7 of the most beautiful protected forests in the world

Trees still rule in these protected natural areas.

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The virgin forests of Shirakami-Sanchi in Japan The virgin forests of Shirakami-Sanchi in Japan (Photo: C.K. Tse / Flickr)

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Shirakami-Sanchi, Japan

Occupying the mountainous northern part of the island of Honshu, Shirakami-Sanchi covers more than 300,000 acres, 40,000 of which are designated as a World Heritage Site. Many people come to Shirakami to climb the 4,000-foot mountain peak or to see the scenic waterfalls. However, except for a few routes used by climbers, the core of the World Heritage area has no trails.

This part of Honshu is very mountainous, and the beech tree forests here have been untouched since ancient times. Farmers harvested trees in nearby forests for cultivation of shiitake mushrooms. However, the beeches of Shirakami-Sanchi are not suitable for growing shiitake, so they were never touched. Because of the lack of human contact, animal species such as Japanese black bears thrive inside Shirakami.

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