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World Heritage Sites in the United States

By Kathy Hiett and Janelle Smith, Recreation.gov

Redwoods National Park (Bachir Badaoui, Share the Experience)
Redwoods National and State Parks in California (Bachir Badaoui, Share the Experience)

"Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage is both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration." —UNESCO World Heritage Convention

The United States is home to 23 of more than 1000 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites around the globe. These sites are designated for their universal value in natural or cultural heritage and are places as unique and diverse as East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Grand Canyon in the U.S. Another 20 sites are under consideration and are on the World Heritage Tentative List including the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida and White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.

Search by State or U.S. Territory


Alaska

Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatashenshini-Alsek, Alaska and Canada

World Heritage Site since 1979

Glacier Bay National Park (Corey Dusin, Share the Experience)
Glacier Bay National Park (Corey Dusin, Share the Experience)

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (Daniel Lefler, Share the Experience)
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (Daniel Lefler, Share the Experience)

These World Heritage parks are an impressive complex of glaciers and high peaks on both sides of the border between Canada and the United States. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve features the largest non-polar icefield in the world and contains examples of some of the world’s longest and most spectacular glaciers. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is the largest national park in the U.S. The area offers a myriad of outdoor activities to consider including hiking, backpacking, fishing and hunting; river trips; kayaking and biking. You can also hire a guide or outfitter to take you on a river or fishing trip, mountaineering expedition, glacier trek, or sport hunting, backpacking, or flightseeing trip. Choose the type of experience right for you and then discover the majestic peaks and impressive glaciers.

Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

World Heritage Site since 1979

Grand Canyon National Park (Alex Xu, Share the Experience)
Grand Canyon National Park (Alex Xu, Share the Experience)

The Grand Canyon is a natural wonderland and continues to change even today by the Colorado River, which charted its course about 17 million years ago. Unique combinations of geologic color and erosional forms decorate a canyon that is 277 river miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide rim to rim, and one mile (1.6 km) deep. With more than 6 million people traveling to the Grand Canyon in 2017, visitors are encouraged to review numerous options on how and where to access this magnificent canyon.

California

Redwood National and State Parks

World Heritage Site since 1980

Redwood National and State Parks (Jason McDowell, Share the Experience)
Redwood National and State Parks (Jason McDowell, Share the Experience)

Home to the oldest and tallest trees on earth, the redwood forest hosts remnants of a group of trees that have existed for 160 million years. Here many of these trees exceed 300 feet (100 m) in height. The Redwood National and State Parks also protects vast prairies, oak woodlands, wild river ways and nearly 40 miles (64 km) of pristine coastline. Together the National Park Service and California State Parks manage these lands. Five visitor centers help you enjoy this diverse and profound landscape.

Yosemite National Park, California

World Heritage Site since 1984

Yosemite National Park (Kevin Perez, Share the Experience)
Yosemite National Park (Kevin Perez, Share the Experience)

In the heart of California, Yosemite National Park offers a dramatic landscape and awe-inspiring views. With its hanging valleys, many waterfalls, cirque lakes, polished domes, moraines and u-shaped valleys, Yosemite provides an excellent example of granite monoliths shaped by glaciation. To help you get ready for a trip to this popular destination use this helpful plan your visit information. We recommend that you make advanced reservations and plan ahead to make your trip memorable.

Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

World Heritage Site since 1978

Mesa Verde National Park (Lydia Faller, Share the Experience)
Mesa Verde National Park (Lydia Faller, Share the Experience)

The exceptional archaeological sites of Mesa Verde National Park are testimony to the ancient cultural traditions of Native American tribes and represent some of the best preserved in the U.S. They signify a graphic link between the past and present ways of life of the Puebloan Peoples of the American Southwest. Today the Colorado park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. Opportunities vary by season, and advance trip planning to this unique location is highly recommended.

Florida

Everglades National Park, Florida

World Heritage Site since 1979

Everglades National Park (Karen Whitmire, Share the Experience)
Everglades National Park (Karen Whitmire, Share the Experience)

The largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S., the 1.5 million-acre (607,028 ha) Everglades National Park provides important habitat for numerous rare and endangered species like the West Indian manatee, the American crocodile and the elusive Florida panther. Camping, boating, fishing, hiking, bird watching and ranger-guided programs are just a sampling of popular things to do in the Everglades.

Hawai'i

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai'i

World Heritage Site since 1987

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park (Lawrence Knutsson, Share the Experience)
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park (Lawrence Knutsson, Share the Experience)

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park contains Mauna Loa and Kilauea, two of the world’s most active and accessible volcanoes. Currently, most of the park remains closed due to increased and damaging earthquakes, corrosive volcanic ash, and continuing explosions from Halema‘uma‘u, the summit crater of Kīlauea Volcano. This geologic activity is changing the landscape of the park and affecting park facilities where visitors once were easily able to observe ongoing geological processes.

