Below you will find a list of the 50 most affordable colleges that are ideal for students who have a passion for outdoor living.
The sources used in compiling this list include a number of articles about both the top schools for outdoor enthusiasts and the best cities for people who love nature and have active lifestyles.
Initially, a long list of hundreds of schools was compiled based on 1) colleges located in or around top-rated cities and 2) schools that have stellar academic and recreation programs for outdoor sports and adventures, which could include anything from a major in Outdoor Recreation to a tournament-winning rock climbing team. The list was then pared down by selecting only those that had below-average tuition rates, based on the average tuition for public schools (both in-state and out-of-state) and private schools. At the end, only 50 schools remained. You can read information about the amazing opportunities that the campus offers, the benefits of living in the city, and the money-saving price tags.
Bay State College
Bay State is a great opportunity for students who want to access all the resources of Boston and the surrounding area without breaking the bank. Boston has been rated one of the best cities for the outdoors, with nearly 20% of the city dedicated to parkland and sunny skies nearly 60% of the year. Students also appreciate the small class sizes, individual attention from professors, and updated facilities.
Granite State College
Concord, New Hampshire
Granite State College is located in the perfect place for students who just can’t seem to get enough nature. The surrounding area offers great opportunities for rock and mountain climbing, ice climbing, and kayaking. Students can also relax along the many miles of trail winding their way through the protected land in the Mountain Washington Valley. And with tuition rates that are less than $8,000 for both in-state and out-of-state students, the school offers a great deal to anyone hoping to call Concord home.
Tuition: $7,065 (In-state) $7,545 (Out-of-state)
Burlington is a great city for nature lovers and active types. It has been rated the healthiest town in America, thanks to all the exercise and sunshine its residents get. The city is just moments away from the Adirondacks and Green Mountains, which will especially delight hikers and mountain bikers. The city’s population is also very environmentally aware and works hard to keep the outdoors clean. Although the campus is too small for a large number of organizations and campus clubs, the school offers the “Campus Burlington” initiative, which helps students engage with the community through activities like pickup soccer games, skiing, and volunteering.
University of Southern Maine
Portland, Maine is a beautiful city right on the coast, which makes it one of the best places for water sports, such as sea kayaking, in the Eastern U.S. There are also over 100 miles of nature trails in the area and numerous places to eat – in fact, it was named the “foodiest” small town in America! Students can major in ecology, environmental planning and policy, environmental science, exercise science, recreation and leisure studies, or tourism and hospitality – all majors particularly suited to those hoping to stay active and outdoors through their careers.
Tuition: $8,920 (In-state) $21,280 (Out-of-state)
Southern Vermont College
Southern Vermont College, located right near the border of Vermont and Massachusetts, is surrounded by numerous state parks, reservations, and lush forests. At Southern Vermont, students can join the ski and snowboarding club, the rugby club, or sign up to hear about Mountaineer events. The college is a great choice for students on a budget, with tuition that is less than many of the surrounding schools’, and over $8,000 less than the national average.
Johnson State College
The small town of Johnson, Vermont is set in a lush landscape of rolling hills and towering mountains, and is just a short drive from lakes, the city of Burlington, and the Canadian border. Students can join the cross country ski club or the snowboarding and ski club, or join “Green Solutions,” which advocates for environmentally friendly solutions to community issues. All students have access to an incredible recreation facility as well, and can sign up for everything from soccer games to snowshoeing, and can even get their scuba certification.
Most outdoor enthusiasts resign themselves to the fact that sports and nature activities will have to take place apart from academics, but Garrett College has changed that. Students here can actually major in Adventure Sports and are prepared to take on careers in the hospitality industry helping others to enjoy athletics. Students take classes on whitewater rafting, snowboarding, and kayaking, and find many more outdoorsy opportunities at the Adventure Sports Center International.
Tuition: $3,360 (In-district) $6,776 (In-state) $7,868 (Out-of-state)
Salem State University
Salem State is just a short drive up the coast from the urban center of Boston and is ideally situated between the Atlantic Ocean and miles of forests and nature trails. Outdoor lovers will appreciate majors like cartography and geographic information systems, fire science administration, and sport and movement science. Students can also relax on campus while training for Ultimate Frisbee competitions or join the scuba club and take dives on the weekend. The university has about average in-state tuition, but is an impressive deal for out-of-state students.
Tuition: $8,130 (In-state) $14,270 (Out-of-state)
University of North Florida
Jacksonville is an amazing place to live for students who want to spend most of their time in the outdoors. Nearly 20% of the city’s land is dedicated to parks, sunshine dominates the sky over 60% of the time, and the weather is perfect – warm and not too rainy. The school boasts an Environmental Center where students can support research and get involved in extracurricular activities to protect the environment, such as “Garbage on the Green” or “RecycleMania.” Students can also check out Eco-Adventure and the Wildlife Sanctuary, which encourages awareness about the natural world and includes running trails, bird watching, workshops, and ranger-guided field trips. Students also love the Osprey Challenge Course, which includes zip lines and rope courses.
Tuition: $6,353 (In-state) $20,756 (Out-of-state)
University of South Florida
Tampa is ranked just behind Jacksonville as a great city for the outdoors, with sunshine, clean air, and very few days of the year that ever get below freezing. At USF, students can major in Environmental Science and Policy Management, Athletic Training, Environmental Biology, Marine Biology, Physical Education, or other majors that hold unique appeal for outdoor enthusiasts with an active lifestyle. Water and fish lovers can join the Aquarist Club, science nerds can join the Biology Club, animal lovers can ride horses through the Equestrian Club, and health nuts can find others to work out with through the Fit Club.
Tuition: $6,410 (In-state) $17,324 (Out-of-state)
The University of Tampa
University of Tampa stands along the Hillsborough River on the West Central Florida coast. Beyond the obvious fun-in-the-sun beach time, students can access outdoor recreation like camping, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, deep-sea fishing and much more. The University sponsors a crew team and hosts an annual Spring Regatta that draws competitors and visitors from around the country. The school also provides creative learning opportunities that take advantage of the natural habitat of the bay and the river, making this a great choice for the student who appreciates the great outdoors.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
There is so much to see and do along the coast of Virginia. Regent students who want to get out-of-doors and clear their heads have endless opportunities in this low land area. The local swamps and rivers offer the nature enthusiast hours of exploration and water-sport activities along with camping, fishing, and hiking. The coast is famous for outdoor festivals and trade fairs that showcase a variety of interests and local artisanal product. Regent offers an affordable private education in a setting that beckons you to explore.
At Barry, active and sunshine-loving students can major in areas like athletic training, marine biology, environmental chemistry, sports management, and other subjects ideally suited for fit students who love the great outdoors. Students can join the archery club, aid in a reef cleanup, or help rebuild homes over spring break. Students can also take free wellness and fitness classes, sometimes for credit as a part of the Instructional Activities in Sports and Recreation program. The school also offers numerous chances to get outside through intramural teams like flag football and kickball.
Georgia State University
Students at Georgia State who love the outdoors and exercise can major in environmental science, exercise science, health and physical education, or nutrition, among other subjects. Students can soak up the beautiful Atlanta sunshine by playing in the annual golf tournament, can get their bikes fixed at the on-campus shop, can try out the bouldering cave or get certified in rock climbing, and can test their skills on the aptly named “Challenge” outdoor ropes course. The school also offers trips all over the region that give students the chance to try new adventure sports, go backpacking, try their hand at whitewater rafting, and more.
Tuition: $8,368 (In-state) $22,936 (Out-of-state)
University of North Carolina – Asheville
Asheville, North Carolina
Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, UNC Asheville is a great college for those who want to take in the scenery and get a whiff of that fresh mountain air. It’s been rated one of the best spots for mountain biking enthusiasts, and students will find many miles of trails just minutes from campus. The school offers a variety of unique orientation options for incoming students, including a few outdoor exploration programs – one of which focuses on sustainability efforts in the area.
Tuition: $6,241 (In-state) $20,063 (Out-of-state)
Warren Wilson College
Swannanoa, North Carolina
Warren Wilson, located on the outskirts of Asheville in the Blue Ridge Mountains, has a unique and popular major called “Outdoor Leadership.” The goal is to prepare students to facilitate and lead outdoor adventure-education programs. The school also has club sports in rowing and archery and a varsity mountain biking team. And that’s not all – recreation programs include caving, rafting, canoeing, snowboarding, skiing, kayaking, orienteering, and winter camping. Students can also take a Wilderness First Responder class that will earn them both certification and academic credit.
Sullivan University is Kentucky’s largest private university situated in Louisville. Students who enjoy outdoor activities have plenty to choose from in this scenic hill country beside the Ohio River. Those interested in the local plants can explore the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest or The Louisville Nature Center, which features gardens, wildlife exhibits, and hiking through Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve. Water sports are also popular past-times. The picturesque locale boasts four seasons with endless opportunities for students to explore while pursuing a very affordable education.
University of Memphis
The University of Memphis is located about five miles from southeast downtown. Students who care about the environment will appreciate the school’s emphasis on sustainable energy and respect that the tree-lined, park-like campus is recognized for many Green campus initiatives. Memphis offers students many outdoor attractions like Mud Island River Park, the Zoo, and the Botanical Gardens, and of course you cannot ignore the endless hours of boating, hiking, fishing and swimming on and around the mighty Mississippi River.
Tuition: $8,312 (In-state) $23,024 (Out-of-state)
Belmont University is located in beautiful Nashville, Tennessee. Sited as a “school to watch,” Belmont cares about its relationship with the community. The school invested in a community sports park for basketball, baseball, soccer and track. It also sponsors a variety of club activities that will appeal to outdoor enthusiasts like Bruin Skydive, Ultimate Frisbee, and the Rock Outing Club, as well as equestrian, swim, soccer and tennis clubs. Belmont is ideally situated in the rolling hills of central Tennessee, making it a great choice for the student who seeks a solid education and outdoor adventures.
Tennessee State University
Nashville is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts to relocate, with moderate temperatures and clean air. The city is located on the banks of the Cumberland River and is amidst a background of rolling hills. Tennessee State has a large Wellness and Recreation Center where students can take classes from kickboxing to dance, and there is a large number of athletic teams and intramural clubs for outdoor lovers to consider. And for the academic-minded students, the extensive agriculture and environmental sciences program offers them a chance to get out in the sun and study their concentrations at either the Ashland City Agricultural Research and Extension Center or Otis L. Floyd Nursery Research Center.
Tuition: $6,498 (In-state) $19,218 (Out-of-state)
Brevard, North Carolina
Students are often attracted to Brevard’s campus because of its location near the entrance to both the Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Forest. Students can easily find their way to camp grounds and waterfalls, and nearby locations are often recognized as filming spots for The Hunger Games. The school advocate’s a “sports culture” that includes a professional cycling team and a climbing team that has made it to national competitions. There’s also an entire Outdoor Adventures program that whisks students away on hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, road cycling, paddling, fly fishing, and rock climbing trips.
Appalachian State University
Boone, North Carolina
Boone, North Carolina attracts visitors from near and far who want to explore the wonders of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Appalachian State takes full advantage of its scenic surroundings by offering numerous outdoor programs, including skiing and snowboarding events, a wilderness orientation program, and an outdoor challenge course. Students can also try their hand at the climbing wall, rent camping and backpacking gear (including sea kayaks!), and get certified in climber’s first aid. There’s also an Instructor Development Program for students who aspire to careers in outdoor recreation and education, and the school even offers scholarships to students who can’t afford the cost of participating in outdoor adventures.
Tuition: $6,462 (In-state) $18,670 (Out-of-state)
North Central University
Minneapolis is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts, and water lovers especially, as the city has twenty lakes and wetlands, numerous creeks and waterfalls, and lies along the banks of the Mississippi River. Students at North Central can join numerous intramural sports teams, take exercise classes at the updated fitness center, and go on outdoor adventures that range from short day excursions to multi-day journeys. The school’s less-than-$20,000 tuition makes it not just below average in terms of price for private schools, but puts it safely in the “bargain” category.
Oklahoma State University – Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Life in Oklahoma City is great for the outdoorsman. The city is situated amidst dense woodlands, heavily populated with stately oak trees, and is surrounded by the gorgeous Sandstone Hills. It is bisected by the North Canadian River, and residents can even take water taxis through the city! Students at OSU can join organizations to study landscaping, wind energy, or environmental awareness, and can major in a diverse range of subjects. The large agricultural technologies department is especially popular with outdoor enthusiasts, who enjoy taking classes in horticulture, turf management, and veterinary science. And students with an affinity for extreme sports can migrate to the area surrounding the Stillwater campus to take full advantage of multiple motocross parks.
Tuition: $2,661 (In-state) $7,224 (Out-of-state)
University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
Milwaukee is great for a lot of reasons, and hunting and fishing are two of those reasons. Wisconsin has more water than all but two other states, which is great news for fishermen, and is also heavily populated with deer. UW’s Milwaukee campus is located right near the shore of Lake Michigan, which is great not just for fishing but also boating and camping. The school even has a special Outdoor Pursuits Center that helps students sign up for outdoor trips and clinics and rent gear.
Tuition: $9,300 (In-state) $19,029 (Out-of-state)
Black Hills State University
Spearfish, South Dakota
Spearfish, South Dakota has been named one of the United States’ “best adventure towns,” and so Black Hills State was an obvious choice for this list. The school is about an hour from Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Devils Tower, and the Badlands, and is just a short distance away from Spearfish Canyon. As such, students can enjoy adventure sports like hiking, biking, skiing, and rock climbing, can unwind on a fishing trip, or can simply take in the sights. Active students can also join in charity kickball tournaments, compete in an archery tournament, or develop their skills on the rodeo team!
Tuition: $7,617 (In-state) $9,617 (Out-of-state)
Northern Michigan University
Although students at Northern Michigan will have to brave cold winters, they will also enjoy all the outdoor delights that being around a port of Lake Superior provides. The school is nearby many small islands, is located near Marquette Mountain (a popular skiing destination), and is just down the way from the Marquette Underwater Preserve. The university sponsors trips to hike local waterfalls, mountain bike through parts of the Keweenaw Peninsula, and white water raft down the Menominee River. Students can also sign up for workshops in rock climbing, backpacking, camping, paddle sports, snow sports, and more.
Tuition: $9,037 (In-state) $14,113 (Out-of-state)
Grand Canyon University
Phoenix, Arizona, is considered one of the best cities for outdoor enthusiasts, with numerous parks in the city and only an average of fifteen days of the year where the temperature dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. There are many opportunities for active students, and Grand Canyon University even sports a beach volleyball team! The 55,000 sq. ft. recreation center rivals those at many larger universities, and organizations include Scuba Lopes, where students can get scuba certified, and Spikeball Club, which allows students another excuse to engage in outdoor competition.
Texas Health and Science University
Texas Health and Science University is ideal for outdoor activity because of its location in Austin. The city is located right on the Colorado River, is near three manmade lakes, and is just a day away from the Gulf of Mexico. Anyone who loves water sports, fishing, or other boating activities will find themselves in heaven at this university. This is especially true since its education comes at a much cheaper price than other nearby schools, such as the University of Texas – Austin.
The University of Texas at San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas is the perfect place for students who love the outdoors and can withstand the heat (those who prefer the snow or cool breezes should look elsewhere). At UT San Antonio can join intramural teams and play a variety of club sports, including climbing, cycling, paintball, triathlon training, and even quidditch! The school sports a large swimming pool, outdoor basketball courts, and sand volleyball courts. Outdoor pursuits include caving, canoeing, whitewater kayaking, and hiking trips. Students can take workshops in boating or biking, get belay certified, or even participate in the “Climbapalooza” rock climbing festival competition.
Tuition: $7,457 (In-state) $16,031 (Out-of-state)
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff is a gorgeous city surrounded by geographic wonders like the Colorado Plateau, the San Francisco Peaks, and the Kachina Peaks Wilderness. Northern Arizona offers a long list of sports and club teams, and there are over 200 student organizations. Organizations include the Action Group for Water Advocacy, the Climbing Club, the Cycling Club, the Exercise Science Club, the Forestry Club, and the Hiking Club. NAU Outdoors makes good use of the surrounding environment by hosting river rafting trips, kayaking adventures, and hiking excursions to the best sites in Northern Arizona. Students can also get certified as a Wilderness First Responder, rent equipment, or push themselves to new limits on the Challenge Course.
Tuition: $9,738 (In-state) $22,093 (Out-of-state)
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico
The University of New Mexico is located in Albuquerque, a thriving city positioned in the upper part of the Chihuahuan Desert and is fortunate to have the Arizona-New Mexico Mountains as a breathtaking backdrop. Students at the university can sign up for intramural sports like golf, archery, grass volleyball, or even corn toss. The school also has a multi-element ropes course and an outdoor/bike shop where students can rent recreational and camping equipment and skateboarding accessories. Students can also work at the shop to build their skills and learn more about working in recreation.
Tuition: $6,846 (In-state) $20,688 (Out-of-state)
San Francisco State University
San Francisco, California
There’s a reason that Northern California attracts outdoor enthusiasts from far and wide. San Francisco in particular has been rated one of the best, if not the best, city for outdoor lovers. About 20% of its land is dedicated to parks and residents will hardly ever see the temperature go above 90 or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Although there are a lot of great schools in the area, San Francisco State is perhaps the most affordable, with great rates for both California residents and out-of-staters. Students at SFS can join multiple intramural or athletic sports teams such as rugby, triathlon and cycling, water polo, and other unique clubs – including dragon boat! There are also special trips to go kayaking and participate in other adventures, and the school goes out of its way to make sure events are accessible to students with disabilities.
Tuition: $6,450 (In-state) $17,610 (Out-of-state)
San Diego State University
San Diego, California
San Diego is rated just behind San Francisco as one of the best places to live to experience all the great outdoors has to offer. It has more parkland than just about any other city and the sky is full of sunshine nearly 70% of the time. At San Diego State there are multiple degree programs that focus on the environment and sustainability, and students can also major in areas like recreation, recreation administration, kinesiology, and nutrition. The school also boasts an impressive Aztec Adventure Center that organizes multiple outings for backpacking, camping, hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, and white water rafting. Students can also take road trips to national parks or enroll in wilderness first aid training.
Tuition: $6,766 (In-state) $17,926 (Out-of-state)
San Jose State University
San Jose, California
Campus life at San Jose State University is like heaven for outdoor enthusiasts. Adventuring is a common activity for Spartans, who backpack up Yosemite, learn to surf in Santa Cruz, and explore trails in multiple state parks. Students can rent all the equipment they need for sports and activities through the recreation center, and can join any number of teams to stay fit and active, including flag football and outdoor soccer. San Jose is a beautiful city with more sunshine than almost any other city, and students can tap into all its potential for below-average tuition across the board.
Tuition: $7,343 (In-state) $18,503 (Out-of-state)
University of Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nevada
Although most people think of gambling and Elvis impersonators when they think of Las Vegas, behind all the glitz and glamour is a pristine desert environment, complete with dry mountains, vegetation, and wildlife. Students at ULV can play unique sports like wallyball, ultimate Frisbee, inner tube water polo, or a baseball-like game called “Over the Line.” The university offers water sports and camping equipment, snow and climbing equipment, and coolers, all available for rental through the recreation center. There’s a National Fitness and Recreation Day every February, and ambitious students can even get certified as fitness instructors.
Tuition: $6,690 (In-state) $20,600 (Out-of-state)
Western Washington University
Situated on Bellingham Bay, Western Washington is an outdoorsman’s dream – especially those interested in kayaking. Students will have easy access to the San Juan Islands, where they will find killer whales, porpoises, hidden beaches, and tranquil bays. Outdoor lovers will also enjoy taking advantage of the numerous camping spots in the area. The school also offers climbing classes and sports clubs like cycling, sailing, and water skiing.
