The 15 Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the USA (For Nature/History Lovers)

UNESCO World Heritage Websites provide guests perception into locations of pure or cultural significance that maintain “excellent common worth,” as acknowledged within the UNESCO World Heritage Conference.

Out of 1121 whole websites on the planet, there are 24 UNESCO websites within the USA. So even if you happen to can’t journey to the traditional ruins of Greece’s Acropolis of Athens or discover the expansive Amazon River, you’ll be able to see among the world’s most outstanding websites proper right here at dwelling!

However UNESCO (the United Nations Academic, Scientific & Cultural Group) doesn’t merely make an inventory of the world’s necessary or stunning locations. Slightly, the group chooses websites to protect for his or her scientific, cultural, pure, or historic worth.

Consequently, UNESCO requires every web site’s controlling establishments to undertake UNESCO’s World Heritage Conference, which was created in December 1945 and has since been ratified by 193 nations.

Websites are categorized as both pure world heritage websites or cultural world heritage websites. A whole lot of the  U.S. UNESCO websites are pure websites, and have been protected by the Nationwide Park Service for many years.

Nevertheless, there are additionally many cultural UNESCO websites in America that concentrate on necessary teams of individuals, or historic occasions.

So whether or not you’re a historical past buff, nature lover, or just a fan of geology, the very best UNESCO websites within the U.S. provide one thing for nearly everybody. Learn on to see our picks for 15 of the must-see World Heritage Websites within the USA!

READ MORE: 12 Odd Intangible Tradition Heritage Practices UNESCO Protects

UNESCO World Heritage Websites within the USA

  1. Carlsbad Caverns Nationwide Park (New Mexico)
  2. Chaco Tradition (New Mexico)
  3. Everglades Nationwide Park (Florida)
  4. Grand Canyon Nationwide Park (Arizona)
  5. Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park (Tennessee and North Carolina)
  6. Hawaii Volcanoes Nationwide Park (Hawaii)
  7. Kluane/Wrangell-St.Elias/Glacier Bay/ Tatshenshini-Alsek (Alaska)
  8. Mammoth Cave Nationwide Park (Kentucky)
  9. Mesa Verde Nationwide Park (Colorado)
  10. Olympic Nationwide Park (Washington)
  11. Papahānaumokuākea (Pacific Ocean)
  12. Redwood Nationwide and State Parks (California)
  13. Taos Pueblo (New Mexico)
  14. Yellowstone Nationwide Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)
  15. Yosemite Nationwide Park (California)
Unique interior cave formations valued by UNESCO at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Inside Cave Formations at Carlsbad Caverns Nationwide Park by Eric Guinther CC-BY 2.0

1. Carlsbad Caverns Nationwide Park (New Mexico)

Carlsbad Caverns Nationwide Park is famend for its numerous and delightful mineral formations, which could be present in over 80 completely different caves.

The world was protected as a U.S. Nationwide Park in 1930, however didn’t grow to be a UNESCO Website till 1995.

Whereas UNESCO acknowledges the caverns for his or her distinctive common worth, the Nationwide Park Service values what’s above floor in addition to beneath.

Above the caverns is the Chihuahuan Desert, which affords gorgeous vistas of historic sea ledges, deep canyons, in addition to distinctive desert wildlife.

There’s a customer heart with pure historical past reveals on the park. Right here yow will discover data on self-guided and ranger-led excursions, floor mountaineering trails, astrology applications, and bat statement applications.

READ MORE: 10 Well-known Underground Caves to Discover

Chaco Culture National Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural significance to the Pueblo people
Sundown over Fajada Butte at Chaco Tradition Nationwide Historic Park by Nationwide Park Service CC0

2. Chaco Tradition Nationwide Historic Park (New Mexico)

First listed as a UNESCO World Heritage web site in 1987, this Cultural World Heritage Website affords a glance into the indigenous Pueblo tradition.

Its historic community of archeological websites preserves the structure and tradition of the Puebloans (a.ok.a. Pueblo peoples), who lived right here between 850 and 1250 CE.

Inside the Chaco Tradition park, there are self-guided excursions, ranger led walks, and backcountry trails to discover the six most important websites.

