Going to college should be a fun experience, and students shouldn’t have to spend all their time in the classroom. College is a great time to go exploring and enjoy nature, especially with so many opportunities available through universities across the globe. We have made a list of the top schools in the country with great outdoor programs and activities, taking into consideration the number of yearly days of sunshine, outdoor activities and clubs at the school.
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Stanford University is located by Palo Alto and Menlo Park. There are many student organizations and activities to choose from to keep students active and outdoors. They even offer activities like kayaking and surfing. Students can join an Adventure Program that organizes outdoor trips each year. The school also offers equipment rentals for a reasonable price.
University of Hawaii – Manoa
At the University of Hawaii, the Student Recreation Services are committed to helping students enjoy Hawaii. They provide equipment for students to rent, as well as training courses in surfing, paddle boarding, and other sports for beginners. Students can also participate in any of the student organizations.
University of Georgia
The University of Georgia has great weather all year long. They have a Marine Institute that was founded in 1953 where students can get hands-on experience and research on coastal ecosystems, as well as the college Arboretum. They have a large student association that provides opportunities for students to get involved and have fun on campus. There are a number of recreational sports and well-maintained facilities for students to use.
University of Miami
The University of Miami Recreation department plans adventure trips for students, faculty, and the community. With Florida’s great weather and amazing beaches, students can enjoy being outdoors year round. There are a wide variety of student sports teams including; Quidditch, SCUBA, fencing, and beach volleyball. The campus is close to Biscayne Bay, and they have an Arboretum and botanical garden.
University of Colorado
The University of Colorado has a rock and ice climbing group as part of their outdoor program. The college provides opportunities for students to go on trips, and gives trainings on outdoor subjects and sports to students. The outdoor program also offers personalized trips and courses to help students be prepared for their own journeys. Students can also rent equipment to explore Colorado on their own.
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College of the Atlantic
The College of the Atlantic sits on Mount Desert Island. This University is a little unconventional and only offers degrees in human ecology. They have outdoor programs to encourage students to get outside. They are close to the Acadia National Park, and the Atlantic Ocean. Classes are small, with over 93% having fewer than 20 students. The program lets students borrow equipment, and provides opportunities for several excursions throughout the year. They have other student organizations to help students get involved.
Montana State University
Montana State has an Outdoor Recreation Program with the goal to provide opportunities for adventures. They also have clubs so students can stay active with one another. Students also have access to the Bike & Ski Workshop which helps students make repairs on their outdoor equipment. They also have on-hand bike technicians to help you get ready to ride. Sign up for one of their summer trips!
University of Alaska
This University, located in scenic Alaska, offers a nine-month Outdoor Studies program to help students develop survival skills. Although it can can get cold here, there are still many opportunities to explore nature. With 1,100 acres of forest nearby, students are encouraged to explore. Many majors in fact, take advantage of studying Alaska’s wildlife.
Cornell University has an Outdoor Education program. They have a rock wall, sea kayaking, outdoor yoga classes, tai chi, and biking. The campus is also 30 minutes from Finger Lakes National Forest and within driving distance of the Catskills and Adirondack Mountains. Since they also sit above the Cayuga Lake, students get great views from campus. The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station develops new technologies to grow safe and nutritious foods.
University of Arkansas
This University is situated near the Ozarks, and has miles of trails and parks. Check out their outdoor resources. They encourage students to have adventures, and to explore nature. They even have equipment rentals for students through the University Recreation department. The sport facilities have climbing walls, and a bike shop.
University of Vermont
At the University of Vermont, they have an Outing Club which is devoted to getting people outdoors, and planning trips. They have a number of student organizations including Alana Gear, which help students gain wilderness skills. The campus is located near the Winooski Valley Park District, which has over 1,700 acres of nature, and 22 miles of trails.
University of California – Los Angeles
UCLA has a Marina Aquatic Center where students can surf, kayak, sail, windsurf, and do other activities on the water. It is not limited to enrolled students. They have a variety of club sports to choose from including Quidditch, ultimate frisbee, and rugby. They also have an Outdoor Adventure initiative that gives students access to a rock wall, bike ships, and training. The University itself has also made an effort to be more eco-friendly in recent years by using only zero-emission vehicles, and giving students access to locally-grown produce.