Tuition: $8,863 (In-state) $19,752 (Out-of-state)
University of Colorado – Denver
Denver is often considered one of the best places to live for outdoorsmen and women, with moderate temperatures; ample sunshine, and clean, dry air. Students at UC Denver can choose from over 130 majors, including nature-friendly majors like environmental science and sustainability. The school offers numerous opportunities for recreation both on- and off-campus, including outdoor adventure programs like canyoneering, hiking, rock climbing, ice climbing, avalanche forecasting, mountaineering, skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking, and canoeing. Students who prefer to stay on campus can join a sports team, intramural club, or work with a personal trainer. Incoming freshmen are often excited to take part in SWOOP, a Summer Wilderness Outdoor Orientation Program designed to help students build confidence and leadership skills in an outdoor environment.
Tuition: $7,933 (In-state) $22,057 (Out-of-state)
California State University – Stanislaus
CSU Stanislaus is one of the closest – and best – universities to Yosemite, making it a dream for rock climbers. Students can drive to the area in less than two hours, and there are a ton of climbing centers closer to campus that you can use for practice. Not only that, but Santa Cruz Beach is only a few hours away as well, which is great for outdoor enthusiasts who want to soak up the sun, surf, or partake in other water sports.
Tuition: $6,491 (In-state) $17,651 (Out-of-state)
Portland State University
Portland is well known for its appeal to outdoor adventurers, as it’s ideally situated near the confluence of two rivers, is about an hour and a half east of the Pacific Ocean, and is nestled right at the foot of the Tualatin Mountains. Portland State is one of the less expensive schools in the area, but does not skimp on recreational activities. Outdoor adventure programs include rock climbing, canoeing, backpacking, rafting, sea kayaking, camping, and hiking trips. Students can take training courses in first aid, rock climbing, mountaineering, life guarding, or personal training, or can bond with other outdoor lovers through the bouldering, cycling, dragon boating, water polo, and even a “Running around Portland” clubs.
Tuition: $7,878 (In-state) $23,088 (Out-of-state)
Oregon Health and Science University
Oregon Health and Science University, as the name suggests, is a school primarily dedicated to teaching health and science disciplines. Thus, it is ideally suited for outdoor enthusiasts who are committed to not only living a healthy lifestyle, but encouraging others to do so as well. Students enjoy the March Wellness Program, which advocates for active living, and a Bicycle Commuter Program that is based in a focus on both fitness and sustainability. The university also offers a range of intramural sports, including soccer, basketball, and volleyball, as well as “student interest groups” like cycling, sports medicine, swimming, and wilderness medicine.
Tuition: $12,132 (In-state) $22,212 (Out-of-state)
University of Hawaii at Hilo
Hawaii is an obvious choice for outdoor enthusiasts who are looking to relocate for school. Extreme sports lovers especially will get a kick out of this locale, as they can take advantage of numerous surfing spots, rock climbing, zip-lining, hiking, snorkeling, scuba diving, mountain biking, windsurfing, and more. Students at Hilo can major in aquaculture, coastal resources and watershed management, tropical horticulture, tropical conservation biology, and other unique programs that take advantage of the surrounding landscape. The college also offers certifications in scuba, lifeguarding, and wilderness and remote first aid, and students who stick around over the summer can get involved in the exciting Outdoor EdVenture Program.
Tuition: $6,536 (In-state) $18,296 (Out-of-state)
Montana State University
Located in the picturesque Bozeman, Montana, Montana State University is the perfect setting for uncovering outdoor adventures. The city is surrounded by two separate national forests and is just a short distance from Yellowstone National Park. The area is also known for its beautiful wildflower population, making it ideal for hikes, picnics, and general nature appreciation. Students can join sports clubs like “FitPit,” horseback riding, logging, mountain biking, cycling, running, ski racing, triathlon training, or mountaineering. Outdoor lovers will also find likeminded individuals in the Montana Wilderness Association and the Student Subunit of the American Fisheries Society.