On the customer’s heart, one can view 900-year previous artifacts, then discover the ruins of an ancestral Pueblo Nice Home.

The park has additionally supplied astronomy programming since 1991. In 2013, it was designated as an Worldwide Darkish Sky Park, providing magnificent views of the galaxy unencumbered by metropolis lights.

READ MORE: 10 Greatest Nationwide Parks for Your World Journey Bucket Listing

View of the unique ecosystem of Everglades National Park which makes it a natural UNESCO world heritage site
Aerial view of the Everglades by Lane River of the Nationwide Park Service CC0

3. Everglades Nationwide Park (Florida)

Everglades Nationwide Park will not be solely a should see for its numerous ecosystem and gorgeous views, but in addition as a result of it’s the one UNESCO web site within the U.S. listed as being at risk of ecosystem collapse

The Everglades are necessary as a consequence of its biodiversity, making it an incredible place for nature and animal lovers. It’s the largest designated sub-tropical wilderness reserve in North America.

It additionally gives sanctuary for threatened species of wildlife, such because the Manatee, American Crocodile, and the Florida Panther.

Early American settlers and builders seen this space as a nugatory swamp, which led to the primary drainage initiatives within the 1800s. However by the early 20th century, conservation efforts had begun. Consequently, the Everglades turned a nationwide park in 1947, then a UNESCO Website in 1979. 

There are 4 completely different customer facilities and a large number of out of doors actions on this numerous ecosystem. These embody bicycling, birdwatching, kayak and canoe journeys, tenting, fishing, mountaineering, ranger-led applications, excursions, and wildlife viewing.

READ MORE: Listing of Nationwide Parks by State (Epic Information w/ Insider Suggestions)

Stunning vista of the natural beauty of Grand Canyon National Park, which led to it becoming a UNESCO site
Solar peeking via the clouds at Grand Canyon Nationwide Park – CC0

4. Grand Canyon Nationwide Park (Arizona)

Grand Canyon Nationwide Park is maybe probably the most well-known nationwide park within the U.S. as a consequence of its breathtaking views and expansive canyons. I’ve had the prospect to go to this UNESCO Website myself, and it’s really a outstanding sight to see!

After a whole bunch of years of native settlements, exploration, mining, and conservation efforts, the Grand Canyon turned a nationwide park in 1919. 

UNESCO acknowledges the Grand Canyon not just for its gorgeous vistas, but in addition for its scientific significance in understanding geology. One more reason is ecological range, to not point out its cultural significance in Native American historical past for the previous 10,000 years.

The nationwide park ranges over practically 300 miles, with three customer facilities. Two of the customer facilities show reveals of native geological and cultural artifacts.

Guided and non-guided mountaineering excursions and different leisure actions can be found within the Three most important areas of the park– the South Rim, Desert View, and East Rim.

READ MORE: The Most Comfy Strolling & Climbing Sneakers for Males & Ladies

Barn in Cataloochee Valley, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Barn in Cataloochee Valley, Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

5. Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park (Tennessee and North Carolina)

Positioned close to the southern finish of the Blue Ridge Mountains vary, Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park boasts over 500,000 acres of numerous and pristine wildlife, making it an necessary pure UNESCO World Heritage Website. 

Because of the park’s comparatively untouched ecosystem, guests can witness what the earth appeared like hundreds of years in the past.

The park is dwelling to the world’s best range of Salamander species, in addition to different wildlife similar to Black Bears, Elk, a number of “Species of Concern” birds, and 50 native fish species.

For these causes, the NPS and UNESCO have protected the park’s wildlife since 1934 and 1983, respectively.

Inside this space of pure magnificence, guests can discover gorgeous waterfall mountaineering trails, historic buildings and cemeteries, and different leisure actions.

There are 4 customer’s facilities inside the park’s boundaries, in addition to widespread websites similar to Newfound Hole, Roaring Fork, and the Cataloochee Valley.

READ MORE: Cataloochee Valley Elk in Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park

Hot lava flows at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park show the unique geological processes that led to the park becoming a UNESCO natural site
Lava stream at dawn at Hawaii Volcanoes Nationwide Park by Jack Ebnet on Unsplash CC0

6. Hawaii Volcanoes Nationwide Park (Hawaii)

Hawaii Volcanoes Nationwide Park highlights the geological processes which initially created the Hawaiian Islands.

