The 35 Best Outdoor Schools in America
Many of our nations top colleges see nature as a natural complement to the thinking life. A great place for reflection, personal growth, and experimentation; there’s a reason why many top schools are buffered by parks, natural reserves, and great views. The outdoors are one of the best learning environments, where lifelong friendships, unforgettable moments, and healthy lifestyles can be forged.
To better explore this aspect of college life so important to so many students, we’ve decided to create our own ranking of the best outdoor schools in America. A quick glimpse into how the rankings were completed is as follows:
- Considered Factors:
- Average yearly days of sunshine (30%)
- Number of school endorsed outdoor, adventure-oriented sports, clubs, and teams (30%)
- Proximity to outdoor opportunities (30%)
- Including (progressively weighted less):
- Substantial outdoor opportunities on campus or directly adjacent to campus
- Outdoor opportunities in town, or that can be accessed without a personal vehicle
- Outdoor opportunities within easy driving distance (3 hours)
- Outdoor opportunities accessible by other means, or outdoor reserves owned by University
- Number of courses requiring outdoor work (10%)
35. Evergreen College, Olympia, WA
Evergreen is a progressive, public, four-year liberal art and sciences college set on 1,000+ acres of forest next to the Puget Sound. Hiking trails, beaches, bike paths, and kayaking opportunities are abundant. Besides several closer outdoor locations, Olympic National Park–a massive protected wilderness of more than 900,000 acres–is an hour north. To the east are skiing and snowboarding opportunities. Closer to home students can get involved with community gardens, or the on-campus organic farm that provides food for the cafeteria.
For those interested, a number of trips are hosted by the Outdoor Program. Reservation-based study programs allow students to live and work in tribal communities, and there are a number of outdoor club sports in which to participate.
34. Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME
Bowdoin is an elite liberal arts school located on 215 beautiful acres in Brunswick, Maine. Bowdoin also owns a Coastal Studies Center 8 miles away on Orr’s Island, a centerpiece of the college’s oceanographic program. Many classes involve working in the field, there are a large variety of outdoor clubs, and Bowdoin’s Outing Club hosts more than 100 excursions a year.
Within striking distance of white water rafting, climbing, and two hours away from the Appalachian Trail, serious outdoor endeavors abound. Hamilton Audubon Sanctuary and Bradbury Mountain State Park also offer extremely close access to both inland and coastal natural areas (respectively). The school mascot is the polar bear for the school’s rich history of exploring the arctic. This legacy continues today through the arctic studies program, a branch of the department of earn and oceanographic science, sociology, and anthropology.
33. Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR
Lewis and Clark is located on 137 wooded acres in Portland’s southwest hills. Filled with beautiful gardens, a reflective pool, and views of the distant snow covered Mount Hood, it’s hard not to feel at one with nature on Lewis and Clark’s campus. The College Outdoors program boasts a wide range of activities that take students farther afield. Including activities such as cross-country skiing, backpacking, whitewater sports, sea kayaking, and hiking. Using the broad range of habitats on the west coast, College Outdoors trips span across the states of Oregon, California, and Washington.
A wide variety of student organizations and clubs also utilize Lewis and Clark’s great location for the outdoors. Club sports include Sailing, Ultimate Frisbee, Rugby and more traditional sports. The city of Portland itself is a great city for the outdoors, with over 152 miles of interlocking trails, great biking, and thousands of acres of parks.
32. Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
Humboldt State University features an on campus fishery and one of the most diverse greenhouses in the state of California. Located in Arcata, a charming college town in the far north of California, Humboldt State is within reach of redwood forests, mountains, and beaches. Curricular offerings take full advantage of the region’s pristine natural environment, with certification offered in swiftwater rescue, wilderness first response, and wildfire management.
Outdoor clubs and outings include skiing, cycling, rock-climbing, boat sports, surfing, and many other courses centered around wilderness skills. Crew, logging sports, cycling, and archery all provide other club-related excuses to traverse the outdoors. The University’s Marine Lab is a few minutes drive north. Though if you’re just into exploring on your own, the rocky beaches of the NorCal coast and the Redwood National Forest are both just a few minutes away.
31. UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Besides the gorgeous weather, world class training opportunities and easy access to southern California’s natural offerings make UCLA a great outdoor school. Myriad classes from biology to geology to environmental sciences take advantage of outdoor offerings. The Marina Aquatic Center offers surfing, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, stand-up paddling, and rowing, just minutes away in Marina del Rey.
Outdoor clubs at UCLA include Quidditch, dragon boat, rowing, rugby, ultimate, and a number of more traditional sports. Many compete at national levels, just as UCLA’s D1 teams, with which the school is the most decorated university in the nation (UCLA holds 108 national team titles). All the more reason to get outside!
30. Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
Bozeman mixes one of the best ski locales in the nation (2010 winner of Outdoor magazine’s “best town for skiing in the west”) with a PhD per capita ratio more than twice the national average. MSU is the state’s agricultural college, and was originally placed in Bozeman due to its healthy soils and verdant surroundings. Though out in the Montanan wilderness, the valley surrounding Bozeman is known as the “valley of flowers.”
Bozeman is embedded in nature, surrounded by mountain ranges, and many parts of town are within walking distance of trail heads that run all the way to Yellowstone some 90 miles to the south. The University’s outdoor recreation center is open year around, and hosts rentals and regular trips to local destinations (Yellowstone, Glacier, and Grand Teton National Parks), as well as trips father afield, to California, Mexico, and up into the Canadian Rockies. Student run outdoor-related clubs include the range management club, the science and natural history film making forum, alpine skiing, cycling, climbing, equestrian, logger sports, and ultimate. Bozeman is also home to the Museum of the Rockies, the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in the world.
29. Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT
Middlebury is housed in Vermont’s scenic Champlain Valley, with the Green Mountains to the east, and the Adirondacks to the west. Due to the beautiful surroundings and high quality buildings, the campus is known as “Club Midd” by some students and alumni. As tribute to the college’s idyllic setting, and the learning benefits provided by the outdoors, Middlebury has recently changed their mission to incorporate sustainability policies, vowing to become carbon neutral by 2016. Features of Middlebury’s sustainability initiative include a biomass gasification plant, organic farming, a recycling center, and environmentally friendly buildings.
Middlebury houses 17 of its own ski trails in its College Snow Bowl ski area. The school also hosts the country’s oldest winter carnival, featuring music and a ski competition. Outdoor Clubs are prevalent on campus including skiing, log rolling, fly fishing, trap and skeet shooting, mountain club, nordic skiing, cycling, crew, sailing, and quidditch (as well as other more traditional sports). For those who want to go farther afield, a variety of state parks are within a short drive from campus, including Chimney Point State Park, Weybridge Care Natural Area State Park, and Branbury State Park.
28. UC San Diego, San Diego, CA
San Diego is home to some of the best weather in the US, access to the Pacific, and a number of great local state parks. UCSD’s Mission Bay Aquatic Center is one of the largest waterfront instructional facility in the world. The center teaches over 15,000 participants a year in wakeboarding, sailing, surfing, stand up paddling, waterskiing, rowing, kayaking, and windsurfing. The center offers private lessons, public classes, as well as rentals.
The Scripps Institution of Oceanography–a department at UCSD– is one of the largest ocean and earth science research centers in the world. Particularly for educational opportunities in the field, UC San Diego is second to none.
27. College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME
Situated on 37 acres on Mount Desert Island, College of the Atlantic is a small liberal-arts college that offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees solely in human ecology. College of the Atlantic is fairly experimental in its teaching methods, with tons of field-based learning, and lots of community involvement. The campus centers around two organic farms, and two off-shore island research stations. The school’s environmental focus is particularly evident in campaigns to increase sustainability. College of the Atlantic was the first campus to make a multi-year commitment to being powered entirely by renewable energy, and the first school to hold a zero carbon footprint graduation.
Though only a few hundred students in size, College of the Atlantic offers many outdoor orientation programs that explore Maine’s wilderness. These trips range from rock climbing, sailing, sea kayaking, cycling, diving, to backpacking. For those wishing to explore the wilderness on their own, much of Mt. Desert Island (home to College of the Atlantic) is covered by Acadia National Park, with scores of beautiful harbors, sounds, lakes, and ponds.