Tuition: $6,752 (In-state) $20,717 (Out-of-state)
California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo, California
Easygoing and laid back outdoor enthusiasts will love the relaxed attitude of San Luis Obispo, which is populated by lots of young, adventurous people – including students. Students can easily drive to multiple beaches as well as both L.A. and San Francisco, or head out to the Pismo Dunes and rent ATVs. Students can also look for wildlife at Morro Bay or hike through the Montana de Oro State Park. Cal Poly offers dozens of affordable trips every semester for students interested in climbing, geocaching, backpacking, bird watching, night caving, snowshoeing, kayaking, and surfing.
Tuition: $8,724 (In-state) $19,884 (Out-of-state)
University of Wyoming
Students at the University of Wyoming have the privilege of being just a short drive away from both the Banforth National Wildlife Refuge and Roosevelt National Forest. The school has a forestry program, and students in the program get to use these lands for classes in park administration, recreation, and interpretation. Students can also major in botany or help manage a fishery through the zoology department. UW offers a comprehensive recreation program where students can rock climbing, fly fishing, kayaking, cross country skiing, mountaineering, or even avalanche safety classes. Students can even travel abroad to take outdoor adventure classes, including going backpacking in Australia!
Tuition: $4,404 (In-state) $14,124 (Out-of-state)
Alaska Pacific University
One of the biggest draws for this university is its scenic location amidst the lakes and wilderness parks of Anchorage. The school’s rec center lists a slew of outdoor activities on its schedule of events, including kayak polo, outdoor boating, and whitewater kayaking. On the academic side of things, outdoor enthusiasts can major in Outdoor Studies and take classes in avalanche science, marine biology, and glaciology. There are skiing classes for students at all levels of skill, and the most experienced often join the Nordic ski club. There are also events for students interested in ice climbing, hiking, rafting, and canoeing, and many appreciate the small campus and friendly atmosphere.
University of Idaho
The University of Idaho is right on the border of Washington state, and a long trail passes through the region that is popular among both cyclists and hikers. The school is also just a short drive from the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, home to many more trails for outdoorsmen. Students can take unique classes in areas like Outdoor Leisure Pursuits, River Reading and Whitewater Safety, and Professional Involvement in Recreation. Many more academic courses require fieldwork, and students can major in agricultural systems, fishery resources, hydrology, plant science, and rangeland economy.
Tuition: $6,524 (In-state) $19,600 (Out-of-state)
Boise State University
Boise State not only offers opportunities for students to whitewater raft, kayak, canoe, and rock climbing, but it even provides course credit for many of these activities. The school also has an evolved trip program that takes students on adventures each year to surf, explore caves, and meet other students. In fact, outdoor activities are so popular at Boise State that the university even hosts a film festival each year dedicated to showing footage of extreme sports.
Tuition: $6,292 (In-state) $18,892 (Out-of-state)
Rocky Mountain College
Not only is Billings the largest city in Montana, but it’s also surrounded by Rims, long cliffs, and the beautiful Yellowstone Valley. Residents can view six different mountain ranges right from the town, and can sometimes spot wild horses! Rocky Mountain College is a private university in the area with very affordable tuition and an extensive Outdoor Recreation Program. Weekend adventures include paddle-boarding on the Yellowstone River, zip-lining at the Beartooth Mountain Christian Ranch, and ice climbing in the Beartooth Mountains. Other activities include rock climbing, skiing, backpacking, hiking, and canyoneering.
University of Nevada – Reno
Despite the fact that Reno is often thought of as a smaller version of Las Vegas, the city is actually located right by the Sierra Mountains, and there are a host of lakes and rivers to choose from in the area for fishing, boating, and water sports. Students can also take in the scenic views in Black Rock Desert, which is where Burning Man is held. It’s sunny in Reno about 80% of the time, and student will find no end to the opportunities for skiing, rafting, hiking, sailing, and tubing. The university takes advantage of the landscape by offering 20 classes that require fieldwork. Engineering students study geothermal energy at Great Basin National Park, and other “outdoorsy” majors include ecohydrology, veterinary science, and forest management.
Tuition: $6,610 (In-state) $20,520 (Out-of-state)