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50 Great Affordable Colleges for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Great Value Colleges - Most Affordable

Sometimes, the best thing about going to college isn’t the college itself but its surroundings. If you want to defy the stereotype of being the lazy, housebound student, then these colleges will make it so much easier. Whether the colleges are surrounded by towering mountains, beautiful beaches or spectacular quads, this article contains the best of the best in the USA.

Students that love to be active are certain to want something very specific when they arrive on campus: a college that has some incredible outdoor spaces! And while there are many colleges based in a rural setting, finding the ones that offer the best activities is hard. That’s why this article exists. We’ve done the research and found the best options so that you don’t have to.

The importance of attending a college with breathtaking surroundings is more important than you might think. After all, if you’re really going to thrive throughout your education, then you need to be somewhere where you can feel comfortable. Luckily, this list has colleges from all over the USA. The entries span the east coast to the west coast and beyond!

Any of the colleges below is a fine choice for people that love the outside and all that it has to offer. But it might also be true that not one of the colleges is right for you specifically. If that’s the case, then this list can still come in handy. You can look at what the colleges in this list have in their immediate vicinity and compare and contrast with those that you’re considering.


Many lists have tried to define the “perfect” outdoors college over the years. But all have vastly different opinions and ranking criteria. Instead of being a source that offers yet another opinion, this article aggregates the existing lists. Some colleges recur across the lists, while others are underrepresented. After scouring these lists and colleges, we’ve compiled something that provides a consensus of opinion and which highlights the hidden gems across the country.

Some of our sources focus on outdoor activities in general, but others are more specific, such as the best colleges for hiking. Together, they offer a broad range of opinions that really get to the heart of what it means to be an outdoors college.

Our sources are as follows:

Edsmart, 15 Great Colleges for Outdoor Lovers:

Lendedu, 30 Best Colleges for Outdoor Sports and Recreation:

Backpacker, The 20 Best Colleges for Hikers:

Time Money, 10 Best Colleges for People Who Love the Great Outdoors:

College Consensus, 25 Best Mountain Colleges:

The Outbound, The Top 20 U.S. Colleges For Outdoor Adventures:

Outside University: The Top 25 Colleges for Outside Readers:

College Magazine, Top 10 Colleges for Outdoor Enthusiasts:

College Magazine, 10 Best Colleges for Outdoor Adventures:

College Raptor, 6 Amazing Schools For Outdoorsy Students:

After looking at the above sources, we’ve then spent a considerable amount of time researching the colleges and the activities around them. To rank on this list, a college needs to be featured on a minimum of two methodology sources or be featured in the top 10 of one list and have evidence that it provides students with significant outdoors recreational activities. And whether it’s mountains, forests, beaches or anything else outdoorsy that makes it fun, we haven’t discriminated against any setting. It just needs to be a college with great connections to nature!

Our results, from 50 to one, are below:

50. California Polytechnic San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo, California


The main reasons that Outside considers California Polytechnic San Luis Obispo to be the eighth-best outdoor colleges are that it’s got year-round sunny weather, lots to offer and a young population. But the college’s outdoor opportunities also have a serious side. Many students choose to volunteer to help in times of natural disasters. For instance, some students take part in fighting the California wildfires. One example is Charles Watkins, who “worked tirelessly above the coastal town of Montecito, trying to stop it [the Thomas Fire] from advancing beyond the forest.”

49. University of Texas, Austin

Austin, Texas


Outbound is impressed with the University of Texas, Austin’s integration of outdoor programs and civic engagement. The source states that students can participate in outdoor activities that aid under-served children and conserve natural plant life. Overall, Outbound ranks it at 18th on its outdoor adventures list. Lendedu, on the other hand, places it at 30th, noting that its access to the Rio Grande, Gila Wilderness Area, and many other places are incredible. Even outside of an official University of Texas, Austin program, students have many many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. From open-air music festivals to mountain hiking, the college’s home city has it all!

48. Colorado College

Colorado Springs, Colorado


The Rocky Mountain West home of Colorado College is “an exceptional location where adventure threads into each day.” While this may be true of any day at the college, the excitement really begins on one of the college’s block breaks, which give students four days free at a time to “climb one of Colorado’s 54 peaks higher than 14,000 feet or explore the dynamic sand dunes, forests and canyons of the Southwest.” In fact, the mountains nearby Colorado College are so amazing that College Consensus considers Colorado College to be the fifth best mountain college in America.

