In Utah, 5 national parks reveal a wondrous and rugged world

CNN  — 

Sure, you can go on a week’s safari in Africa or spend seven days cycling in New Zealand, but one of the world’s most spectacular spots is closer than you think.

Frequently and unfairly overlooked, Utah is a “state of mind … sculpted by wind, water and time,” its tourism slogans tout.

That apt description only hints at the natural force and geological artistry shaping southern Utah’s jaw-dropping national park landscapes.

Last year, the area’s five national park headliners – Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches – collectively drew about 7 million visitors from around the world.

From ancient petroglyphs and shooting stars to hiking, kayaking, biking, backpacking, mule riding and river rafting, there’s no lack of intriguing pursuits in southern Utah.

100 national park travel ideas

America’s most popular national parks are …

10 natural wonders in the United States that set records