15 Most Beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the USA

The United States has 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the sites include natural sites, cultural sites, and one mixed site. UNESCO World Heritage sites are some of the top tourist attractions across the country.

The sites let visitors witness the US's natural beauty or get a glimpse into its rich cultural heritage.

If you’re looking for scenic attractions to explore, here are some of the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site in the US.

1: Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/daveynin

Yellowstone National Park is the first national park in the US, often admired for its beauty. It was established in 1872 and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Today, it attracts over four million visitors annually to explore the park’s natural wonders.

The park covers over 2-million acres – it stretches across Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Visitors can enjoy incredible views of the park’s diverse landscape: mountains, valleys, rivers canyons, lakes, forests.

Wildlife is abundant at Yellowstone National Park. Visitors have the opportunity to see some of the hundreds of species of animals. Frequently spotted animals include Yellowstone bison, grizzly bears, elk, deer, and more.

The setting is perfect for experiencing beautiful sights in the natural environment. Hiking is a favorite activity to reach the best viewpoints overlooking the landscape. Other activities in the park are fishing, kayaking, or taking guided tours.

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

Address: Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190

2: Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/William Warby

The Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic statues in the United States. UNESCO included it on its list of heritage sites in the US as of 1984. It now welcomes millions of visitors annually to see one of the most beautiful landmarks in the country.

The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the US from France – it was erected in the late 1800s. The copper statue stands on Liberty Island in New York City, where it reaches a height of over 15-feet tall.

Immigrants arriving in the US via Ellis Island recognized the statue as a welcome symbol of the new land; in modern-day, Americans view it as a symbol of freedom.

Views at the Statue of Liberty are some of the best of all of the UNESCO sites. One of the popular vantage points of the statue is with the NYC skyline in the background. Visitors can also take a ferry to Liberty Island for waterfront views of the statue.

Address: Liberty Island, NY

Web: Visit Website

3: Papahānaumokuākea

Papahānaumokuākea
Photo Courtesy: Mark Sullivan/NOAA

Designated as a UNESCO site in 2010, Papahānaumokuākea is the only mixed-status site in the US. The marine national monument has dual importance to culture and nature. Visitors get to see some of the most preserved natural ocean landscapes in the country.

Papahānaumokuākea is among the largest protected marine areas in the world. It's located just outside of Hawaii and covers an area larger than all other US national parks.

The vast ocean scenery includes rich ocean ecosystems – home to more than 7,000 species. The extensive coral reef contains many animals, including sea turtles, seals, sea birds, dolphins, and endemic plants.

Pure blue waters dotted with tree-lined islands give some of the most beautiful views in the Pacific Ocean. Visitors can appreciate the natural appearance of the preserved region.

The islands also showcase inner beauty – the site was an essential place for native Hawaiian culture. It was used as a holy place and held several archaeological sites.

Address: Papahanaumokuakea, Hawaii

Web: Visit Website

4: Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Don Graham

Mesa Verde is the best representation of Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites in the US – it’s a national park yet classified as a UNESCO cultural site because of its use by Native Americans.

Mesa Verde is a large park in Colorado with lots of things to see and do. The park is most famous for cliff dwellings. Cliff dwellings are houses carved into the rock face, used as seasonal residences for nomadic tribes. There are over 600 individual sites with dwelling communities – Cliff Place is the large cliff dwelling site in North America with more than 5,000 residences.

Visitors can get up close in person while visiting Mesa Verde. Explore the interior of the cliff dwellings with a guided tour. Park rangers take visitors through the historical communities and share facts and information about the sites.

For the best view, climb up to the lookout, overlooking Cliff Palace. You’ll see the collective dwellings amidst the backdrop of colorful stone structures.

Address: Mesa Verde, CO 81330

5: Aztec Ruins National Monument

Aztec Ruins National Monument
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Woody Hibbard

Take a ride along the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway to see some of the most beautiful sites in New Mexico. You'll discover the Aztec Ruins National Monument along the journey, considered one of the most famous UNESCO heritage sites. It's worth stopping by and exploring a bit about the Puebloan culture.

Aztec Ruins National Monument is a collection of ruins and archaeological sites developed by the Pueblo Indians. When excavated in 1921, it was mistaken for an Aztec civilization, hence the name. However, the site dates back well over 1,000 years and is a fun destination for visitors to experience a well-preserved development.

Walk amongst the ruins for a glimpse into the Puebloan lifestyle. The structures show where the community lived, played, and how it was organized. One of the favorite structures on the site is the Great Kiva – after renovation, it permits visitors inside to see the replica architecture detail and interior ruins.

Aztec Ruins National Monument combines the beautiful New Mexico landscape developed with historical ruins open to exploring.

Address: 725 Ruins Rd, Aztec, NM 87410

Web: Visit Website

6: Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Tiomax80

The Everglades National Park is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States. It achieved national park status in 1934 to assist with the preservation of the Florida Everglades. The successful efforts continue to make it a popular national park attraction and a beautiful must-see place.

The Everglades is one of the unique landscapes you'll ever see. The area predominantly consists of wetlands dotted by large lakes – there are several ecosystems within the Everglades with habitats suitable for a variety of wildlife. Some common animals to encounter are alligators, panthers, deer, manatees, eagles, and pelicans.

The Everglades National Park gives you over 1.5-million acres to explore the beautiful land. It attracts upwards of one million visitors every year.

Hiking is one of the best ways to experience the everglades. Numerous trails extend to many of the best landscape viewpoints and animal sightings. Other ways to explore the park include tram tours or boat tours.

The park permits camping for overnight stays and rare views of the dark sky.

Address: 40001 State Road 9336, Homestead, FL 33034

7: Independence Hall

Independence Hall
Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia/Rdsmith4

The monumental events which occurred within the walls of Independence Hall make it one of the most historical buildings on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the USA. Located in Philly, the building was where the drafts of the US Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were approved. Visit to witness the beauty of the country’s origin.

Independence Hall was completed in 1753 – it served as the former state capitol building. The building is now the highlight of Independence National Historical Park. The park has several other historical buildings showcasing a distinct colonial architecture.

Admire the outside beauty of the building before venturing to the inside. Peer into the very rooms where the defining documents were discussed. Guided tours are available for navigating inside and get more information about the building.

Officials included the image of Independence Hall on the back of the $100 bill and the half-dollar coin. It’s one of the most historical, yet charming, heritage sites to check out.

Address: 520 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Web: Visit Website

8: Monticello

Monticello
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Clarkcj2

The beautiful Monticello showcases iconic architecture on one of the most well-known houses in the US. The landmark plantation house was owned and designed by Thomas Jefferson – it’s now the only private home listed as a UNESCO heritage site.

Monticello was built in 1772 near Charlottesville, Virginia. The house was inherited by Thomas Jefferson, who began to make lots of renovations and upgrades to the property. Today, UNESCO recognizes it for its architectural and historical significance.

One of the darker sides of Monticello is that it was built and maintained by slaves. The site included crop grounds, a garden, and Mulberry Row, an onsite housing community built for slaves.

Today, Monticello is a popular tourist attraction. It operates as a museum to provide visitors with educational exhibits about the house and life of Thomas Jefferson. Tours allow visitors to walk through the various rooms in the house to admire the preserved furnishings.

Monticello is a beautiful house on the inside and outside – the maintained grounds make the view of the house even more attractive.

Address: 931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902

Web: Visit Website

9: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/rftrudeau

UNESCO recognizes the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a preserved natural site as of 1983. It’s now the most visited national park in the US, with millions of visitors going for sightseeing, recreation, and leisure. The beautiful park makes it a great place to spend a nice day outdoors.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is established alongside the Great Smoky Mountains, which includes some of the highest peaks in the chain. The large park includes sections extending into Tennessee and North Carolina.

The beauty in the Great Smoky Mountains comes from its landscape. The mountainous landscape includes other features like forested areas and waterfalls. Hiking is a favorite activity for all ages. Hundreds of miles of hiking trails take visitors to incredible sights at the mountain summits or other unique views around the park.

One of the best viewpoints is at Clingmans Dome. Not only is it one of the highest peaks, but it also features an observation tower. It’s the highest point in the park to see a panoramic view of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Address: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN 37738

10: Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Mike McBey

Yosemite National Park is a preserved area of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California. It was designated as a UNESCO heritage site in 1984 for its natural significance. With a biodiverse ecosystem and well-crafted landscape, you’ll appreciate the park’s beautiful sights.

A majority of Yosemite is untouched wilderness land. You’ll see nature in its purest form while exploring the monumental cliffs, waterfalls, streams, glaciers, and more. Many of these locations are noteworthy and tourist hot spots.

Yosemite Valley is one of the most beautiful locations in the park, set inside of a U-shaped valley carved out by a glacier – it’s also the most visited tourist site. Check out one of the visitor centers to find shuttles running between one of the top points of interest: El Capitan, Cathedral Peak, Sentinel Dome, Lyell Glacier, Yosemite Falls.