Western Washington University
Western Washington University is nestled between The San Juan Islands and Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest offering endless opportunities for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. There are a number outdoor recreation facilities and programs operated and led by students including the Lakewood Boating Center on Lake Whatcom, Outdoor Center Equipment Rental & Bike Shop, Excursions Program, as well as ViQueen lodge on Sinclair Island. They also host Western Outdoor Orientation Trips AKA “WOOT!” for incoming first-year students. Additionally, Western offers a BA in Recreation Management & Leadership for students seeking a career in recreation and leisure services.
University of Nevada
The University of Nevada has a number of physical and earth science degrees. As part of their physical education programs they offer kayaking, scuba diving, rock climbing, snowboarding and other outdoor sports. They are also close to Lake Tahoe, Donner Pass, and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
This college was founded in 1902. There are many programs available through the Outdoor Recreation Department. Students can rent outdoor gear, or even reserve a campsite on the world’s largest campus, with 27,000 acres that include 40 miles of hiking/biking and more than 15 miles of horseback riding trails. Mountain biking and rock climbing programs are available. The school is also close to Little River Canyon National Reserve, Talladega National Forest, and the Chattahoochee National Forest.
University of Idaho
Located in Moscow, U of I’s campus is nestled in the middle of the Palouse and is a prime
location for outdoor adventure. Students journey to Moscow mountain; boat, swim or fish the
nearby lakes and rivers; or, hit the trails by foot or bike. With an award-winning Outdoor
Program, students can rent equipment and plan exciting excursions like whitewater rafting trips. U of I also features a variety of on-campus adventures – offering everything from intramural sports to campus recreation facilities complete with a 55-foot climbing wall.
University of Iowa
At the University of Iowa, there is an Outdoor Rental Center available to students and faculty to rent equipment for outdoor activities. Through the school’s recreational services, there are a number of adventure trips for students throughout the year that include; hiking, kayaking, bouldering, and other activities. Near the University are bike paths and great fishing spots.
Wellesley College has many outdoor activities that students can participate in through their Outdoor Adventure program; students can even rent equipment like tents and skis. The University has a climbing wall, club sports, running trails, and even a boathouse. There are also student organization initiatives to help the campus become more eco-friendly.
University of Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum has over 1,200 acres, and is open to the public. They strive to restore ecosystems and help everyone enjoy nature. The University has more bikes than cars, and is surrounded by 200 miles of trails. The campus is located within driving distance of Lake Monona. Check out their student organizations to get involved in other outdoor activities.
University of California – San Diego
This University offers many opportunities to help students learn in the field. There is an aquatic center, which is one of the world’s largest instructional waterfront facilities. They help people learn to surf, ski, sail, wakeboard, and enjoy other water sports. Their Scripps department is one of the largest ocean and earth science research centers. Students also have access to their outdoor courts and sports facilities.
Davidson College has club sports teams that include fencing, sailing, lacrosse, and ultimate frisbee. They have a lake location on Lake Norman where students can go skiing, boating, and swimming. They are close to Lake Norman State Park, Stephens Road, Fisher Farm Park, and Rural Hill Nature Preserves. As far as classes go, over 73% of their classes have fewer than 20 students.
University of Arizona
The University of Arizona is located in desert climates and has warm weather most of the year, making it a great college for outdoor recreation. The school offers several trips to nearby locations like Lake Powell, Tucson Mountain Park, and the Grand Canyon. They also offer crash-courses in canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, and other sports. Students have opportunities to get involved in their clubs and activities on campus.
The University of the South
This University has the Sewanee Outing Program, giving students the opportunity to explore. They go canoeing, kayaking, caving and on other trips during weekly outings. The campus is on the Cumberland Plateau, and consists of 13,000 acres. There are trails nearby, and a university farm where students work on sustainability projects.
Warren Wilson College
Warren Wilson College is located in Swannanoa Valley and has over 15 miles of wooded trails on their beautiful campus. Additionally, the Outdoor Program provides opportunities to get out and discover firsthand the millions of acres of national forests and rivers on their doorstep. This College even has a unique Outdoor Leadership Studies Degree. If you like to hike, climb, paddle, forage, MTB, go caving, and get outdoors for your favorite activities this is a great place to go.
California Polytechnic State University
Cal Poly is close to the Swanton Pacific Ranch which has 3,200 acres of land that the University uses for livestock and forestry. The campus is close to the Poly Canyon, and is only 20 minutes from the beach. Their Poly Escapes program helps students get out of the routine of classes and into the outdoors.
University of California – Berkeley
This University has Cal Adventures as part of their outdoor adventures programs. They offer classes to students, rentals, and student trips. They help students learn sailing, paddle boarding, kayaking, and rock climbing. Their campus is over 1,200 acres, and located close to San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore, and Mcnee Ranch State Park. The student organizations also include hang gliding, hiking, archery and snowboarding.
