Whether you’re heading to college for the first time or returning for an advanced degree, it’s easier to stay sane if your school offers access to an abundance of outdoor activities. Check out these schools, whose campuses are close to some of the country’s best recreational opportunities.
APPALACHIAN STATE UNIVERSITY
It’s no coincidence that Appalachian State’s Division I sports teams are called the Mountaineers. Situated in the beautiful and romantic Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, its 1,300-acre campus is sandwiched between Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests, and is just a few hours from Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT
There’s more to Vermont than fall colors and maple syrup. This school in Burlington of fewer than 13,000 students is conveniently located on the banks of Lake Champlain, and provides easy access to both the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks. On breaks, hike Vermont’s 273-mile Long Trail, or—this stereotype is certainly true—click into your cross-country skis for a classic Nordic New England outing.
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO BOULDER
Chautauqua Park and the famous Flatirons are visible from the CU-Boulder campus—and vice-versa. Emma Walker
For climbers, Boulder’s hard to beat—you can see the famous Flatirons from nearly any point on campus, which is just minutes away from world-class cragging and multi-pitch routes in Eldorado Canyon. It’s not just for climbers, though: runners from across the country come here to train, and there’s no shortage of lungbuster hikes right out the door.
HUMBOLDT STATE UNIVERSITY
This northern California school of just under 9,000 is a water lover’s paradise. Study at itsoceanside marine lab take courses in swiftwater rescue, and participate in club sports like surfing and crew. (Not to worry, landlubbers: Humboldt offers more traditional outdoor sports, too.)
UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
Missoula, as the university’s mascot indicates, is in the heart of grizzly country, but don’t let that stop you from exploring this picture-perfect western Montana town. Take your pick: campus is minutes from hiking, paddling, backcountry skiing, and climbing, all less than three hours from Glacier National Park. Don’t forget the bear spray.
WESTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
Western Washington is a few hours' drive from the most glaciated peaks in the continental U.S. Emma Walker
Fair warning: With a campus in Bellingham and overlooking Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands, it’ll be tough not to get distracted from your studies. It’s less than 100 miles to Seattle, and closer still to Vancouver, BC—and, perhaps best of all, less than an hour’s drive from 10,778-foot Mount Baker.
SEWANEE, THE UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH
Sewanee’s campus is affectionately called “The Mountain,” and it’s no exaggeration. The 13,000-acre property atop the Cumberland Plateau is home to over 50 miles of trail. Students, faculty, and alum can camp here, and when you’re ready for a change of scenery, it’s just an hour to the outdoor mecca of Chattanooga.
Thanks to its mild climate, most days in San Luis Obispoare prime for recreating. This is good news, because students and faculty get around Cal Poly’s nearly-10,000-acre campus by bike. Between classes, hike one of the Nine Sisters (six are open to the public) or visit one of two stunning nearby California state parks.
Welcome to the Ivy League: Cornell’s outdoor recreation program is world class. Freshmen can register for pre-orientation trips like bikepacking the Finger Lakes or canoeing in the Adirondacks. The fun doesn’t end when classes start. When you need a study break, practice tai chi, outdoor yoga, or sea kayaking with the outdoor education program.
ALASKA PACIFIC UNIVERSITY
The APU campus is just minutes from Chugach State Park. Emma Walker
The campus of this tiny liberal arts school may be in Alaska’s biggest town, Anchorage, but rest assured: students of the Outdoor Studies program—one of the best in the country—won’t spend much time there. Earn credits toward this degree with classes like intro to dog mushing, expedition mountaineering, and intro to search and rescue, and spend your breaks exploring the wild Chugach Range.
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON
Devils Lake- the toughest crag you've never heard of- is less than an hour from Madison. Emma Walker
Madison is home to over 200 miles of biking and hiking trails, and that’s just within city limits. Explore lakes Monona and Mendota from the waterfront campus, or head out of town to backpack a segment or two of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, swim and paddle at Devils Lake, or, in winter, ice climb at nearby Governor Dodge State Park.
Talk about prime location: Salt Lake City is a stone’s throw from climbing, cycling, mountain biking, and hiking, and it shares a state with five incredible national parks—not to mention seven ski resorts and a lifetime’s worth of backcountry skiing. Bonus for the environmentally conscious: Westminster is the first college in Utah to use on-site solar power.
FORT LEWIS COLLEGE
Durango is the western terminus of the 486-mile Colorado Trail—and a stop on the Continental Divide Trail—but there’s plenty of reason to stick around town, too. Play hooky by paddling the Animas River or biking or hiking the trail along it, skiing at Purgatory, and hiking the gorgeous San Juans.
COLLEGE OF THE ATLANTIC
This campus in Bar Harbor, Maine, is steps away from Acadia National Park. It’s one of sixEco League schools—liberal arts colleges committed to environmental stewardship and social change—and has made its mark as the first school to go completely carbon-neutral. Even better news: Through the student exchange program, EcoLeague students can spend a semester at any of these spectacular schools.
Whether you’re enrolled in the adventure education program or, like many Prescott students, designing your own curriculum, you’ll spend plenty of time outside. Spend breaks trad climbing on Granite Mountain, then get back to your studies—collecting snow science data for the Forest Service, perhaps, or learning to guide an oar boat down theGrand Canyon.
Originally written by RootsRated for Superfeet.