The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a sought-after status, and in America’s vast and dramatic west, it protects a number of the USA’s open spaces and natural wonders.
From overawing canyons to the serenity of ancient forests, these world heritage sites represent the very best of the phenomenal landscapes of this vast and varied nation.
Recognising their significance protects these special places, and by visiting you cement their importance and help to protect them for future generations to enjoy.
Here are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of western USA.
The Grand Canyon
Not just a world Heritage Site, the Grand Canyon also regularly appears on the seven natural wonders of the world lists. This spectacular sight is a vision in red, orange and golden hues, best seen at sunrise or sunset when the rock seems to come alive with the glowing rays of the sun.
There’s no end to the ways to explore the canyon, with winding walking trails along the dramatic rim, incredible rafting along the river and for the truly adventurous, a sky-high view from the bulb of a helicopter.
Visit the Grand Canyon: Canyons and Indian Lands
Olympic National Park
With its incredible range of precipitation and elevation, diversity is what makes Olympic National Park one of the most unique in North America and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Spanning almost a million acres, the park protects old-growth rainforests, wildlife and several distinctly opposing ecosystems and is, for the most part, an untouched wilderness area. Let’s not forget about the 70 miles of wild and rugged Pacific coastline with sculpted sea stacks.
Visit Olympic National Park: Northwest Parks and Wildlife
Yellowstone National Park
The first national park in the USA, and the world, Yellowstone is home to such a wealth of wildlife and geological interest it’s easy to see why it made the UNESCO list. Embodying the spirit of America's natural parks, Yellowstone famously inspired the home of cartoon character Yogi Bear - Jellystone Park.
Rich in volcanic history, it is estimated there are around 10,000 thermal features in this 3,500 sq-mile volcanic mass. Be sure to visit Old Faithful, Yellowstone’s most famous geyser, erupting every 44 to 125 minutes, for that iconic photo.
Visit Yellowstone: Yellowstone Wildlife Trails
Yosemite National Park
A park of gargantuan proportions, Yosemite National Park sits nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range of northern California. Here, green forest meets granite walls measuring several thousand feet in height. Rock climbers come from all over the world to scale the rocks whilst hikers get to walk to the base of some of the largest waterfalls in the world.
As you explore the park keep your eyes peeled for varied wildlife such as deer, bobcats, marmots and if you're lucky, bears. After a visit to see the amazing Giant Sequoia trees, Yosemite Valley beckons, offering the chance to cycle, take a dip in the Merced River or wander the meadows.
The views are breathtaking from every vantage point - the granite formations of Half Dome, El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks are sure to be forever etched on your mind. The rugged, towering peaks and magnificent waterfalls have been immortalised by countless photographers. The most famous of the park’s photographers was Ansel Adams, whose gallery sits in the heart of Yosemite Valley and you'll have plenty of time to take a look at his iconic photographs.
Visit Yosemite: National Parks and Lodges