It’s dwelling to 2 of the world’s most energetic volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea on Hawaii’s Large Island, providing an up-close glimpse into how these Polynesian islands have been born. 

UNESCO additionally acknowledges the distinctive wildlife supplied right here, 90% of which might solely be discovered on the islands. There are various protections in place to protect the organic, cultural, and geological significance of the park.

Nevertheless, issues like invasive species, air pollution, and improvement threaten the park and its native animals, together with the Hawaiian Nene Goose.

The Kilauea Customer Heart gives data on the park’s mountaineering and driving trails, ranger-led applications, and wildlife. 

Whether or not you’re drawn by the joys of highly effective geologic processes, vibrant cultural traditions, or distinctive vegetation and cool animals, Hawaii Volcanoes Nationwide Park affords guests perception into among the most uncommon and delightful pure and man-made phenomena.

READ MORE: Hawaiian Mythology (Intro to Hawaiian Gods, Goddesses & Legends)

Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek
Moist mountain valley of Kluane Nationwide Park by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash CC0

7. Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek (Alaska)

UNESCO has grouped these US and Canadian nationwide parks and guarded areas collectively due to the importance of their pure processes.

They collectively comprise the most important non-polar icefield on the planet, and are dwelling to Alaskan animals similar to Grizzly Bears, Caribou, Moose, and Dall’s Sheep. These areas are additionally vital due to their energetic tectonic and volcanic pure processes.

UNESCO began by defending Wrangell- St. Elias and Kluane in 1979, with Glacier Bay added in 1992 and Tatshenshini-Alsek added in 1994. All 4 of those parks provide customer facilities and related leisure actions, together with mountaineering, rafting, climbing, tenting, and guided excursions.

Kluane Nationwide Park and Reserve and Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park are each Canadian parks. Kluane is dwelling to 17 of 20 of Canada’s tallest mountain peaks. Tatshenshini-Alsek is finest identified for the 2 rivers for which it was named, and the hole they carved via the mountains.

Wrangell-St. Elias is America’s largest Nationwide Park at 13.2 million acres. From volcanoes and glaciers to rainforest and tundra, there are a great deal of numerous sights and Alaska wildlife.

Glacier Bay Nationwide Park is one other of America’s best nationwide parks, with a spread of surroundings from glaciers and rainforests to dynamic shoreline cliffs.

READ MORE: The Final Alaska Inside Passage Cruise Information

Natural opening in Mammoth Cave National Park leads to unique cave formations that made it a natural UNESCO site
Historic cave entrance of Mammoth Cave Nationwide Park by the Nationwide Park Service CC0

8. Mammoth Cave Nationwide Park (Kentucky)

This Nationwide Park and UNESCO World Heritage Website has the world’s largest community of pure caves and underground passageways.

The park serves as an ecosystem for various wildlife, each above and beneath floor. The cave system reveals each attainable sort of cave formation, and possesses the world’s richest identified array of cave-dwelling wildlife.

After a historical past of exploration courting again 4,000 years, the world turned a nationwide park in 1941 and a UNESCO World Heritage Website in 1961.

Above floor, one can discover the world’s historic church buildings and cemeteries, or journey again in time with a experience on the Mammoth Cave Railroad. Visitors also can take pleasure in leisure actions similar to mountaineering and kayaking, they usually can study from reveals and rangers within the park’s customer heart.

Beneath floor, guided cave excursions educate visitors on the geological tales informed by the mineral deposits and cavern formations there.

Witness effervescent springs main into underground rivers which might be dwelling to uncommon cavernous lifeforms and different geological wonders!

READ MORE: Rio Secreto, the Riviera Maya’s Superb Underground River

MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK: Looking down at Cliff Palace
Trying down at Cliff Palace, courtesy Emma Gallagher

9. Mesa Verde Nationwide Park (Colorado)

Just like Chaco Tradition, Mesa Verde Nationwide Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Website centered round Pueblo Indian tradition.

Mesa Verde Nationwide Park was established in 1907 to guard and interpret the archeological heritage of Pueblo tradition, whereas UNESCO added their stamp of approval to the location in 1978.