47. University of Idaho

Moscow, Idaho


To encourage students and the public to try rock climbing, the University of Idaho offers its rental equipment out for free on Fridays. This is just one of the events aimed at promotiugb-p0mping engagement with its beautiful surroundings. It also has an annual outdoor equipment sale and swap event, which allows people to try new outdoors recreational activities at a low cost. The University of Idaho ranks at 25th on Outside’s best colleges for outdoors adventures list and 16th on Lendedu’s best outdoor recreation list.

46. Saint John’s College

Santa Fe, New Mexico/Annapolis, Maryland


Saint John’s College offers two very different but very fun campuses to students. On is in Annapolis, Maryland, and the other is in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Students have the opportunity to study at either campus, depending on whether they want to study on the East Coast or in the southern heat. But students who want to get the best of both locations can, as the college allows (and even encourages) transferring from one campus to the other. And many students participate in this, electing to spend at least one year at the other campus. In many ways, Saint John’s College is like getting two college experiences in one! College Raptor considers it to be the fifth most amazing school for outdoorsy students.

45. Sierra Nevada College

Incline Village, Nevada


Sierra Nevada College claims that “Nowhere on this planet can you have a college experience that comes anywhere close to this.” It backs this statement up by noting that just blocks away from campus are a national forest, the Sierra Mountains and Lake Tahoe. And slightly further afield are 14 incredible ski resorts. For these reasons, The Outbound names Sierra Nevada College the 10th best for outdoor adventures and Lendedu names it the 27th best college for outdoor sports and recreation.

44. Colorado State University

Fort Collins, Colorado


When describing its hometown, Colorado State University says “If you’re looking for a college experience with the perfect fusion of culture, opportunity, and adventure, Fort Collins is where you’ll find it.” Backing this statement up are over 315 miles of bike routes and trails, over 300 sunny days a year, the Cache la Poudre River, Lory State Park, wild bison herds and much more. What’s even better is that all these things are within only 30 minutes of the college’s campus. Lendedu is amazed by the offerings of Colorado State University and names it the fifth best college for outdoors adventures.

43. Lewis and Clark College

Portland, Oregon


Any student who’s keen to experience the wonders of the Pacific Northwest would benefit from attending Lewis and Clark College. The college’s 2018 fall trips brochure reveals that there’s always an interesting outdoors event happening. Students can enjoy backpacking up Mount St Helens, stand-up paddle-boarding, rock climbing, coastal hikes, river gorge explorations and much more. Lewis and Clark College ranks at 10th on College Magazine’s best outdoor adventures article and 22nd on Lendedu’s best outdoor sport and recreation colleges article.

42. University of California, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California


Although University of California, Lost Angeles seems like the epitome of an urban college, students who attend have many outdoors opportunities. Its primary campus location is right at the edge of Los Angeles, with a range of state parks lying just beyond. And many of the college’s recreational activities involve bikes. The college actively encourages its students to bike places and learn how to maintain a bike, with the Do-It-Yourself workshops on bicycle maintenance running regularly throughout the year. And if this weren’t good enough, then Outside also considers the University of California, Los Angeles to be the second best college for outside adventures in America.

41. University of Arkansas

Fayetteville, Arkansas


The University of Arkansas is located in the picturesque city of Fayetteville. The campus specifically overlooks the Ozark Mountains and has “Some of the nation’s best outdoor amenities and most spectacular hiking trails,” just a short drive from campus. And the college’s outdoors department is filled with opportunities for students to explore their surroundings while enhancing their leadership skills. Two methodology sources include the University of Arkansas in their lists. Edsmart places it as the eighth best college for outdoors lovers, and Outside names it the 21st best college for outside adventures.

40. Hampshire College

Amherst, Massachusetts


If you really want to travel far to enjoy the outdoors, then Hampshire College is the perfect university. Lendedu notes that the school’s outdoor program organizes trips to Spain and Canada among other countries. The source names it the second best outdoors college. However, there’s plenty to enjoy in the college’s hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts, with Hampshire College regularly planning outdoors “rock climbing, skiing, kayaking, martial arts, basketball, soccer, tennis, hiking, whitewater rafting, yoga, aquatics,” and more within a close vicinity of the campus!