26. Green Mountain College, Poultney, VT
Green Mountain College is located on 155 acres of land between the Adirondack and Green Mountains, featuring an organic farm, a ropes course, and trails. The College is very environmentally centered, with tons of outdoor trips, and degrees offered in natural resources management, environmental studies, and sustainable food systems. Coupling hands-on learning, the outdoors, and a liberal arts curriculum, Green Mountain College seeks to “foster the ideals of environmental and personal responsibility, civic engagement, entrepreneurial spirit, and global understanding.
Outdoor clubs at Green Mountain include Farm Crew, Equestrian Club, Rowing, the bike and ski shop, the outdoor recreation alliance, skate club, ultimate, rugby and quidditch. The campus opened a biomass plant in 2010, installed a wind turbine and solar panels for the student union. This allowed the campus to become the second college in the nation to become carbon neutral in 2011.
25. University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
University of Iowa has a number of local outdoor opportunities, a large number of classes featuring outdoor components, and the university’s outdoor-education program called “Touch the Earth.” Local bike paths connect more of the Iowa City area. There are a number of fishing opportunities, and (perhaps surprisingly) a sand beach at the Coralville Res. Combined, many outdoor elements of Iowa City consistently rank the city as one of the nation’s most livable.
Outdoor student clubs include fishing, cycling, disc golf, triathlon, shooting sports team, rowing, sailing, ultimate frisbee, and more traditional sports. In a artistic vein, Iowa City is North America’s only UNESCO city of literature, largely due to the number of famous writer’s stemming from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. For those so inclined, roaming the parks and streets of Iowa City have proved valuable inspiration for many decades.
24. University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK
Though it can get cold, you better bet that a school a few hours away from the entrance to the Denali Wilderness has a ton of outdoor opportunities. 1,100 acres of largely forested acres are on the North Campus, offering valuable research, education, and recreation activities. An experimental farm, research opportunities with NOAA and the International Volcanological Field School are some highlights of student work in the field. Though many majors take advantage of Alaska’s vast natural wealth.
Outdoor student organizations at UAF include alpine, disc golf, cross country skiing, orienteering, parkour, ski club, trails club, and archery. Local state parks such as the Steese National Conservation Area, Tanana Valley State Forest, and Chena River State Recreation Area offer a huge range of habitats and activities. From rock climbing, to white water rafting, mountaineering to hot springs. Oh, and don’t forget about the Aurora Borealis.
23. University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
Set near the Ozarks, Fayetteville has over 40 miles of trails, great views of the mountains, and 4,000 acres of parkland. 2-3 miles of trails are added every year, with a 100-mile interconnected system planned in the city’s Master Plan. Lake Fayetteville Park, Lake Sequoyah Park, and Ozark National Forest are all within short drives of downtown Fayetteville.
The recreation center offers bouldering and climbing walls, as well as a bike shop to take advantage of the many trails in Fayetteville. To continue the outdoor legacy of students’ time in Fayetteville, the Rec center also offers outdoor trips for alumni.
22. University of Nevada, Reno, NV
Lake Tahoe, Donner Pass, and the Sierra Nevada’s are all relatively close to the “Biggest Little City in the World.” Be it skiing, white water sports, hiking, or just enjoying a variety of environments, areas surrounding Reno have it all. As far as the University, a broad set of earth sciences majors are offered, such as geophysics, hydrogeology, geological engineering, ecohydrology, and conservation biology.
Several intramurals as well as a rental shop offering both kayaking and skiing gear or snowshoes are provided through campus recreation and wellness. Though there aren’t traditional student organizations for the following, P.E. classes offer Kayaking, scuba, rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding, and rafting classes for credit.
21. University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
The University of Vermont is situated a few blocks from Lake Champlain, Centennial Woods Natural Area, and Winooski Valley Park District. The Outing Club was founded back in 1932 and continues to expand offerings. For 2014, trips include backpacking, day hikes, paddling, rock climbing, the Catamountain Classic (a communal effort to finish 273 miles of long trail), and other specialty trips.
