UNESCO World Heritage Sites supply guests perception into locations of pure or cultural significance that maintain “outstanding universal value,” as acknowledged within the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.

Out of 1121 complete websites on the earth, there are 24 UNESCO websites within the USA. So even when you can’t journey to the traditional ruins of Greece’s Acropolis of Athens or discover the expansive Amazon River, you may see a number of the world’s most outstanding websites proper right here at dwelling!

But UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization) doesn’t merely make an inventory of the world’s essential or stunning locations. Rather, the group chooses websites to protect for his or her scientific, cultural, pure, or historic worth.

As a consequence, UNESCO requires every website’s controlling establishments to undertake UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention, which was created in December 1945 and has since been ratified by 193 nations.

Sites are categorized as both pure world heritage websites or cultural world heritage websites. Lots of the  U.S. UNESCO websites are pure websites, and have been protected by the National Park Service for many years.

However, there are additionally many cultural UNESCO websites in America that concentrate on essential 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 perfect UNESCO websites within the U.S. supply one thing for nearly everybody. Read on to see our picks for 15 of the must-see World Heritage Sites within the USA!

READ MORE: 12 Odd Intangible Culture Heritage Practices UNESCO Protects

UNESCO World Heritage Sites within the USA

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

1. Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is famend for its various and delightful mineral formations, which might be present in over 80 completely different caves.

The space was protected as a U.S. National Park in 1930, however didn’t turn out to be a UNESCO Site till 1995.

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

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

There is a customer heart with pure historical past displays on the park. Here you will discover data on self-guided and ranger-led excursions, floor mountaineering trails, astrology packages, and bat statement packages.

READ MORE: 10 Famous Underground Caves to Explore

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

2. Chaco Culture National Historical Park (New Mexico)

First listed as a UNESCO World Heritage website in 1987, this Cultural World Heritage Site provides 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.

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

At the customer’s heart, one can view 900-year previous artifacts, then discover the ruins of an ancestral Pueblo Great House.

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

READ MORE: 10 Best National Parks for Your World Travel Bucket List

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 National Park Service CC0

3. Everglades National Park (Florida)

Everglades National Park just isn’t solely a should see for its various ecosystem and beautiful views, but in addition as a result of it’s the one UNESCO website within the U.S. listed as being in peril of ecosystem collapse

The Everglades are essential because of its biodiversity, making it an amazing place for nature and animal lovers. It is the biggest designated sub-tropical wilderness reserve in North America.

It additionally supplies 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 tasks within the 1800s. But by the early 20th century, conservation efforts had begun. As a consequence, the Everglades turned a nationwide park in 1947, then a UNESCO Site in 1979. 

There are 4 completely different customer facilities and a mess of outside actions on this various ecosystem. These embrace bicycling, birdwatching, kayak and canoe journeys, tenting, fishing, mountaineering, ranger-led packages, excursions, and wildlife viewing.

READ MORE: List of National Parks by State (Epic Guide w/ Insider Tips)

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

4. Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

Grand Canyon National Park is maybe essentially the most well-known nationwide park within the U.S. because of its breathtaking views and expansive canyons. I’ve had the possibility to go to this UNESCO Site myself, and it’s actually a outstanding sight to see!

After lots of 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 beautiful vistas, but in addition for its scientific significance in understanding geology. Another cause is ecological variety, 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 displays of native geological and cultural artifacts.

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

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

5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee and North Carolina)

Located close to the southern finish of the Blue Ridge Mountains vary, Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts over 500,000 acres of various and pristine wildlife, making it an essential pure UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Due to the park’s comparatively untouched ecosystem, guests can witness what the earth seemed like 1000’s of years in the past.

The park is dwelling to the world’s biggest variety of Salamander species, in addition to different wildlife resembling 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.

Within this space of pure magnificence, guests can discover beautiful 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 resembling Newfound Gap, Roaring Fork, and the Cataloochee Valley.

READ MORE: Cataloochee Valley Elk in Great Smoky Mountains National 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 National Park by Jack Ebnet on Unsplash CC0

6. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)

Hawaii Volcanoes National 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 Big 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 many protections in place to protect the organic, cultural, and geological significance of the park.

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

The Kilauea Visitor Center supplies data on the park’s mountaineering and driving trails, ranger-led packages, and wildlife. 

Whether you’re drawn by the fun of highly effective geologic processes, vibrant cultural traditions, or distinctive vegetation and cool animals, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park provides guests perception into a number of 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
Wet mountain valley of Kluane National 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 biggest non-polar icefield on the earth, and are dwelling to Alaskan animals resembling Grizzly Bears, Caribou, Moose, and Dall’s Sheep. These areas are additionally important 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 supply customer facilities and comparable leisure actions, together with mountaineering, rafting, climbing, tenting, and guided excursions.

Kluane National 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 greatest identified for the 2 rivers for which it was named, and the hole they carved by means of the mountains.

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

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

READ MORE: The Ultimate Alaska Inside Passage Cruise Guide

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 National Park by the National Park Service CC0

8. Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

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

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

After a historical past of exploration relationship again 4,000 years, the world turned a nationwide park in 1941 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site 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. Guests may also take pleasure in leisure actions resembling mountaineering and kayaking, and so they can be taught from displays and rangers within the park’s customer heart.

Below floor, guided cave excursions educate company on the geological tales instructed by the mineral deposits and cavern formations there.

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

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

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

9. Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)

Similar to Chaco Culture, Mesa Verde National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site centered round Pueblo Indian tradition.

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

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

The park additionally provides birdwatching, cross nation snowboarding, and alternatives for observing wildlife such because the Mule Deer, Wild Turkey, and the Young Great Horned Owl.

Within 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 Tours: How to Explore the National Park on Your Own

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 National Park by Anurag Jian on Unsplash CC0

10. Olympic National Park (Washington)

Another pure UNESCO World Heritage Site, Olympic National Park is revered for its various 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 Spotted Owl, Marbled Murrelet, and Bull Trout.

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

The space obtained its first designation in 1897 as Olympic Forest Reserve, and finally turned a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.

There are 5 customer facilities, two of that are open all year-round– the Olympic National Park Visitor Center and Wilderness Information Center.

Here, you will discover data on audio excursions, ranger-led packages, and leisure actions resembling mountaineering trails, climbing, boating, fishing, and varied winter actions.

READ MORE: The 20 Biggest Forests within the World

Endemic marine life in Papahānaumokuākea garnered UNESCO world heritage status in 2006
Diverse Marine Life of Papahānaumokuākea by National Park Service CC0

11. Papahānaumokuākea (Hawaii)

Papahānaumokuākea, the one combined pure and cultural UNESCO website within the United States, is a group 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 earth!

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

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

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

The space is usually used for scientific and cultural analysis, however does supply public visits as effectively. There is a customer heart that gives data on leisure actions resembling snorkeling, swimming, SCUBA diving, and interpretative packages. 

READ MORE: The 20 Best Things 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 National and State Parks by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash CC0

12. Redwood National and State Parks (California)

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

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

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 space turned a nationwide park in 1968, with expansions within the following a long time. In 1980, it turned a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making certain better efforts to guard this remnant of an historic ecosystem.

Today there are 5 customer facilities the place company can be taught concerning the some ways to discover the park, from driving and biking to mountaineering, in addition to guided kayak excursions.

Thanks to 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 by means of 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 4.0 International

13. Taos Pueblo (New Mexico)

Approximately 200 miles east of Chaco Culture is yet one more UNESCO website centered on Pueblo tradition.

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

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

It is the one dwelling Native American group that’s at the moment designated as each a UNESCO Site and a U.S. National Historic Landmark.

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

Traditional Taos cultural wares can be bought immediately from residents inside the city.

READ MORE: Top 5 Eco-Friendly Tourist Attractions in New Mexico

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

14. Yellowstone National 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 space additionally supplies a habitat for distinctive wildlife resembling Grizzly Bears, Wolves, Elk, and Bison.

These options made Yellowstone National Park an excellent pure landmark, and it was launched as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. 

Historically, Yellowstone is extremely essential, changing into the primary protected nationwide park on the earth in 1872. The space has been dwelling to humankind for over 10,000 years, making it a significant place for each archeological and cultural analysis.

Today Yellowstone National Park provides company 10 customer’s facilities to select from inside its 2.2 million acres. These embrace two museums and a mess of displays starting from Native American historical past to geological findings.

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

There are many jaw-dropping sights to see inside Yellowstone from the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Spring to the well-known Old Faithful Geyser.

READ MORE: Yellowstone National Park: Lamar Valley Photo 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 Point Road, Yosemite Valley by Trent Erwin on Unsplash CC0

15. Yosemite National Park (California)

Yosemite National Park provides beautiful views of waterfalls, valleys, meadows, glacier-carved cliffs, and historic large sequoias.

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

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 underneath the safety of the California authorities.

As a results 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 provides 5 customer facilities in addition to museums and displays concerning the space’s cultural historical past and geological discoveries.

There are quite a lot of methods to see the spectacular sights Yosemite National Park has to supply, together with guided or unguided excursions by automotive, mountaineering, biking, and horseback using. –by Sonny Grace Bray, lead picture by way of Pixabay