39. Southern Oregon University

Ashland, Oregon


Thanks to being placed between two mountains, the Siskiyou and Cascade Mountains, Southern Oregon University is a hiker’s paradise. Appropriately, Backpacker names it the sixth best college for hiking. College Consensus also names it the 23rd best mountain college. And while the college itself doesn’t feature on Outside’s methodology list, its home city of Ashland does rank in the top 10 of its “Best Towns in America” list. In addition to its two mountains, students can enjoy Lithia Park, a 93-acre expanse of lawns, tennis courts, volleyball courts, picnic areas, and picturesque views.

38. College of the Atlantic

Bar Harbor, Maine


As the College of the Atlantic’s name suggests, water-sports are a key way to enjoy the outdoors at this institution. That’s because it’s on Mount Desert Island, Maine. The college describes its coastal climate as “rugged, peaceful, and exciting, sometimes all at once.” This allows swimming, kayaking, and sailing to be incredibly exciting summertime activities. But on land, the island also offers the stunning Acadia National park, biking, ice skating, skiing and snowshoeing. The Outbound places it at fourth on its list, while Lendedu places it at 20th.

37. Whitman College

Walla Walla, Washington


Backpacker states that because of Whitman College’s 600-acre recreational area, it’s the 17th best college in America for hikers. College Consensus also names it the sixth best mountain college. But the Pacific Northwest-based Whitman College has even more for outdoor enthusiasts than the huge recreational space. It’s in Walla Walla, at the foot of the Blue Mountains in Washington State but right next to the border of Oregon. It enjoys a mild climate throughout the year, maximizing the opportunities for outdoor excursions.

36. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Pomona, California


California State Polytechnic University, Pomona’s Huntley College of Agriculture offers incredible outdoors opportunities for students and the public. It “occupies 20 acres of farmland and facilities.” Among these facilities are a farm, children’s center, and petting zoo. It also hosts seasonal festivals, events, workshops, and classes into farming techniques. The college also has some stunning gardens, including a rose garden and a Japanese Garden. Time Money name California State Polytechnic University, Pomona the sixth best college for people who love the great outdoors. College Consensus names it the 16th best mountain college.

35. Bowdoin College

Brunswick, Maine


Outside considers Bowdoin College to be the 13th best college for outside adventuring because both the cold winters and warm summers offer students many opportunities for exploration! Time Money names it the 10th best college for outdoor lovers in general. However, the college states that ‘You don’t have to be an “outdoorsy person” to come to Bowdoin. But you might be by the time you leave.’ Bowdoin College thinks that this is the case because of its “famous beaches, lighthouses and forests.”

34. University of California, San Diego

San Diego, California


While it only features on two methodology lists at present, in the future University of California, San Diego’s reputation as a great outdoor college could improve drastically. It is currently running a $2 billion fundraiser to transform the student experience, making it much more enjoyable for all. Once this is funded, then outdoors opportunities are sure to receive a strong boost! At present, The Outbound names University of California, San Diego the 15th best outdoors college and Outside names it the fourth best college for outdoors adventures.

33. Carroll College

Helena, Montana


Carroll College states that its students “enjoy the kind of lifestyle here that very few colleges or universities in the country can match.” It backs this up by noting that there are miles of biking and hiking trails within walking distance of the college, as well as a golf course. It also notes that 30 minutes away are mountain biking trails, fly fishing, skiing and snowboarding destinations. Time Money names the college the eighth best for outdoors lovers, and College Consensus names it the 11th best mountain college.

32. University of Georgia

Athens, Georgia


College Magazine’s outdoor enthusiast focused list places the University of Georgia at seventh. Outside, on the other hand, considers the college to be the 10th best college for outdoors adventures. By being located in the city of Athens, as opposed to Georgia’s capital of Atlanta, the college is able to enjoy a closer connection to its natural surroundings. For Spring 2019, it will offer programs such as snorkeling with manatees, Sugar Mountain ski trips, introductions to caving, fly fishing, surfing, backcountry cooking and many more incredible outdoors events.