Check the park's Facebook page for current conditions and programs offered. Use the park's plan your visit information for updates.

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Hawai'i

World Heritage Site since 2010

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (NPS)
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (NPS)

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is a vast and isolated linear cluster of small, low-lying islands and atolls surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. Located roughly 155 miles (250 km) to the northwest of the main Hawai'ian Islands and extending over about 1,200 miles (1,937 km), the area has deep cosmological and traditional significance for Native Hawai'ian culture and is the largest marine protected area in the world. Find out how you can help protect this monument and learn how human-caused marine debris is affecting this rare environment.

Illinois

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Illinois

World Heritage Site since 1982

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (Lyle Kruger)
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (Lyle Kruger)

Cahokia was a city like no other at its time. Mississippians who lived here built a wide variety of structures from practical homes for everyday living to monumental public works that maintained their grandeur for centuries. The site offers an interpretive center, outdoor self-guided and guided tours and amenities to keep you fueled for a full day of discovery. Visit Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site to plan your trip to this fascinating destination.

Idaho, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming

World Heritage Site since 1978

Yellowstone National Park (Nicola Frassineti, Share the Experience)
Yellowstone National Park (Nicola Frassineti, Share the Experience)

Yellowstone National Park contains half of all the world's known geothermal features (10,000) and the world's largest concentration of geysers (more than 300, or two thirds of all those on Earth). The park is equally well known for supporting abundant and diverse wildlife such as grizzly bears, wolves, bison and wapitis. Yellowstone is America’s first national park and attracts visitors from around the world. Use this helpful information to plan your trip to this unique and complex place.

Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

World Heritage Site since 1981

Mammoth Cave National Park (Wayne Saward, Share the Experience)
Mammoth Cave National Park (Wayne Saward, Share the Experience)

This is the world’s longest known network of caves and underground passageways with explored areas extending for more than 400 miles (644 km). Mammoth Cave National Park supports more than 130 species of plants and animals and supplies rich cave-dwelling wildlife habitat. Book a cave tour, take a surface hike, go canoeing, picnic, horseback ride, bicycle, camp or more! A quick tour of the park’s things to do page before traveling to this destination to help you fully prepare for your underground adventure.

Louisiana

Monumental Earthworks at Poverty Point National Monument, Louisiana

World Heritage Site since 2015

Mound A at Poverty Point World Heritage Site. (NPS)
Mound A at Poverty Point World Heritage Site. (NPS)

When Poverty Point was at its peak, it was part of an enormous trading network that stretched for hundreds of miles across North America. Poverty Point National Monument was – and is – a 3,400 year-old engineering marvel, the product of five million hours of labor. Explore the culture of a highly sophisticated people who left behind one of North America's most important archeological sites. Louisiana State Parks manages this site that contains some of the largest prehistoric earthworks in North America. Watch this video and check the Poverty Point website to plan your visit.

Montana

Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, Montana and Canada

World Heritage Site since 1995

Glacier National Park (Kim Dessoliers, Share the Experience)
Glacier National Park (Kim Dessoliers, Share the Experience)

In 1932, Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta, Canada) was combined with Glacier National Park, (Montana, United States) to form the world's first International Peace Park. You can experience pristine forest, alpine meadows, rugged mountains and spectacular lakes in this area. More than 700 miles (1,127 km) of trails through dramatic and breath-taking landscapes make this area a hiker's paradise. Plenty of helpful information is available on Glacier's plan your trip page to help you explore this stunning alpine landscape.

New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

World Heritage Site since 1995

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (Raymund Nacua, Share the Experience)
Carlsbad Caverns National Park (Raymund Nacua, Share the Experience)

Beneath this rugged land of rocky slopes and canyons, cactus, grass, thorny shrubs and the occasional tree are more than 119 known caves – formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone. Learn about Carlsbad Caverns and how the cave was created in a fossil reef laid down by an inland sea 250 to 280 million years ago. Check out the park’s plan your visit page to help you investigate this underground environment of prehistoric and living organisms.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico

World Heritage Site since 1987

Chaco Culture National Historical Park (Susan Markley, Share the Experience)
Chaco Culture National Historical Park (Susan Markley, Share the Experience)

The complex collection of monumental public and ceremonial buildings at Chaco Canyon National Historical Park is testament that their builders had a sophisticated understanding of astronomical phenomena. When you visit this site, you may get a deeper sense of life and the connection to people who lived here (between 850 and 1250 AD). Plan your visit, take a guided tour, discover hiking and biking trails, attend an evening campfire talk, or experience a night sky program.

