How Much Did This Cost?
Two nights at Comfort Inn: $56.00
Retail cost of two nights at Comfort Inn: $256.00
How Did We Do It?
I used my Barclays Arrival+ card to “erase” $200. When I applied last year, the bonus was 50,000 miles. These “miles” are not transferable to a traditional travel partner. Instead, you redeem them for statement credit. The bonus equates to a $500 travel statement credit. I also used this card to “erase” a $275 business class ticket from HKG (Hong Kong) to HAN (Ha Noi) to meet my mom for wedding dress shopping.
Like every bank out there, Barclays also recently tightened its new cardholder rule. You will not be approved for its cards if you break the rumored 6/24 (six cards in 24 months) rule. I encouraged Tran to apply for this card but he waited too long and now he’s locked out of it. This is why I recommend my friends to start this hobby even if they don’t have any travel plans until next year. That way, you can space out the applications so you don’t have too many inquiries in a short time period. Besides, it’s always faster burning than earning so the earlier you start, the better it’ll be.
When we started planning this annual California trip, we intended to use SPG/Hilton/Marriot points, but there were no properties in the Three Rivers area. It seems that in these remote locations, the most popular option is Choice Hotels, which own flags such as Comfort Inn and Quality Inn.
Comfort Inn is the most well reviewed hotel outside the park in Three Rivers, so we went with it, booking two nights. The hotel is not fancy but it met our basic needs. We were out most of the day exploring the park so just needed a clean place to sleep and shower. We found the free wifi here to be spotty. We noticed that the internet would be really slow if we used our devices simultaneously.
After checking in and resting a bit, we drove to the park to see the General Sherman tree. It took us about an hour with construction inside the park slowing us down a little.
We drove through the beautiful sequoia groves and stopped to hike and see General Sherman, the largest tree in the world. The easy hike is only 0.8 mi roundtrip. We saw several 80+ year old people making the hike. The trees are so large in scale that our cameras had problems capturing them all. It was a humbling experience to see the awe-inspiring thousand year-old giant sequoias in person.
It was nice during this time of year. The weather was pleasant and it wasn’t crowded. We strolled along the park for an hour before driving back to the hotel for dinner.
There are several restaurants and small markets near the hotel. On the first night, we chose to eat at the Sequoia Cider Mill Restaurant. The restaurant has a nice outdoor patio, but it was a little chilly so we sat inside. While Tran had to take a call for work, I took the liberty to order curly fries and a rack of ribs. They turned out to be mouth-watering good. The portion was enough for two people.
The next morning, we woke up early to eat breakfast. The deluxe continental breakfast was good with a decent selection of scrambled eggs, sausages, waffles, muffins, juices, and fruits. Unfortunately, the breakfast area was a bit small. There were too many guests and it felt crowded at times.
I particularly liked the blueberry muffins, which eerily resemble those from Costco.
We noticed the hotel has a gift shop that sells drinks, some over the counter drugs, and souvenirs. The hotel also has a pool, which we didn’t use.
We then made the 90 minute drive toward Kings Canyon to see Grant Grove. The drive was quite scenic. The road winds a lot so if you have car sickness then make sure to bring a paper bag along. Grant Grove has plenty of parking, and the 1/2 mile loop is well paved and easy to hike.
Along the trail, we walked past the Fallen Monarch. Nobody knows when this tree fell but it served as shelter for many groups of people.
We planned a ~10 mile hike that afternoon to Mist Falls, so we drove back to the Grant Grove Village to have an early lunch. There was a convenience store you could grab a sandwich from, or a sit down restaurant with a standard American diner menu.
It was an early lunch so I chose a salad while Tran had a burger. After eating, we drove another hour to Road’s End (literally the end of the road in the park) to hike the Mist Falls trail.
Parking was more difficult to find than we thought it would be. It could be problematic in the summer. From the Road’s End parking lot, the trailhead sign reads 4.6 miles.
We rarely saw other hikers so it was very secluded. There were several wonderful photo-ops along the trail that looks back into Kings Canyon. Unfortunately, Tran would get eaten alive by bugs if we stopped for more than a few seconds. If we were to do it all over again, we would get bucket hats and netting to protect our faces from the bugs and insects.
The hike has a lot of inclines and could be difficult for those who are not used to longer rigorous activities (such as myself). Make sure to bring a small backpack filled with water, snacks, and bug spray. It took us about three hours to complete the loop.
The view of the canyon was incredible.
As we hiked, there were a couple times we thought we had gone too far. Luckily, we trudged on and eventually found a sign for Mist Falls. By the time we did get to the waterfall, it was getting cold so we didn’t get closer to experience the mist.
Overall, we found the trail not very well marked. We almost took a wrong turn and could’ve gotten lost on the hike back. The next time we go hiking anywhere, we plan to bring chalk to mark our trail.
The drive back to the hotel was much easier, and we took our sweet time, making multiple stops along the way to take photos.
For dinner, we decided to get pizza at the Pizza Factory. We ordered a Big T Special and some garlic bread. Both were very good. We were happy with all of the food we tried near Sequoia.
We left for Anaheim the next morning after breakfast.
We are both fans of the national park system and our goal is to visit all of them. Yosemite and Sequoia have surreal natural beauty but we actually prefer the former. There are also no bugs at Yosemite!