31. Pomona College

Claremont, California

School Profile

Pomona College stands out as a college for outdoor enthusiasts due to something called Ski-Beach Day. This is where students spend a morning in the mountains, skiing away and then spend the afternoon on the beach in Los Angeles. This unique event has led Time Money to rank Pomona College as the fifth best outdoor college. It also ranks at 14th on Backpacker. And getting to an outdoors adventure is incredibly easy for Pomona students. In fact, the mountains are just minutes away from campus.

30. Linfield College

McMinnville, Oregon


Time Money is highly impressed with Linfield College. It considers the institution to be the fourth best college for people who love the outdoors. But the only other list that it features on is College Consensus’ at 14th. And in a list filled with Washington and Oregon entries, the McMinnville, Oregon Linfield College manages to stand out. The college itself is based on 189 park-like acres. And occupying this area are sports stadiums, sports fields, tennis courts, baseball fields, soccer fields, groves and much more.

29. University of Vermont

Burlington, Vermont


Backpacker ranks the University of Vermont as the fifth best college for hikers. It notes that the outing club manages to organize 100 trips every year and even provides free transportation to resorts. Outside names it the ninth best college for outside adventures. One of the greatest outdoor assets that the University of Vermont has is Lake Champlain. This lake has an incredibly beautiful 587 miles of shoreline. The college’s hometown of Burlington even has a bike path that stretches by the lake for 12 miles.

28. Bates College

Lewiston, Maine


College Consensus is wowed by Bates College. The source ranks it as the third best mountain college. One thing that sets it out from the competition, in the source’s opinion, is its range of eccentric traditions. One example is the Puddle Jump, which involves students cutting holes in the ice-covered lakes and leaping into the water at the end of winter. Backpacker also considers it to be the 11th best college for hikers. Bates College is based in the twin cities of Lewiston and Auburn, Maine. Around this location are many parks, walking trails, Lake Auburn and a 357-acre bird sanctuary.

27. Prescott College

Prescott, Arizona


Prescott College manages to rank on two methodology lists’ top 10s but is absent from any other sources. Backpacker ranks it at seventh and notes that the college provides more vans than classrooms! College Raptor places it at third and notes that its 21-day wilderness orientation course is phenomenal. Prescott College’s hometown, the aptly named Prescott, is “Surrounded by ponderosa pines and granite mountains.” Due to its high altitude, the immediate location is unlike the image that most think of when imagining its home state of Arizona. It also has over 450 miles of multi-use trails. And if you want to explore further afield, then the Grand Canyon is less than two hours away!

26. University of Nevada-Reno

Reno, Nevada


The University of Nevada-Reno gets 252 days of sunshine every year. This is just one of the reasons why College Magazine ranks the college at seventh best for outdoor adventurers. Lendedu ranks it at 18th, and Outside ranks it at 23rd. Nevada, in general, is known for two things: gambling and the Mojave Desert. But the University of Reno, Nevada has so much more to offer. Just 30 minutes away from campus is Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is considered the “jewel of the Sierra” and has stunning mountains surrounding it on all sides.

25. Green Mountain College

Poultney, Vermont


The main draw for outdoorsy students to Green Mountain College is right there in its name. The Green Mountains of Vermont are a hiker’s dream. But basically, everything about Green Mountain College tells students that it is for nature lovers. It is the number one college for sustainability in America, was the first college to reach climate neutrality and its education is entirely framed around “social, economic and environmental sustainability.” Green Mountain College ranks at 10th on College Magazine’s outdoor enthusiast list, sixth on The Outbound’s list and 22nd on Outside’s list.

24. Evergreen State College

Olympia Washington


Three methodology sources consider Evergreen State College to be one of the best outdoors colleges. College Raptor places it at sixth, noting that it has forests, mountains, and beaches. Edsmart places it at 11th, praising its 1,000-acre forest that it is nestled within. Lastly, Lendedu places it at 21st, stating that it has amazing programs that take students to outdoor activity hubs all the time. Perhaps the most impressive part of Evergreen State College’s outdoor offerings is its Evergreen Beach. This is a more than 3,000 feet stretch of land where seals can often be spotted. The sea also glows with bio-luminescent creatures at night!

