To get the full perspective on the glacial forces that shaped Kings Canyon during the last ice age, one should consider taking it in from above. For a relatively minimal effort, Cedar Grove Overlook provides just that: a stellar vista overlooking the Cedar Grove portion of the mighty glacially-carved valley and the scenic Kings River as it snakes west through the valley floor.
This out-and-back trail climbs 1,200 feet over 2 miles without becoming too strenuous. From the trailhead, which starts near Cedar Grove Village, follow the Hotel Creek Trail as it switchbacks its way up the north wall of Kings Canyon. The trail climbs through manzanita and becomes interspersed with ponderosa pine as it opens to views of Cedar Grove along the way.
Just under the 2-mile mark is a signed junction for Cedar Grove Overlook. Take the half-mile spur trail to its end and soak in the vista. There are some nice granite boulders for sitting and taking in the view. Either retrace your tracks back to the trailhead or continue left (west) back at the overlook junction along the Hotel Creek Trail for a longer 7.7-mile loop that combines Hotel Creek with the Lewis Creek Trail.
Much of the the trail is unshaded and primarily south facing, so it can get quite hot around the middle of the day during the summer. For that reason, it's best to plan this hike during morning hours.
The Hotel Creek Trailhead is located directly north of Cedar Grove Village near the intersection of Northside Drive and Motor Nature Trail.