There is no better feeling than being surrounded by nature. Whether it’s hiking in the mountains, kayaking in the boundary waters, or just camping at the nearest state or national park, there is just something about getting away from the hustled and bustle of the city. For students hoping to incorporate their love of the outdoors into their college experience, these six colleges offer the perfect balance of academic excellence and outdoor recreation opportunities.
1. Middlebury College – Middlebury, VT
Nestled between the Green Mountains and Adirondack Park, Middlebury College is a small, liberal arts institution with just over 2,500 students. With such close proximity to some of the best natural playgrounds in the nation, It’s not surprising that Middleburg College students take full advantage. Through the Middlebury Outdoor Programming, MOP, students are able to get up close and personal with Mother Nature. MOP offers outdoor skills classes like rock or ice climbing, kayaking, winter camping, wilderness first aid and first responder, and many many more.
Incoming students also take part in FOO! Otherwise known as February Outdoor Orientation, a program that allows incoming students to get to know each other and the area surrounding campus on overnight ski and snowshoe trips.
2. Warren Wilson College – Asheville, NC
Asheville, North Carolina is a picturesque town in the middle of the western Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s home to boutiques, delicious restaurants, and Warren-Wilson College, a small school of just under 1,000 students with a passion for the outdoors. Students at Warren-Wilson take full advantage of their school’s location with plenty of outdoor recreation programming including overnight trips, day hikes, and hands-on skills classes allowing them to use the Blue Ridge Mountains to their fullest.
But, it isn’t just the extracurricular activities that draw students to WWC. The college also has an impressive Environmental Science department that offers specialization in conservation, environmental chemistry, education and policy, sustainable forestry or agriculture, or the option to create your own concentration with your advisor.
If the science of nature doesn’t float your boat but you still want to major in the great outdoors, the Outdoor Leadership department might be your home. Students in the Outdoor Leadership program learn technical skills in hands-on coursework, teaching, service and research skills, and the history, philosophy, and science behind being a leader.
3. Montana State University – Bozeman, MT
With over 15,000 students, Montana State University is the largest school in the state. Students have access to over 200 academic programs, and a plethora of on-campus activities ranging from clubs for different majors, to intramural sports and Greek life, there is something for everyone.
And if the great outdoors are your favorite playground, Montana’s amazing scenery has got you covered. The MSU Outdoor Recreation Center is the perfect place to start on campus. Students can take part in freshman orientation trips, overnights in Yellowstone National Park, whitewater rafting, winter camping, and much much more. The center also offers ice climbing, avalanche, and water rescue training as well as bike and ski repair workshops.
If a trip planned by the college doesn’t suit your style and you’d rather create your own adventure, check out the adventure planning resources offered. Students can get help planning their trips through maps, guides, and helpful staff at the center. You’re even able to rent the necessary equipment for your trip so you don’t have to buy something you’re missing from your adventure equipment.
4. Prescott College – Prescott, AZ
At just under 900 total students, Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona is one of the smallest colleges on this list. But, this small school in Arizona has some seriously big opportunities for students who want to get in touch with the outdoors and they don’t make you wait for them. Students at Prescott are able to attend a 21-day orientation course with nine other students and two instructors in the mountains of Arizona. During wilderness orientation, they not only get to know their future classmates, but they also get introduced to the hands-on, non-traditional learning style that Prescott College values.
Opportunities to learn outdoors don’t stop at orientation. Prescott offers multiple field locations that allow students to complete research in the environments they are studying. Students are able to spend a block or semester at a field location giving them both ample opportunity to be outdoors and also some valuable hands-on experience that looks great on a resume.
Prescott’s main location also gives students a load of opportunities to get outside. Located near some of Arizona’s most beautiful hiking trails, lakes, and mountains, students can often be found enjoying the Arizona sun in the areas around campus. On the rare occasion that the sun isn’t out, each student can use their access to the Prescott YMCA to get in their exercise. The facility offers top-notch equipment as well as a climbing wall and Olympic size swimming pool.
5. Saint John’s College – Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe, New Mexico is by far one of the most beautiful and well-known cities in the American southwest. It is home to countless amazing restaurants, fabulous museums, and one of the two Saint John’s College campuses.
Students at the Santa Fe campus are able to take full advantage of the amazing outdoor opportunities that New Mexico has to offer through the colleges Outdoor Programming (OP). OP allows students–nicknamed Johnnies–to take both day trips and overnight trips to hike, camp, raft, and ski throughout northern New Mexico and the surrounding states. Previous trips have included rafting on the Rio Grande, hiking in Utah, and skiing in the mountains near Santa Fe. And no worries if your adventure equipment is missing a few pieces, all equipment is provided or rentable through the college. For Johnnies, these trips offer a great hands-on education as well as an opportunity to bond with their fellow students.
For Johnnies looking to learn more about survival skills or just get better at their favorite outdoor activities, SJC offers skills classes ranging from rock climbing, to search and rescue training. And don’t worry about getting around campus if you’re not bringing a car with you, the OP also offers a bike loan program.
6. Evergreen State College – Olympia, WA
Washington state is known for its expansive forests, majestic mountains, and beautiful coastline. The state is home to countless professional adventurers and survivalists and with countless national and state parks, and outdoor recreation areas, it is easy to understand why. Students at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington have an all-access pass to outdoor recreation, but they don’t have to travel far to get it.
The ESC campus is located in the middle of 1,000 acres of forest filled with hiking trails and a 3,000ft stretch of untouched beach on the Puget Sound.
Interested in one of these fun and outdoorsy schools? Use our college match tool to see if any of them show up on your list!