23. University of Oregon

Eugene, Oregon


Lendedu names the University of Oregon as the seventh best college for outdoor sports and recreation. It gives it this strong ranking due to its proximity to beaches, deserts, rivers, and snow-capped mountains. The college also places at 18th on Outside Online and 17th on The Outbound. And the great thing about the University of Oregon’s campus is that it isn’t just close to nature; it’s within nature. As the college’s website states that “Out here, the great outdoors isn’t someplace you go. They’re everywhere you are […] To get to our stadiums, you may walk through woods or cross a river.” Additionally, the college states that students regularly go on hikes, rafting trips and bike excursions between classes!

22. Berry College

Rome, Georgia


If you’re looking for the largest college campus in America, then Berry College has it. Overall, it occupies over 27,000 acres of space (some colleges own separate pieces of land that combine to a larger overall area, however.) Thanks to this distinction, it places at second on The Outbound’s list of the best colleges for outdoor adventures. It also ranks 11th on Lendedu and at 13th on College Consensus. The college’s huge campus contains woodlands, meadows, and streams among its 47 buildings and classroom facilities.

21. Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire


Ranking at ninth on Time Money, ninth on Backpacker and fourth on College Consensus is Dartmouth College. One of the reasons for its inclusion on these lists is the strength of its outing club. It’s been running since 1909, making it the oldest outing club in the country. And this club has tons of college-owned spaces and facilities on which to explore. On offer are an over 100-acre ski-way that sprawls over two mountains just 14 miles from campus, a ravine lodge, 17 cabins, and most impressively 27,000 acres of New Hampshire wilderness.

20. University of Wyoming

Laramie, Wyoming


Two sources give the University of Wyoming a third-place rank. Lendedu considers it the third best American college for outdoor sports and recreation. Backpacker names it the third best college for hiking. Additionally, Outside names it the 15th best college for outdoor adventuring. The University of Wyoming refers to its hometown and surroundings as “the Rocky Mountain outdoor paradise.” That’s because students that are lucky enough to attend this college can access skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, rock climbing, camping, hunting, and many more activities.

19. Stanford University

Stanford, California


According to The Outbound, 60% of Stanford University’s 1,180-acre campus is undeveloped, making it a paradise for outdoors enthusiasts. The source names it the 11th best college for outdoor adventures. Outside places it at third, and Lendedu places it at fourth. But Stanford University offers much more in outdoor activities than just an incredible campus. It regularly takes students on adventures to the Yosemite Valley, Lake Tahoe, Purisima Creek, Elkhorn Slough, Land’s End, the Dipsea Historic Trail, and many other incredible locations.

18. University of Washington

Seattle, Washington


The three campuses of the University of Washington located in Bothell, Seattle, and Tacoma, all offer different recreational services. Bothell is located close to vineyards and St Edwards State Park. Tacoma is a 46-acre campus that overlooks the Port of Tacoma and Mount Rainier. The Seattle campus is located in the heart of the city but still has large park areas and outdoor activity sites, such as a golf course. College Magazine ranks the University of Washington as the ninth best college for outdoor adventures. It also ranks at seventh on Edsmart, 20th on The Outbound and 24th on Lendedu.

17. Western Washington University

Bellingham, Washington


Students at Western Washington University have the option to explore the outdoors of two different nations. That’s because the campus is only 21 miles south of the Canadian border. It’s also 52 miles away from the Mount Baker ski area and is surrounded by 180 acres of forest. For these reasons, Time Money considers Western Washington University to be the third-best college for people who love the outdoors. Additionally, Backpacker ranks it at fourth, College Consensus ranks it at 16th and Lendedu ranks it at 29th.

16. Humboldt State University

Arcata, California


Humboldt State University’s website claims that its campus is “one of the world’s most beautiful places.” Several methodology lists agree. College Magazine names it the second best college for outdoor adventurers. Edsmart names it the ninth best college for outdoor lovers. Outside names it the 14th best college for outside adventures. And Lendedu names it the 23rd best college for outdoor sports and recreation lovers. Humboldt State University enjoys the sunny Californian climate, and its hometown of Arcata is one of National Geographic’s “50 next great adventure towns.”

