National Park Hop: Day Two | Zion

Our first stop in the park was the narrowest canyon of Zion, appropriately named The Narrows. A one mile hike along the paved Riverside Walk led us to the mouth of The Narrows where the Virgin River runs edge to edge. Surrounded by thousand foot high rock walls and plenty of tourists, we navigated our way over slippery rocks and waded knee-deep upstream.

While a lot of hikers wore intense canyoneering boots, we opted for crocs. Yes, matching ones. And yes, you can gag now. Awesome factor aside, they worked surprisingly well for our short venture in.

We took in our last views of Zion Canyon from the valley floor, and with fingers crossed for an open campsite, headed for Lava Point Campground. To get there we actually exited Zion National Park, drove up the mostly deserted Kolob Terrace Road past golden farmlands and scenic lookouts, and finally re-entered the park at its highest point.

Lava Point Campground is considered one of the more primitive campgrounds in the park. With only six sites available on a first come first served basis, it's one of the lesser-known parts of Zion and completely free of charge - two appealing factors. Being the week before Labor Day, we were skeptical there would be any openings, but decided the reward outweighed the risk and went for it.

We pulled into the grounds and were amazed to see only a few sites occupied. Quiet and remote, it was the opposite of the noisy, tourist crowded main attractions we had just come from. We staked our claim, explored the panoramic views from nearby Lava Point Lookout, and savored the stillness.