one of the best trails in Sequoia National Park.  It’s an easy walk, not crowded, and yet passes many of the largest trees in the park (the world).

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Subscribe to monthly updates with tips for planning, travel inspiration and trip ideas and get instant access to the free PDF of this
Guide to Hiking the Congress Trail

Happy hiking!

Do you have any other favorite hikes in Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Parks? I’d love to hear them. Comment below. 

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How to Hike the Congress Trail Sequoia National Park
The Congress Trail Sequoia National Park

Are you planning a visit to Sequoia National Park? Read my Sequoia National Park Guide.

If you are also visiting Yosemite, check out my Yosemite Guide too.


About the Author 

James Ian Yosemite

James Ian has traveled to 82 countries and all 7 continents.  He has visited all of the main national parks in the United States, as well as many national monuments and state parks.

He has rafted through the Grand Canyon; rappelled down slot canyons near Zion and Arches; hiked among the hoodoos in Bryce and the enormous trees in Sequoia; admired the waterfalls in Yosemite and the colored hot springs in Yellowstone; seen moose in Grand Tetons and seals in the Channel Islands, and much more.

Read more…


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