The unique natural landscapes provide photo-worthy scenery for millions of visitors every year. Some of the top activities to do at Yosemite National Park include hiking, biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, and even skiing in the winter.

Address: Yosemite National Park, CA 95389

11: Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Thomas

Northern Montana is home to the Glacier National Park, which covers more than one million acres in the region - it extends to the US-Canada border. The park was established in 1910 for the preservation of the undeveloped region of the country. Now, tourists can enjoy the natural scenery with outdoor recreation or sightseeing. 

Glacier National Park has a diverse landscape, including everything from mountain ranges to more than 130 lakes. The park boasts rich biodiversity – there are over 1,100 species of plants and hundreds of species of animals. Some common animals include grizzly bears, mountain goats, cougars, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and hundreds of bird species.

The park hosts a few million visitors every year. Hiking is one of the top activities to do in Glacier National Park. While exploring the various trails, be sure to hike along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail section. It’s designated as part of the trail for its beautiful scenery.

Address: Glacier National Park, MT

Web: Visit Website

12: Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/screaming_monkey

The world-renowned Grand Canyon is the most popular natural landmark in the US. The massive canyon provides a breath-taking view and lots of awe-inspiring moments.

The Grand Canyon is located in Arizona, protected by the Grand Canyon National Park. The canyon measures at nearly 280 miles long and reaches depths of over one mile deep. The canyon was carved out by the Colorado River and now represents the country's largest canyon.

Sightseeing is one of the main attractions for visitors to the Grand Canyon. The park is open year-round with lots of places to marvel at the sight. The canyon is divided into the North Rim and the South Rim – the South Rim is most popular and provides better views.

There are lots of observations decks and sights established around the canyon. You’ll have some of the best views at Pipe Creek Vista or the Yavapai Point. For the best vantage point of the canyon’s beauty, take an airplane tour to fly over the site.

Address: Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

13: Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Wall Boat

Redwood National Park transforms you into a new world once you enter the unique forest. The old-growth rainforest is home to some of the tallest and oldest trees on the planet. The sights from the forest are unmatched compared to any of the other UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Redwood National Park is located in Northern California, extending for approximately 50-miles on the coastline. The most notable feature of the park is the massive trees.

The park is home to the Coastal Redwood tree, the tallest tree species in the world. Standing on the ground of the forest reveals the height scale of the trees. The towering tree canopy creates a surreal environment as light seeps down to the forest floor.

The Redwood National Park is mostly undeveloped – some areas of the park are only accessible vie backcountry hiking. Even accommodations are outside of the park in nearby towns.

The park includes a visitor center for finding hiking trails and campsites in some of the most scenic areas.

Address: Highway 101 Orick, CA, Redwood National Park, CA 95555

Web: Visit Website

14: Olymic National Park

Olymic National Park
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Brian

Olympic National Park designates an isolated region of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington as a protected land area. The preservation efforts maintain the park’s natural beauty.

Located in Washington, the park reaches from the Pacific coastline to the interior forests bordering the Olympic Mountain Range. The multiple ecosystems make it a very biodiverse park for flora and fauna. Many of the endemic species remain due to their isolation.

Visit Olympic National Park to witness picturesque scenery – the landscape features lakes, glaciers, mountains, rivers, waterfalls. With a majority of the park designated as wilderness, there’s plenty of untouched lands to explore.

Millions of visitors come to the Olympic National Park every year. Hiking is one of the best things to do during a visit to enjoy the outdoor setting.

Visitors can hike the various trails through the rainforest or take a path extending along the rugged coastline. For a different perspective of the park, take a scenic drive through the landscape.

Address: 3002 Mt Angeles Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362

15: La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico

La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico
Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Christine Warner

Puerto Rico was a famous port city during the US's settlement era - several forts were constructed on the island for protection. La Fortaleza was a prominent fort during the 15th Century and several smaller forts on the historic site.

La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site are both located near the capital, San Juan. The forts were recognized by UNESCO in 1983 for their cultural value to Puerto Rico.

La Fortaleza still contains several observable structures – the fort tower, gardens, the main residence building, and the fort walls. It remains the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico.

San Juan National Historic Site refers to Old San Juan, where several forts were built. The historical site designation helps preserve the colonial-era forts and other structures.

Views from the forts look out into the Caribbean Sea.

Address: San Juan, 00926, Puerto Rico

Web: Visit Website

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