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Visiting both Zion and Great Basin national parks is something you need to plan on doing! The pictures do not do this trip justice. This trip had some of the most breathtaking views ever! With some Chase UR (Ultimate Reward) points, you too can take this very same trip.
Location: Zion and Great Basin National Parks + Las Vegas, NV
Travelers: 3 Adults
Length: 5 days, 4 nights
Flights: 1 Adult – 13,000 UR
Lodging and transportation: 53.6k UR and 30k HH
My Uncle John writes over at zenlifetraveler.com and has an amazing post about the 62 National Parks. He had asked in the past about joining him for a trip and the timing always clashed with something. I had just finished renovating our second rental property when this opportunity was presented. This time everything worked out and I was able to join him with my cousin Patrick for an eventful 5-day trip!
For the first night, we flew into Vegas, picked up our rental car. The car had unlimited mileage and cost 19,400 UR. From there, we made a pit stop along Las Vegas Boulevard because it happened to be my first time ever in Vegas. Due to some status matching, we were able to get free valet parking at Caesars Palace.
After a quick walk up and down the strip, we headed over to the north side of town where our hotel was. All starving for some grub, we stopped at In-N-Out across the street from the hotel. The hotel was a Hampton Inn which cost 30,000 HH per night. Nothing special to note about our quick night of rest here.
Our goal for day 2 was to wake up early and make it to Zion National Park with enough time to hike in the sunlight. Well rested and excited for the remainder of the trip, we started our journey to Utah.
Once we arrived at Zion, the excitement really started to settle in. After growing up in Illinois and seeing flat land for the majority of my life, any rock formation is an eye-catcher for me.
Now that we were inside the park, it was decision time as to where to begin. For transportation inside the park, Zion has a suttle system of busses that will drop you off at the various hikes. Due to our afternoon arrival, we opted to start at the furthest stop named The Temple of Sinawava. This is the 9th stop and takes about 45 minutes to arrive after initially boarding the bus.
The Temple of Sinawava is where the Narrows can be accessed after you’ve completed a short riverside walk. Once inside the Narrows, you’re walking through ankle-deep flowing water for quite some time. Bring enough water with you to drink!
The Narrows themselves are about 2.5 miles long, but we only made it about 1.5 miles or to the section where the water was at our chest. We opted not to continue due to not being prepared for those conditions. It was a good thing because we wouldn’t have had enough sunlight upon our return had we hiked any further anyway.
Under Canvas Zion
Night number two was spent at Under Canvas Zion. The stay was paid for on the Chase rewards portal and totaled 14,750 UR. It was all of our first time glamping and I’d love to go back. It was nice to have everything all in one place. We didn’t get to enjoy every aspect, but having a restaurant there on site was extremely convenient. After dinner, there was a community campfire where we met some nice people from around the world.
Well rested, after a night under the stars, we made our way back to Zion. Our destination for the day inside the park was the Grotto. Inside the Grotto, the hike we set out to concur was Angels Landing. As of March 2020, there have been 10 deaths since 2004 while hiking Angels Landing. It’s not a hike to take lightly.
I’d be lying if I told you the risks and hard work weren’t worth the rewarding views at the top. Round trip it’s about a 5-mile hike with some of the most difficult parts towards the very top.
Hidden Canyon Retreat
After our rewarding climb, we set out to drive back to NV. Our plans were to visit Great Basin the following day. It’s such a time warp traveling in these parts of the county with no cell service and hardly any outside lighting.
What a hidden gem this place was! Hidden Canyon Retreat is located in Baker, NV and was a perfect location to visit Great Basin. We had no trouble finding it, even without a GPS.
The one night stay cost 11,500 UR and included a homemade breakfast in the morning. The staff was extremely friendly and they were genuinely interested in talking to the guests. The retreat had so many amenities as well such as a hot tub, an outdoor pool, and an indoor gaming room with satellite TV.
In addition to the amenities, there was some on-site hiking available as well. We started our morning off with a hike behind the main cabin which leads to some pretty spectacular views at the top. After that and a quick drive down the main road, we were off to Great Basin.
Our main reason for visiting Great Basin National Park was to see the Bristlecone Pines. Great Basin is home to some of North America’s oldest history. Bristlecone Pines are considered to be one of the oldest living organisms found anywhere on Earth. These trees have a lifespan of 5,000+ years! It’s amazing to think that some of the tress here sprouted before the Great Pyramid of Giza was built.
First, we made a stop at the Leman Caves visitor center. It so happened that there was a tour within the next 30 minutes of our arrival and there were exactly 3 spots remaining. We seized the opportunity and signed up for the guided tour.
Once inside the caves, it was cool to learn about the history of how the caves were found. There used to be parties hosted inside and people would burn their names into the ceiling with candles. One sad note is that people used to be allowed to break off pieces inside and take them home as souvenirs.
The grove of ancient Bristlecone Pines is found about two miles into the path and is just below Wheeler Peak Glacier. The name of the trail is The Bristlecone / Glacier Trail.
All in all, we didn’t go to the top to see the glacier up close but seeing trees that were thousands of years old really makes you appreciate history. It amazes me to think that these trees have lived as long as they have and are still growing.
Our final evening was spent back in Vegas at the Hyatt Place. The cost of the single night stay was 8,000 UR. Inside the Chase travel portal, you can transfer points to their transfer partners. In order to do this, you’ll need to have a Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or an Ink Business Preferred card. If you do sign up for a new card don’t forget to use a referral link.
In the end, we spent our last morning exploring downtown Las Vegas. There are shops to go in and street performers doing all sorts of things. Some are putting on a show and others are in wacky costumes just there to charge for pictures.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit each of these locations and so happy to have shared the experience with Uncle John and Cousin Patrick.
Leave a note below with any questions you may have, or do feel free to share details of a time you went as well!