Enjoy great vistas of the length and depth of Kings Canyon as well as the dramatic peaks of the Monarch Wilderness from Cedar Grove Overlook. Some hikers refer to the vista point as Kings Canyon Overlook for obvious reasons. The views are pretty terrific en route, so the leg-weary can take in the sights, cut the hike short before reaching the Overlook.
Extend the hike with a return via Lewis Creek Trail, a path that gets lots of equestrian use along its lower lengths. Whether you hike the shorter out-and-back to the Overlook or a longer loop, get an early start because after the first 0.5 mile or so of woodsy walking, this is a mostly shadeless hike.
Follow Highway 180 to Cedar Grove Village. Follow the signs for the visitor center and Cedar Grove Lodge, continue 0.25 mile on the main road past the lodge, turn right, and soon look left for the parking lot for the Hotel Creek/Lewis Creek trailhead.
Lewis Creek Trail (optional return route) leads left while Hotel Creek Trail leads right through mixed woodland of oak and pine. Just into the first (of many!) switchbacks, look for a side trail dropping to pools and cascades of Hotel Creek.
All too soon, the trail leaves behind the trees and travels sunny exposed slopes.
Zigzag along dozens of steep switchbacks gaining vistas of Kings Canyon, deepest canyon in the continental U.S., as well as dramatic Sentinel Ridge capped by Sentinel Dome.
At the signed junction, about 1.5 steep miles from the trailhead, bear left on Overlook Trail and hike 0.4 mile to the overlook. Unpack your lunch and enjoy the view down to Cedar Grove and the panorama of peaks.
Retrace your steps to the trailhead or opt to hike north from the Overlook/Hotel Creek Trail junction. Heading north, it’s good news for the hiker as the trail leads through a yellow pine forest. Shade or at least partial shade! The pines frame views of the Monarch Divide and Monarch Wilderness summits.
It’s mellow, fairly flat walking on Hotel Creek Trail, the path making only one brief ascent before intersecting Lewis Creek Trail amidst ponderosa pine and cedar.
(Strong and experienced hikers could consider hiking north another shady 1.6 miles to Comb Creek for a dip in is shallow pools or hike one more mile for even better swimming and picnicking at Lewis Creek.)
Southbound Lewis Creek Trail descends via long switchbacks and parallels Lewis Creek. Much ceanothus blankets the slopes where chaparral plants have replaced the yellow pine forest that burned in a 1980 blaze.
At the Lewis Creek Trailhead by Highway 180, you must walk a final 1.8 miles eastbound on Lewis Creek Trail or along the road to Cedar Grove to close the loop. Not the most interesting way to end a good hike, for sure.
Interested in more hikes in Sequoia and Kings Canyon? Check out “HIKE Sequoia National Park Pocket Guide” at The Trailmaster Store