Outdoor student organizations at University of Vermont are numerous, featuring biking, outing, climbing, fly fishing, gardening, skiing, and snowboarding. Several gardening and horticulture clubs, in conjunction with school’s horticulture farm, also keep students outside and learning how to grow food, flowers, and conduct experiments on plants. A bit farther from campus, the Green and Adirondack mountains beckon, and provide endless outdoor opportunities.
20. Berry College, Mount Berry, GA
Located on Mount Berry in north Georgia, Berry College is home to the world’s largest college campus of 27,000 acres (16,000 of which are a Wildlife Management Area). The Berry Outdoor Leadership Development Program takes full advantage of this wealth of nature through academic and non-academic programming. Classes include mountain biking, rock climbing, ropes courses, canoeing, whitewater sports, cave leaderships, and safety, leadership, and first aid training. Students can, of course, explore the campus on their own as well, with over 40 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Outdoor clubs include the society of outdoor life and experience, ultimate, and rowing. If the campus doesn’t have enough to offer, Johns Mountain Wildlife Management Area, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Talladega National Forest, and the Chattahoochee National Forest are all within easy driving distance.
19. Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA
Western Washington University’s campus overlooks Bellingham Bay and many of Puget Sound’s San Juan Islands. The campus is 215 acres including a 38 acre arboretum, as well as off-campus facilities for environmental and aquatic learning. A notable feature of the campus is Western Washington’s prized collection of sculptures funded by the Washington State Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Outdoor student organizations at Western Washington University include bike polo, hiking, kiteboarding, whitewater sports, longboarding, mountain biking, quidditch, skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing, and more traditional sports. A truly spectacular range of outdoor opportunities lie in this corner of the Pacific Northwest, and Western Washington certainly takes advantage. Local state parks include Birch Bay State Park, Sucia Island State Park, and Larrabee State Park. The North Cascades National park is also just a short drive to the east.
18. University of Idaho, Moscow, ID
University of Idaho’s 1,585 acre campus is one of the most scenic campuses in the western US, designed by the landscape architecture firm that designed the U.S. Capital grounds and Central Park in New York. The town of Moscow is nestled between Moscow Mountain and the undulating hills of the Palouse region. For a smaller town, there are tons of bikers, and a large population of environmentally-minded citizens. Whether checking out the arboretum and botanical garden on campus, or cruising around the town’s 46 miles of trails, Moscow is a great outdoor city.
Outdoor student events at Idaho include clubs and trips in the following: hiking, biking, shooting, archery, kayaking, surfing, logging, outdoor leadership, fishing, polo, rodeo, skiing, snowboarding, and many other recreational events. Parks within an easy drive include the Clearwater National Forest, Saint Joe National Forest, and the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
17. Davidson College, Davidson, NC
Davidson College is one of the most rigorous schools in the nation, but also has some great outdoor opportunities to help students relax and blow off steam. Besides the 665 acre main campus, and the 100 acre arboretum that hosts thousands of Piedmont-region species, there is a 110 acre lake campus located up the road. Like other small colleges, a large portion of the student body participate in varsity sports (24%), yet outdoor adventure sports and clubs are to be had as well.
Outdoor student organizations include sailing, crew, equestrian, and ultimate. The beach campus also offers opportunities for water skiing, boating, and swimming. Other local outdoor offerings include the rest of Lake Norman, Lake Norman State Park, Fisher Farm Park, and Stephens Road and Rural Hill Nature Preserves.
16. Wellesley, Wellesley, MA
This top notch women’s liberal-arts college calls a picturesque 500 acre campus– filled with meadows, woodlands, and Lake Waban– home. Unique combinations in the landscape as well as beautiful architecture earned Welleslley the title of one of the most beautiful colleges in America by Travel+Leisure magazine. Though the campus is close to Boston and can have some harsh winters, fifteen greenhouses provide year round tropical, subtropical and desert plants.
Outdoor student organizations include equestrian, the outing club, ultimate, sailing, quidditch, and a number of more traditional sports. A number of environmental organizations also keep the natural world on everyone’s mind. These include a co-op, student run restauraunts, an organic farm, and Wellesley Energy and Environmental Defense. Parks within driving distance are numerous, including Mass Audubon’s Broadmoor Sanctuary, Elm Bank, Ridge Hill Preservation, Noanet Woodlands, and a number of lakes and rivers.
15. University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
The University of Arizona sits on 380 acres in central Tucson, with desert climates that stay warm throughout most of the year. Yearly, Tuscon also boasts around 300 days of sunshine, which the University takes full advantage of by offering over 100 field study programs. The city itself is bordered by Tucson Mountain Park, Saguaro National park, and Santa Catalina Natural Area.
Arizona’s rec center offers a number of “outdoor adventure” programs, ranging from sea kayaking to rock climbing to moonlight hikes. Student organizations are wide ranging, and include clubs for outdoor medicine and hiking. Certificates are also available through courses at the rec center, including lifeguarding, CPR, scuba, and pilates teacher training.
14. University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
University of Wisconsin is positioned on the edge of an isthmus between lakes Monona and Mendota. A large portion of the campus is waterfront, and features parks and natural areas interspersed. A few blocks away, the 1,260 acre University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum is open daily and for free to the public. It boasts the oldest and most extensive collection of restored ecosystems in the United States. Though it gets very cold in the winter, Madison is very walkable as well as bikeable. Known as “the biking capitol of the midwest” there are more than 200 miles of scenic biking and hiking trails available in the city.
There are tons of outdoor-centered student organizations at Wisconsin, including adventure learning programs, the aquarium enthusiast club, astronomy and stargazing club, archery, hunting, botanical society, canoeing, cycling, disc golf, fishing, skiing, riding, parkour, ultimate, human vs. zombies, and tons more. For those who want to explore on their own, Madison is filled with lakes, and large parks such as the Capital Springs State Recreation Area.
13. Sewanee: The University of the South, Sewanee, TN
Sewanee’s campus, known as the “Domain” or “Mountain” consists of 13,000 acres perched atop the Cumberland Plateau. Only about 1,000 acres of the domain are developed, leaving tons of space to meander into coves, through old growth forests, to look out points, and into caves. The perimeter trail follows the bluff for 20 miles and circles campus, making it a good way to get to great vistas or an intense day hike. Due to the gorgeous gothic-inspired architecture and natural setting, Travel+Leisure Magazine has named Sewanee one of the most beautiful college campuses in the nation.
The Sewanee Outing Program offers hundreds of guided trips year around. For students, many classes take time to have class outside on nice days, and majors such as environmental studies, natural resources, ecology and biodiversity, forestry, and geology offer more sustained outdoor coursework. The University Farm, as well as outdoor organizations such as canoeing, crew, cycling, disc golf, paintball, shooting, rugby, sportsmen and ultimate ensure there’s always a way to get involved with others outdoors.
12. University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
Located 30 miles to the east of the Snowy Range Mountains and Medicine Bow National Forest, and 10 miles from Banforth National Wildlife Refuge, University of Wyoming is surrounded by federally protected land just waiting to be explored. Gems like Lost Lake offer crystal clear watering holes set amidst snowy peaks close to the clouds. The campus itself is interesting, centering around the rough cut sandstone of “old main” (currently home to the University’s administration), and Prexy’s Pasture, a large grassy area landscaped with Blue Spruce, Mugo Pine, and pathways.
Outdoor student organizations take full advantage of Laramie’s surrounding nature and include angling, climbing, equestrian, shooting sports, ranch horse team, nordic ski team, triathlon, ultimate, fly fishing, and alpine skiing. The outdoor program offers non-credit classes in rock climbing, fly fishing, kayaking, skiing, safety, and mountaneering, as well as partners with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) to broaden their array of courses.
11. Warren Wilson College, Asheville, NC
Warren Wilson is a small school on the edges of Asheville featuring a popular major known as “outdoor leadership.” Tha campus is in Swannanoa Valley with beautiful views of the mountains, and gives students plenty of reason to be outside, with a 275 acre working farm, market garden, and 625 acres of managed forest. The school is one of seven colleges in the work colleges consortium, a group of colleges requiring work from students for graduation. Outdoor related work sites include GIS lab, farm crew, forestry crew, garden crew, and the landscaping crew. In the region there are a wealth of outdoor opportunities as well, including the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway, hot springs, and tons of hiking, biking, climbing, and whitewater activities.