15. Reed College

Portland, Oregon


Reed College’s 28-acre nature preserve, Reed Canyon, has wowed the methodology lists. College Magazine places it at fourth best college for outdoors enthusiasts. College Consensus places it at fourth. Outside places it at 17th. Backpacker places it at 18th. Reed College is based in Portland, Oregon, a city that offers so much to nature lovers. For instance, many students, faculty, and staff often bike around the city, as it’s pleasant climate and friendly traffic really accommodates for this form of travel. In fact, the city has over 188 miles of bike lanes, making it incredibly safe to get around. If this weren’t enough, then Reed College also owns a ski cabin at Mount Hood for students to enjoy.

14. Northland College

Ashland, Wisconsin


Hiking is Northland College’s greatest outdoors opportunity. Appropriately, Backpacker names it the second best college for hiking in America. But it also places at fifth on College Magazine’s outdoor enthusiast list, ninth on The Outbound’s list and 26th on Lendedu’s list. The Ashland, Wisconsin based college has much more to offer nature lovers than just hiking, however. It’s located on the South Shore of Lake Superior and considers its location to be a “natural playground.” In fact, the college’s core mission is maintaining the environment and promoting sustainability. For instance, it has completely divested from fossil fuels and is filled with solar panels.

13. Cornell University

Ithaca, New York


Upstate New York has long enjoyed a reputation for natural beauty. The environment around Cornell University is no exception. The college’s primary Ithaca campus offers students access to 2,300 acres of gorges, hiking trails, lakes and more. The college is also preserving and enhancing its statewide locations. One example is in Buffalo, where, since 2007, it has improved 120 parcels of land, creating community gardens, green spaces as well as sustainable housing. For these reasons and more, College Magazine ranks Cornell University at third, Edsmart ranks it at fourth, The Outbound ranks it at fifth, Outside Online ranks it at fifth and Backpacker ranks it at 12th.

12. Washington and Lee University

Lexington City, Virginia


No college polarizes the methodology lists like Washington and Lee University. Both Time Money and College Consensus place it at first, but no other list features it. Both sources are amazed at the beauty of its nearby national and state parks and trails, which include the Shenandoah National Forest, the Shenandoah River State Park, The Blue Ridge Parkway and much more. In fact, over four million acres of these parks are accessible to students within a two-hour drive of Washington and Lee University.

11. University of Arizona

Tucson, Arizona


While the University of Arizona doesn’t top any one methodology list, it does perform strongly on five methodology lists. College Magazine names it the ninth best college for outdoor enthusiasts. Additionally, it ranks at sixth on Outside, 13th on Lendedu, 13th on The Outbound and 15th on Edsmart. University of Arizona’s home city is Tucson, which has the largest cycling event in the whole of the USA. It’s also known for its huge Day of the Dead parade. And the college’s outdoor recreation department offers more than 50 trips every year.

10. Warren Wilson College

Swannanoa, North Carolina


With all that surrounds Warren Wilson College, it’s no wonder that its Outdoor Leadership major is considered one of the best in the country. The methodology sources rank its outdoor offers as such: second best on College Raptor, seventh on Outside, eighth best on College Magazine, 13th on Backpacker, 22nd on College Consensus and 25th on Lendedu. This North Carolina college’s campus is “in the mountains among stands of oak & poplar,” and near the town of Asheville. And the campus comprises of 1,100 acres of forests, farms, gardens, trails and much more.

9. University of Alaska-Fairbanks

Fairbanks, Alaska


While it may not be for the faint hearted or those who love the warmth, University of Alaska-Fairbanks’ hiking trails are considered the finest in America by Backpacker. Also, Edsmart ranks it at 10th, The Outbound ranks it at 12th, Lendedu ranks it at 19th and Outside Online ranks it at 24th. The college’s main campus is spread over 2,250 acres of land. This includes two lakes, miles of trails and much more. And there are outdoors events that take place on campus year round, from Springfest to The Winter Carnival.

8. University of Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah


College Magazine names the University of Utah as being the best college for outdoors adventures. The college also ranks at sixth on Edsmart, sixth on Lendedu, eighth on Backpacker, 19th on The Outbound and 20th on College Consensus. University of Utah’s Outdoor Adventures department has been running for more than 40 years and has created a range of incredible excursions over this time. These excursions feature activities that include skiing, canyoneering, rafting, rock climbing, and many other things. But the outdoors events on campus are impressive, meaning that you can enjoy the natural world without traveling a long distance.

