Hidden Gem Colleges in the Rocky Mountains | 2023 Rankings

Top rocky mountain hidden gems badge.The Rocky Mountain Range spans over 3,000 miles from New Mexico to northern British Columbia in Canada. There are a lot of colleges in the Rocky Mountain area that are as mighty as the peaks themselves. However, some of those colleges aren’t household names yet. We wanted to highlight some amazing colleges in the Rockies.

If exploring national parks and the beautiful outdoors is your favorite pastime, this is the Hidden Gems list for you.

To qualify as a Hidden Gem, a school must meet the following requirements:

  • Receive fewer than 5,000 applications per year
  • Have fewer than 7,000 undergraduate students
  • Offer 5 or more unique majors
  • Have a 10% acceptance rate or higher

States included in the Rocky Mountain region are as follows: Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming.

*Note: We feature the top 3 Hidden Gems per state, however not all states had 3 schools that met all of our criteria, and so may only feature one or two.

Hidden Gems in the Rocky Mountains


Competing in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, crimson and slate are the colors of Western Colorado University. 83% of students receive institutional financial aid to help cover costs. Alumni of WCU have gone onto careers in athletics, politics, entertainment, and academics. Popular majors are Business Administration and Management, Biology/Biological Sciences, and Psychology.
Location Gunnison, CO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,203
Colorado State University Pueblo has an incredible acceptance rate of about 99%! The Thunderwolves are members of the NCAA Division II and compete in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. There are over 30 different undergraduate programs to choose from. The top three majors are Registered Nursing, Business and Commerce, and Sociology.
Location Pueblo, CO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 5,925
Nestled in the Colorado mountains is Fort Lewis College. With plenty of majors to choose from, there is something for everyone; however, their most popular majors include Business, Psychology, and Biology. Fort Lewis keeps campus intimate with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1.
Location Durango, CO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,567


The College of Idaho is the oldest private liberal arts college in Idaho and graduates have gone into impressive careers in business, politics, law, and sports. The acceptance rate is just below 49% and they do not charge students to apply. All students also receive institutional grants from the school.
Location Caldwell, ID
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,114
Also offering free applications and institutional grants to every student, Northwest Nazarene University has a 77% acceptance rate, 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and 79% first year retention rate. NNU has over 60 majors available to undergraduates; many who study Registered Nursing, Business Administration and Management, and Christian Studies.
Location Nampa, ID
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,109
Although it was founded in 1893, Lewis-Clark State College would not get its current name until 1955. Located along the Idaho and Washington border, by the Clearwater River, the school has graduated a number of Major League Baseball players, including Brendan Ryan, Carlos Fisher, Jason Ellison, and Vic Darensbourg. The school accepts 100% of applicants.
Location Lewiston, ID
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,856


Though the school seal features two lions, Carroll College’s mascot is actually a St. Bernard named Halo. Undergraduates do not have to pay application fees, and all students receive financial aid from the college. The campus is located near Mt. Helena. Registered Nursing is the most popular major, followed by Health Services and Biology.
Location Helena, MT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,108
Montana Technological University’s motto of “De Re Metallica” (“Of the metals”) pays homage to the school’s original name - the Montana School of Mines. In fact, the school’s seal features mining tools as well. Many students will major in Engineering, followed by Registered Nursing, Mechanical Engineering, and Occupational Health and Industrial Hygiene.
Location Butte, MT
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,650
The Bulldogs of University of Montana - Western wear red, white, and black to support their school. Home to a wide range of varsity sports, the school also hosts KDWG, a radio station that serves Dillon. Many students will major in Business Administration and Management, Elementary Education, and Early Childhood Education.
Location Dillon, MT
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,334


Westminster College, sitting in the heart of Salt Lake City, has students coming from all over the country to attend. Only 43% of students are actually from Utah – many are from nearby Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and California. With a fantastic student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1, all those attending receive financial aid from Westminster.
Location Salt Lake City, UT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,849


The University of Wyoming is one of the rare schools that features a live animal mascot - a horse named Cowboy Joe. Another mascot, Pistol Pete, is played by a student in costume. Brown and gold are the official school colors. Also known as UW, the university is a land-grant, space-grant, and public flagship school.
Location Laramie, WY
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 11,829

*Note: While Wyoming did not have any colleges that qualified under our Hidden Gems criteria this year, we included the closest match. In the spirit of Hidden Gems, we feel it’s important to include schools from all states, so students and families know about the opportunities around them.

Interested in any of these schools? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to see if they’re a good fit for you!


Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology.