World Heritage Sites, designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), are carefully chosen places that have a special natural or cultural significance. These places are valuable caches of information about human history, geological formation of the Earth, and the plants and animals that have come and gone over time. Many World Heritage Sites offer an abundance of outdoor activities, like camping, hiking, canoeing, and more, so the next time your outdoor travels take you on the road, check out one of these fantastic World Heritage Sites in the US.
Mammoth Cave National Park – Kentucky
Located in central Kentucky, Mammoth Cave National Park encompasses part of Mammoth Cave, the most extensive cave system known in the world with over 285 miles of passageways within its perimeter, and an additional 80 miles outside of it. Roughly 200 species of flora and fauna call Mammoth Cave their home, and over 300 species of animals inhabit the park outside of the cave. Over 100 million years of geological processes are contained in Mammoth Cave, and almost every type of formation can be found here, which earned it placement on the list of World Heritage Sites in 1981, and declared a biosphere reserve in 1990.
Olympic National Park – Washington State
This beautiful national park located in northwestern Washington is praised for its ecosystem diversity, which was first noted by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909. Olympic National Park consists of four general regions: Pacific coastline, alpine meadows, temperate rainforests, and dry forests, which contain many of the largest coniferous tree species found on the planet. An abundance of unique geological formations can be found here, and scores of endemic wildlife proliferate the area. Olympic National Park was first declared a biosphere reserve in 1976, and later became a World Heritage Site in 1981.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Tennessee/North Carolina
The Great Smoky Mountains earned their name because of the ever-present veil of mist that hangs over the mountain peaks, with elevations ranging from a few hundred feet to over 6,000 feet. This vast region contains the largest remnant of Arcto-Tertian Geoflora, an assemblage of plants that is hypothesized to have once covered the entire Northern Hemisphere as many as 250 million years ago. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was declared a biosphere reserve in 1976, and designated a World Heritage Site in 1983 for being one of the most ecologically diverse temperate zones in the world.