Outdoor clubs and sports include ultimate, rowing, archery, fencing, and mountain biking (for which the school is well known). The outdoor program provides a large variety of trips, activities, and skills workshops for students as well.
10. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CA
Cal Poly’s teaching philosophy is “learn by doing,” and that’s exactly what this university pushes as the largest land-holding public University in California. The Swanton Pacific Ranch is a 3,200 acre property located in Santa Cruz County, used for teaching and research of rangeland, livestock and forestry. The school also owns three other agricultural lands elsewhere, and has a scenic main campus with beautiful views from the top of Poly Canyon. For those seeking to explore more of California, San Luis Obispo is located 20 minutes away from the Pacific, as well as centrally located three hours away from both San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Outdoor student organizations are numerous and include beach volleyball, climbing, fishing, horticulture, marksmanship, sailing, surfing, ultimate, and the wildlife club. Poly escapes also offer 20 student led trips per quarter as well as equipment rentals for a variety of outdoor trips.
9. University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Of Berkeley’s 1,232 acre campus, only 178 acres house a majority of the buildings, while 800-acres are an undeveloped eco-preserve. With views across the bay to San Francisco, wonderfully mild weather, and a wealth of outdoor opportunities, it’s hard to stay indoors. Thousands of acres of parkland are available in a several mile radius of the campus, and across the bay you’ve got Point Reyes National Seashore, Mcnee Ranch State Park, and countless other opportunities for nearly everything save snow sports.
If you’re more into getting out in the name of hitting the books, a number of majors boast fieldwork, including anthropology and environmental studies. Or, there are over 1200 student organizations, including the outdoor options of dragon boat, the adventurer society, hang gliding, hiking running, archery, climbing, ski and snowboarding, disc golf, equestrian, gardening, longboarding, photowalk, quidditch, skateboarding, surfing, skydiving, and triathlon.
8. University of Hawaii, Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii
Ranking the best outdoor locations wouldn’t be complete without a Honolulu shoutout. For those who want access to dream vacation spots whenever, it turns out there’s a school for that. University of Hawaii Manoa backs up to the Waahila State Recreation Area, offering beautiful views of Honolulu from the ridges above. A few miles in the other direction lays nearly endless ocean access.
For more structured fun, recreational services offers a busy schedule of classes in everything from sailing to bodyboarding, to hiking. Student run outdoor organizations include cycling, ultimate, sand vollyball, surfing, cricket and rugby. And if you’re more into just staying on campus there are several relaxing parks there, including a Japanese Garden. It’s Hawaii, so it’s really hard to go wrong simply being outside.
7. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
While central New York may not seem like the most logical stop after Honolulu, Ithaca is a mere 30 minutes from Finger Lakes National Forest. The well defined seasons make for sporting year around, including hiking, climbing, whitewater sports, and winter sports at nearby ski locations. And in the region larger natural areas include the Catskills and Adirondack Mountains. Cornell’s campus consists of 745 acres high above Cayuga Lake. This means you have to get out and walk a bit, and the views are great.
Tons of outdoor coursework is offered at Cornell, for those who want an Ivy degree and to not be stuck in the library. The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station is home to programs in entomology, food science and tech, horticultural studies and plant pathology. A number of other majors also utilize the nearby wilderness and the campuses natural beauty as well.
6. UC Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
On Monterey Bay, and close to the Redwood filled Santa Cruz Mountains, UC Santa Cruz has immediate access to much of what makes Northern California naturally beautiful. For students wanting to go into marine biology or related research fields, Santa Cruz is the place to be, with a submarine canyon nearby, and large federal agencies like the United States Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Santa Cruz’s recreation department offers boating rentals, a large number of outings and classes, as well as a number of clubs. The university offers a full 5 levels of SCUBA certification, allowing students to work up to instructor status by the time they graduate.
5. University of Georgia, Athens, GA
America’s first state-grant based University is home to majestic Classical and Antebellum style buildings on its 759 well-manicured acres. Within a short drive of the Oconee National Forest, and with extension programs including the Marine Institute on Sapelo Island and the Coastal Plain Research Arobretum, there are a variety of ways to get outdoors from the University of Georgia.