Archeologists have recorded over 4,000 distinctive websites right here, together with 600 cliff dwellings (a lot of which you’ll go to). The NPS affords a customer and analysis heart, the place one can discover data on mountaineering and different leisure actions within the park. 

The park additionally affords birdwatching, cross nation snowboarding, and alternatives for observing wildlife such because the Mule Deer, Wild Turkey, and the Younger Nice Horned Owl.

Inside the park, you’ll additionally discover the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum. The constructing was constructed from conventional Pueblo supplies, and holds distinctive historic artifacts discovered within the park.

READ MORE: DIY Mesa Verde Excursions: How you can Discover the Nationwide Park on Your Personal

View of scenery and wildlife in Olympic National Park that led to it becoming one of the best UNESCO sites in the USA
Hurricane Ridge, Olympic Nationwide Park by Anurag Jian on Unsplash CC0

10. Olympic Nationwide Park (Washington)

One other pure UNESCO World Heritage Website, Olympic Nationwide Park is revered for its numerous ecosystems, which vary from snow-clad summits to wild shoreline.

The park accommodates a uniquely intact temperate rainforest, in addition to the longest undeveloped coast within the continental U.S. These habitats are dwelling to uncommon endemic species and endangered species such because the Northern Noticed Owl, Marbled Murrelet, and Bull Trout.

The world turned a nationwide park in 1938, after a protracted historical past of Native American habitation. Exploration by US settlers began within the 1800s, with conservationists similar to John Muir instantly suggesting its magnificence needs to be conserved a nationwide park.

The world obtained its first designation in 1897 as Olympic Forest Reserve, and ultimately turned a UNESCO World Heritage Website in 1981.

There are 5 customer facilities, two of that are open all year-round– the Olympic Nationwide Park Customer Heart and Wilderness Info Heart.

Right here, yow will discover data on audio excursions, ranger-led applications, and leisure actions similar to mountaineering trails, climbing, boating, fishing, and numerous winter actions.

READ MORE: The 20 Largest Forests within the World

Endemic marine life in Papahānaumokuākea garnered UNESCO world heritage status in 2006
Various Marine Lifetime of Papahānaumokuākea by Nationwide Park Service CC0

11. Papahānaumokuākea (Hawaii)

Papahānaumokuākea, the one blended pure and cultural UNESCO web site in the US, is a set of low-lying islands, atolls, and surrounding ocean northwest of the Hawaiian Islands.

It encompasses practically 600,000 sq. miles, which makes it one of many largest protected marine conservation areas on the planet!

After greater than 100 years of conservation efforts, Papahānaumokuākea was lastly named a US Nationwide Monument in 2006. In 2010, the world additionally turned a protected UNESCO web site.

The marine habitats of Papahānaumokuākea host uncommon and endangered species such because the Inexperienced Sea Turtle, Hawaiian Monk Seal, and Laysan Duck.

Culturally talking, the world has the best density of sacred websites for native Hawaiians, and is extraordinarily necessary in Hawaiian cosmology. It additionally holds significance in American historical past, each for the WWII Battle of Halfway and the business whaling period.

The world is generally used for scientific and cultural analysis, however does provide public visits as effectively. There’s a customer heart that gives data on leisure actions similar to snorkeling, swimming, SCUBA diving, and interpretative applications. 

READ MORE: The 20 Greatest Issues to Do in Kauai, Hawaii

Hiker dwarfed by redwood trees in Redwood National and State Parks, home to universally important ecosystems treasured by UNESCO
Hiker in Redwood Nationwide and State Parks by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash CC0

12. Redwood Nationwide and State Parks (California)

The Redwood Forest in Northern California is dwelling to among the tallest and oldest bushes on the planet (together with some over 2,500 years previous).

The park is dwelling to necessary wildlife from the combination of intertidal, marine, and freshwater streams. These two components mixed make this nationwide park an necessary pure UNESCO web site.

The redwoods have been first dwelling to Native American tribes, who turned specialists on their distinctive ecosystem. Later, the arrival of European explorers made logging the redwood bushes profitable.

Conservation efforts started within the early 1900s by the Save the Redwoods League. Their efforts satisfied the California authorities to preserve the coastal redwood forests.

