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On Sunday, Aug. 25, you can celebrate the founding of the park service by visiting any of the fee-charging parks for free. And if you don’t have the time on Sunday, start planning a trip for the future and consider investing in the $80 annual pass so you can really enjoy all that the National Parks have to offer year-round —  or watch out for future fee-free days.

In honor of the National Park Service’s 103rd birthday, The Points Guy staff members reflected on their favorite parks and the memories made there.

Yosemite National Park

“I’ve only spent any significant amount of time in one National Park, Yosemite, but I had such an incredible time I’m not sure how any other park could have it beat. My favorite part was the day we hiked the Mist Trail. There were breathtaking views at every turn, especially when we settled in for lunch at the top of the falls. Such a special place!” — Zach Honig, editor-at-large

Big Bend National Park

South Rim Trail overlook at Big Bend National Park (Photo by Wyatt Smith/TPG)
South Rim Trail overlook at Big Bend National Park (Photo by Wyatt Smith/TPG)

“It was a holiday weekend and we had an extra day off work, so my buddy and I decided to make the 8-hour drive from Austin to check out Big Bend. We camped out in the car the first night and then set out for the two-day hike. Once we made it to this spot off the South Rim Trail, we spent about five hours here to get a sunset shot overlooking the Chisos Mountains. By the time we left it was nighttime and we had to hike two hours down to our camp in total darkness.” — Wyatt Smith, photo editor

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

(Photo by JT Genter and Katie Genter/TPG)
(Photo by JT Genter and Katie Genter/TPG)

“Katie and I have climbed Guadalupe Peak a few times. To reach the peak — the highest point in Texas — climbers have to hike 8.5 miles and climb over 3,000 feet. AvGeek fun fact: The pyramid was erected in 1958 by American Airlines to mark the spot” — JT Genter, senior points and miles writer

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park (Photo by Dan Rauchwerk/TPG)
Rocky Mountain National Park (Photo by Dan Rauchwerk/TPG)

“My favorite National Park is Rocky Mountain National Park. I love it for its diversity of wildlife, dramatic vistas and gorgeous wildflowers. Plus Estes Park, the adjacent town, is a wonderful place. This picture shows me hiking there in 2007 with my siblings.” — Dan Rauchwerk, email marketing analyst

The Grand Canyon

(Photo by Katie Genter/TPG)
(Photo by Katie Genter/TPG)

“My first view of the Grand Canyon was at Shoshone Point near the end of an alternative spring break trip in 2014. We’d volunteered with the National Park Service most of spring break to remove invasive Sahara mustard plants in nearby Lee’s Ferry, but visited the Grand Canyon for a few days at the end of the trip. Although the views from the rim are excellent, you really must hike into the canyon — even just a short distance — to fully appreciate its beauty.” — Katie Genter, senior reporter

(Photo by Kelli Hanner/TPG)
(Photo by Kelli Hanner/TPG)

“Just two world wonders hanging out … It started on a very early, very cold Vegas morning. I boarded a charter bus that would wheel me to the most breathtaking swing-less and slide-less park I have ever been to. We pulled up to the Grand Canyon and had 15 minutes to snap those Insta-shots. As the strong, independent woman I am, I was traveling solo which meant I needed help. Crowds of friends and families gathered for pics and I selfied, until two strangers saved the day by taking this beauty (see above). I recommend the Grand Canyon because you don’t have to camp, it’s spacious and every picture is perfect.” — Kelli Hanner, office coordinator

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

(Photo by Caitlin Riddel/TPG)
(Photo by Caitlin Riddell/TPG)
(Photo by Caitlin RIddell/TPG)
(Photo by Caitlin RIddell/TPG)

“I was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee and spent much of my youth exploring the most visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The Alum Cave Bluff trail and the Chimney Tops are my two favorite trails offering unbeatable views of the Smokies, as well as the observation tower at Clingman’s Dome. Having lived in Knoxville in 2016 during the Smoky Mountain wildfires, it was incredible to see how the park (and the surrounding communities) … [would] rebuild and revitalize after the fires destroyed so much in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg areas. Some of my favorite memories growing up include the Smoky Mountains, from visiting Dollywood every summer with my family, to renting cabins with friends every winter, the Smoky Mountains forever holds a special place in my heart and everyone should visit at least once.” — Caitlin Riddell, social media lead

Grant Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park (Photo by Liz Hund/TPG)
Grand Teton National Park (Photo by Liz Hund/TPG)

“In 1992, I had the chance to drive from Washington, DC, to Seattle with a friend who was relocating. I was unemployed at the time, so we decided to stop whenever the mood hit us. Thanks to that decision, I had the opportunity to visit six national parks: Yellowstone, Glacier, the Badlands, Bryce Canyon, Mount Ranier and Grand Teton. When I think of parks, I think about forests and lakes. But that’s not what I saw in the Badlands and Bryce Canyon, which were more rock-based formations. Both offer spectacular sunrise and sunset viewing.”

“My personal favorite was Grand Teton because there was so much to do, with gorgeous mountain views. You can hike, ride your bike along paths, hop on a boat and enjoy fish on the Snake River, do some bird watching, take a scenic walk or drive or even go horseback riding.” — Benet Wilson, credit cards editor

Acadia National Park

 

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After leaving camp at 3 a.m. to catch the sunrise from the summit, watching the fog roll over the coast was just my speed.

A post shared by Melanie Lieberman (@melanietaryn) on

“I travel to national parks all over the world, but spending a weekend at Acadia National Park in the fall of 2017 with friends was a great reminder to me that there are beautiful national parks I need to take time to visit in my own backyard. On this trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, we left camp at 3am to hike up Cadillac Mountain and see the sunrise. Depending on the time of year, it’s often one of the first places in the country to see sunlight at daybreak.” — Melanie Lieberman, travel editor

Indiana Dunes National Park

(Photo by Liz Hund/TPG)
(Photo by Liz Hund/TPG)

“I’ve been fortunate enough to explore a lot of the National Parks, so it’s hard to pick my absolute favorite as they’re all so amazing. However, the only one that I’ve been to on my own was Indiana Dunes National Park, which I think made for a different, but great experience. I had been driving through the night and wanted to take a break before finishing up my drive, so decided to check out the dunes. I arrived right before dawn with enough time to settle in on the beach. When the sun finally rose it turned out to be one of the most beautiful sunrises I’d ever seen. It was especially nice because it was just me, the beach and the sound of Lake Michigan in the background.” — Liz Hund, miles, points and deals intern

Featured photo by Prisma Bildagentur/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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