7. Boise State University

Boise, Idaho


Of the methodology sources, both College Magazine and The Outbound are incredibly impressed with Boise State University’s environment. They both name it the third best college for outdoor adventurers. The college also ranks at ninth on Lendedu, 12th on Edsmart and 25th on College Consensus. Boise State University owes its strong outdoors reputation to its surrounding mountains. Just 16 miles from campus is the Bogus Basin Mountain Resort, with 2,600 acres of skiing as well as a mountain coaster and miles of bike trails. Even its non-mountain focused activities are incredible. For instance, Fly Rod and Reel Magazine also named Boise State University the third best college for fly fishing.

6. University of Colorado-Boulder

Boulder, Colorado


Time Money names the University of Colorado-Boulder the second best college for people that love the great outdoors. College Magazine also names it the second best college for outdoor enthusiasts. College Magazine’s other list names it the fifth best college for outdoor adventures. Additionally, Lendedu ranks it at eighth, Edsmart ranks it at 14th, The Outbound ranks it at 16th and Backpacker ranks it at 20th. The University of Colorado, Boulder’s recreation department has a wide range of outdoors focused activities on offer. It even has three very different trips just for new student orientation. Even the non-college outdoors opportunities are ample at Boulder. For instance, the city has a range of outside music concerts that take place throughout summer.

5. University of Hawaii at Manoa

Honolulu, Hawaii


Hawaii should need no explanation of why it’s an incredible place for lovers of the outdoors. And the University of Hawaii at Manoa, which is based in the Hawaiian state capital of Honolulu, is proud of its surroundings. As the college’s website states, “Life at UH Manoa is never boring.” And the college allows students to take full advantage of its beautiful island setting. Its recreation services offer surfing, stand up paddling, body boarding, hiking, kayaking, sailing, scuba diving and snorkeling excursions to all students. The college ranks at first on Edsmart, eighth on College Magazine’s outdoor adventures article, 12th on Lendedu and 20th on Outside.

4. Appalachian State University

Boone, North Carolina


The clue as to why Appalachian State University is an incredible college for outdoor enthusiasts is in its title. This North Carolina college ranks at 17th on Lendedu, 16th on Backpacker, 10th on College Consensus and third on Edsmart. But most impressively, it tops The Outbound’s list of the best colleges for outdoor adventurers. And Appalachian State University looks just as impressive and scenic as anyone would expect. It’s surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are filled with exploratory opportunities.

3. Middlebury College

Middlebury, Vermont


Nothing says New England better than the sprawling forests of Vermont. And the best college to enjoy this idyllic setting is Middlebury College. College Raptor places it at first. College Consensus places it at second. The Outbound places it at seventh. Backpacker places it at 10th. Lastly, Lendedu places it at 15th. The liberal arts college is located in Vermont’s Champlain Valley, which has, “the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks to the west.” And the college is committed to allowing its students to have every chance to experience this setting. In fact, it has a multitude of outdoor programs which organize trips, training, expeditions, excursions to all that surrounds it.

2. Montana State University

Bozeman, Montana


Lendedu considers Montana State University to be the best of the best when it comes to outdoors colleges. The other methodology lists don’t quite share that opinion, but many rank it highly. Edsmart places it at second. College Raptor places it at third. Both College Magazine lists place it at sixth. The Outbound places it at eighth. Backpacker places it at 19th. College Consensus places it at 21st. The recognition of Montana State University is well earned. Its hometown of Bozeman has more than 60 miles of bike lanes, more than 100 area trails, and two incredible ski areas nearby.

1. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California


The renowned University of California, Berkeley manages to top two methodology lists for very different reasons. Outside considers it to be America’s finest college for outside adventures. College Magazine names it the best college for outdoor enthusiasts in general. College Magazine’s other list (for outdoor adventurers) places it at fourth. The college also ranks at 14th on Lendedu, 14th on The Outbound and 15th on Backpacker. The University of California, Berkeley’s natural assets are indeed worthy of its acclaim. For instance, it has a 34 acre botanical garden on its campus which features over 13,000 plants. Also on campus are three beautiful creeks that the college carefully maintains.

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