The world turned a nationwide park in 1968, with expansions within the following many years. In 1980, it turned a UNESCO World Heritage Website, making certain larger efforts to guard this remnant of an historic ecosystem.

Right this moment there are 5 customer facilities the place visitors can study concerning the some ways to discover the park, from driving and biking to mountaineering, in addition to guided kayak excursions.

Because of the vary of ecosystems right here, one can discover the rocky shoreline, snow-capped mountains, or towering forests!

READ MORE: Avenue of the Giants: A Scenic Drive via California’s Redwoods

Taos Pueblo residential complex shows the Pueblo culture that UNESCO World Heritage protects
Taos Pueblo residential advanced by James Moyers CC- Attribution-Share Alike 4.Zero Worldwide

13. Taos Pueblo (New Mexico)

Roughly 200 miles east of Chaco Tradition is one more UNESCO web site targeted on Pueblo tradition.

In 1970, the U.S. returned 50,000 acres of land to the Pueblo folks. This turned the Taos Pueblo Blue Lake Wilderness Space, together with the Sacred Blue Lake.

Taos Pueblo is a settlement of ceremonial buildings and dwellings that exhibits the dwelling tradition of present-day Pueblo Indian folks.

It’s the solely dwelling Native American group that’s at the moment designated as each a UNESCO Website and a U.S. Nationwide Historic Landmark.

Solely members of Taos Pueblo are allowed into the wilderness space. However the group permits guests into Taos Pueblo from Eight am to 4:30 pm day by day.

Conventional Taos cultural wares can be bought instantly from residents inside the city.

READ MORE: High 5 Eco-Pleasant Vacationer Points of interest in New Mexico

Bison Herds Grazing in Yellowstone National Park
Bison Herds Grazing in Yellowstone Nationwide Park by Bret Love

14. Yellowstone Nationwide Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)

Yellowstone is dwelling to huge forests, to not point out half of the world’s geothermal processes (together with the world’s largest focus of geysers). The world additionally gives a habitat for distinctive wildlife similar to Grizzly Bears, Wolves, Elk, and Bison.

These options made Yellowstone Nationwide Park a really perfect pure landmark, and it was launched as a UNESCO World Heritage Website in 1978. 

Traditionally, Yellowstone is extremely necessary, changing into the primary protected nationwide park on the planet in 1872. The world has been dwelling to humankind for over 10,000 years, making it an important place for each archeological and cultural analysis.

Right this moment Yellowstone Nationwide Park affords visitors 10 customer’s facilities to select from inside its 2.2 million acres. These embody two museums and a large number of reveals starting from Native American historical past to geological findings.

The park affords guided excursions in practically each leisure exercise, from mountaineering and backpacking to portray, snowmobiling, snowboarding and extra!

There are various jaw-dropping sights to see inside Yellowstone from the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Mammoth Scorching Spring to the well-known Previous Devoted Geyser.

READ MORE: Yellowstone Nationwide Park: Lamar Valley Photograph Gallery

Remarkable view within Yosemite National Park, home to natural phenomena valued by UNESCO World Heritage in the USA
View of Half Dome from Glacier Level Highway, Yosemite Valley by Trent Erwin on Unsplash CC0

15. Yosemite Nationwide Park (California)

Yosemite Nationwide Park affords gorgeous views of waterfalls, valleys, meadows, glacier-carved cliffs, and historic large sequoias.

After the top of the final Ice Age, Native Individuals travelled and settled within the space now generally known as Yosemite. As soon as European exploration started and gold was found in California, Yosemite turned a spot of battle over land and important assets.

It took the mixed efforts of many conservationists to make the pure worth of Yosemite recognizable to the federal government. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln positioned Yosemite below the safety of the California authorities.

On account of additional protecting efforts, the world turned a nationwide park in 1890. After that, it was acknowledged as a spot of pure common worth by UNESCO in 1984.

The park affords 5 customer facilities in addition to museums and reveals concerning the space’s cultural historical past and geological discoveries.

There are a number of how to see the spectacular sights Yosemite Nationwide Park has to supply, together with guided or unguided excursions by automotive, mountaineering, biking, and horseback driving. –by Sonny Grace Bray, lead photograph by way of Pixabay



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