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

World Heritage Site since 1992

Taos Pueblo (New Mexico Tourism Department)
Taos Pueblo (New Mexico Tourism Department)

In the valley of a small tributary of the Rio Grande, the settlement of Taos Pueblo represents the culture of the Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico. Adobe dwellings and ceremonial buildings are standing testaments to the enduring culture of a group established in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. Also designated a National Historic Landmark, these multi-storied adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited for more than 1,000 years. Today, Taos Pueblo is a living Native American community.

New York

Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York

World Heritage Site since 1984

Statue of Liberty World Heritage Site
Statue of Liberty National Monument (NPS)

The Statue of Liberty was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States on the 100th anniversary of American independence in 1876 and was dedicated on October 28, 1886. Standing at the entrance to New York Harbor, it has welcomed millions of immigrants to the United States ever since. Advance trip planning is the key to your Statue of Liberty visit.

Pennsylvania

Independence Hall, Pennsylvania

World Heritage Site since 1979

Independence Hall (Anna Dodson, Share the Experience)
Independence Hall (Anna Dodson, Share the Experience)

The Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States were both signed in Independence Hall which is within Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. The universal principles of freedom and democracy set forth in these documents are of fundamental importance to American history and have also had a profound impact on law-makers around the world. Explore the First and Second Banks of the U.S., Congress Hall, Old City Hall, Franklin Court and Liberty Bell Center, among much more.

Puerto Rico

La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site, Puerto Rico

World Heritage Site since 1983

San Juan National Historic Site (Brett Christian, Share the Experience)
San Juan National Historic Site (Brett Christian, Share the Experience)

This massive fortification of San Juan features La Fortaleza, the three forts of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Castillo San Cristóbal and San Juan de la Cruz. There is also a large portion of the City Wall, built between the 16th and 19th centuries to protect the city and the Bay of San Juan. Visit San Juan National Historic Site and join a rangers' presentation, explore the fortifications, enjoy a video program, and relax or delve deeper into the history of this Puerto Rican attraction. Kids can visit the Discovery Center where they can join the Little Masons Workshop and get their hands dirty applying stucco in much the same way the masons did centuries ago.

Tennessee, North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina

World Heritage Site since 1983

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Kaushik Roy, Share the Experience)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Kaushik Roy, Share the Experience)

One of America's most visited national parks, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts exceptional natural beauty and is home to more than 3,500 plant species, 200 bird species, 65 mammals, 67 species of native fish and more than 80 species of reptiles and amphibians. Biological diversity is the hallmark of this park in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, among the oldest mountain ranges in in the world. Auto tours, cycling and hiking trails, camping, fishing and best of all, sightseeing, are some of the activities that allow you to experience this amazing place. In recognition of the park's unique natural resources, the United Nations also designated Great Smoky Mountains National Park a part of the Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve. Plan your visit using the Great Smoky Mountains site where you will find trip-planning information, maps and learn about other things to do.

Texas

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, Texas

World Heritage Site since 2015

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park (Leigh Taylor, Share the Experience)
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park (Leigh Taylor, Share the Experience)

After 10,000 years, the people of south Texas found their cultures, their very lives under attack. In the early 1700s Apache raided from the north, people with deadly diseases traveled from Mexico into the area, and drought lingered. Survival lay in the missions which are now part of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. This group of five frontier mission complexes situated along a stretch of the San Antonio River basin in southern Texas, as well as a ranch located 22.9 miles (37 km) to the south includes architectural and archaeological structures, farmlands, residencies, churches and granaries, as well as water distribution systems. Built by Franciscan missionaries in the 18th century they illustrate the Spanish Crown’s efforts to colonize, evangelize and defend the northern frontier of New Spain. Use this plan your visit information to learn more about this historical park.

Virginia

Monticello and the University of Virginia

World Heritage Site since 1987

Monticello National Historic Landmark (John Kenkel, Share the Experience)
Monticello National Historic Landmark (John Kenkel, Share the Experience)

Monticello was designed by Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and author of the American Declaration of Independence. The integration of the buildings into the natural landscape, the originality of the plan and design, and the refined proportions and décor make Jefferson’s Monticello an outstanding example of a neoclassical work of art. A short distance away from Monticello, in Charlottesville, he also designed his ideal academic village, the University of Virginia. The university is an outstanding example of a great educational institution from the Age of Enlightenment.

Washington

Olympic National Park, Washington

World Heritage Site since 1981

Olympic National Park (Adam Jewell, Share the Experience)
Olympic National Park (Adam Jewell, Share the Experience)

Olympic National Park features spectacular Pacific Ocean coastline, scenic lakes, majestic mountains and glaciers, and magnificent temperate rainforest. These diverse ecosystems are like visiting three different parks in one. Begin your experience at any one of five visitor centers and find out how you can maximize your coastal experience.

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