Outdoor student organizations at UG include angling, equestrian, cycling, disc golf, ultimate, longboarding, rowing, running, sailing, skydiving, wakeboarding, whitewater sports, and rowing. Lake Herrick as well as Oconee Forest Park offer on campus opportunities to get out as well. As with most of Georgia, the weather’s great, and with a variety of well priced rental options the number of adventures to be had is endless.
4. University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL
UM’s campus spans 260 acres located south of Miami less than a mile from Biscayne Bay (which opens into the Atlantic), and includes the John C. Gifford Arboretum and botanical garden. A second campus on Virginia Key is home to the school of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and adjacent to the Miami Seaquarium. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory is located close to the campus as well, offering opportunities for earth science students from UM. A number of environmental and sustainability initiatives seek to protect the local environment, including dune protection efforts on its Virginia Key campus.
Nearby Biscayne Bay serves as an aquatic preserve, and attaches farther south to the Biscayne National Park, which covers a number of keys and reaches down to the Southern Glades. For the adventurous, the Everglades National Park cover 1.5 million South Florida acres, and are but a short drive away. For a slightly more tame time, Miami and great beaches are only a short drive north. A number of outdoor student organizations are also available at UM, including beach volleyball, the outdoor recreation program, equestrian, kite boarding, quidditch, climbing, running, sailing, SCUBA, triathlon, ultimate, and wakeboarding.
3. University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Almost all of Boulder is but a few minutes walk away from trail heads leading to the Flatirons (five large rock formations on the front range of the Rockies above Boulder). It’s a great town for running, biking, longboarding, or generally any type of outdoor activity. Perhaps thats partially why Boulder has topped the fittest town in the country list for the past 6 years. Boulder Creek runs through the center of town, providing ample inner tubing opportunities in the summer, or the chance to walk alongside the creek year around. Green space surround the city, offering a buffer to urban sprawl, and making most parts of Boulder scenic.
Plenty of sunshine and proximity to the Rockies make Boulder a great place for both summer and winter sports. Outdoor student organizations at University of Colorado are myriad, and include archery, a back-country club, beach volleyball, bocce ball, ski and snowboarding, sailing, running, climbing, ski racing, disc golf, extreme sports, shooting, skateboarding, skydiving, slacklining, and the telemark club. The number of national and state parks surrounding Boulder are too many to list, but include the Rocky Mountain National Park and the Arapahoe National Forest directly to the west, as well as lots of skiing and watersport destinations.
2. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
CSU has a beautiful with 583 acres in central Fort Collins, as well as a 1,438 Foothills campus, a 1,575 acre agricultural campus, and 4,043 acres in research stations and Colorado State Forest Service stations. Similarly to Boulder, Fort Collins is at the foot of the Rockies. In between the town and mountains (and adjacent to the Foothill Campus) lies Horsetooth Reservoir, six and a half miles of water that can be used for fishing, boating, swimming, skiing, and scuba diving.
Outdoor student organizations at CSU include airsoft, fishing, climbing, mountaneering, Nordic skiing, skydiving, snowboarding, English riding, jousting, logging sports, longboarding, mountain horse riding, the outdoor club, and the Heisenberg Society (trebuchet builders).
1. Stanford University, Stanford, CA
The Stanford campus offers a whopping 8,180 acres–60% of which is undeveloped–set in the middle of largely developed Palo Alto and Menlo Park. South of the campus a 1,200 acre natural reserve is owned by the University and used for wildlife research. Despite being in the middle of Silicon Valley, beautiful architecture and the woodsiness and rolling hills of the campus granted Stanford a spot on Travel+Leisure magazine’s most beautiful college campuses list. Off campus, the larger region holds even more outdoor opportunities, ranging from Redwoods several hours north, to rolling hills and the norcal coast to the west.
Stanford offers the second largest amount of outdoor student organizations of any school on our list, some of which include the outdoor education program, the Redwood outdoor club, the alpine club, kayaking, surfing, and windsurfing. If you want to explore with a class, both the hydrology and geology programs send students into the field across the region.