University of Wyoming
The University of Wyoming has student organizations like a climbing club, fly-fishing, and a ski and snowboard group. Their outdoor program lets student rent equipment. They have a climbing wall, and go on trips to get students outside. The University works with the National Outdoor Leadership School that allows students to get University of Wyoming credits for experience in technical and leadership skills.
Lewis and Clark College
Lewis and Clark College students have access to College Outdoors. This program gets students involved in backpacking, cross-country skiing, hiking, kayaking, and many other recreational activities. In addition, they have lots of clubs and organizations that encourage students to be active. The college is located in Portland, which is covered in beautiful trails and parks. It even has over 152 miles of trails to bike. Their campus is also covered in trees and perfect for doing homework or relaxing outdoors.
University of California – Santa Cruz
UC Santa Cruz main campus is nestled on a hill covered in Redwood forest which overlooks Monterey Bay to the south. The campus offers a diverse array of outdoor programming via its Athletics and Recreation Department. From kayaking the Monterey Bay, to surfing some of the best waves in California, to facilitating Wilderness First Aid certifications and adventure outings to other parts of the state – students have every opportunity to explore the outdoors, including walking through Redwood groves on their way to class every day. The Athletics and Recreation Department also offers camping equipment rental to students at affordable rates as well Physical Education courses in all kinds of activities that include SCUBA diving.
Green Mountain College
Green Mountain College is on 155-acres of land. They are situated between the Adirondack and Green Mountains. They have several sustainability programs to help them reduce their environmental footprint. They offer a major in Adventure Education, and a minor in Adventure Recreation. They have an aquarium club, animal and welfare appreciation groups, and other clubs that help students get in touch with nature.
Evergreen’s 1,000-acres campus has winding trails, lush forests, an organic farm, and its own beach on Puget Sound. Evergreen College is nearby Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks. Students have the privilege of being close to skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, boating, and surfing. On campus are a series of community gardens available to students and the public. The College offers a Reservation-Based Community Program that allows students to get experience on an Indian reservation.
As far as classes go, almost 90% of the classes have less than 50 students and many offer extensive fieldwork opportunities. They also have an Outdoor Program that is a resource to help all students to explore the area, develop skills, and build community through clinics, trips, and leadership development.
Middlebury College is located in the Champlain Valley, and is surrounded by the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks. They have a Mountain Club, which is one of the University’s oldest student organizations. It leads hiking, boating, and climbing trips for students. They have the Nordic Center that has 50 kilometers of cross-country ski trails.
There are currently many projects devoted to making the University more eco-friendly and efficient.
Bowdoin College has a Coastal Studies Center that is 118-acres on the coast of Orr’s Island that is devoted to helping students in research; they have marine biology and terrestrial laboratories available. They have a number of student organizations and clubs, including the Outing Club that plans fun excursions and adventures for students to explore the outdoors. They also have a 9:1 student-faculty ratio allowing for more personalized instruction from professors.
Humboldt State University
Humboldt State University has a number of programs designed to get students out in nature, including Wilderness First Responder, an 80 hour course to help prepare students for emergencies. They also have Wildland Firefighter Training, which is a great opportunity for a summer job or career. They have an Outdoor Adventures Program as well, so that students can go on fun, but safe, excursions.
Colorado State University
This University also has an outdoor program that plans trips to train students in backpacking, fishing, skiing, and other sports. They offer free clinics, and have rentable gear. For new students, the University also has a first-year mountain experience trip, in which students spend two days and nights on Colorado State’s Mountain Campus in the Rocky Mountain National Park.
University of Tampa
This university is located in Tampa, and is within driving distance of Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. The Office of Campus Recreation provides classes and fitness certification for students. They also have many intramural sports teams for students to join including; flag football and ultimate frisbee. They also venture on many off-campus excursions to go paddle boarding, camping, and paintballing.
University of North Carolina
The University of North Carolina is in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Outdoor Education Center encourages students to learn by doing, and helps students get out in nature. The University goes on several expeditions throughout the year including climbing trips. They have indoor, outdoor, and aquatic facilities for student use. They also have other equipment for rent to students.
Located in historic Nashville, this University offers many opportunities for students to get off campus and explore. They go on several trips including things like; whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River, and paddleboard yoga. Their fitness and recreation program has great facilities and programs for students to support an active lifestyle. They also have a lot of intramural sports teams to choose from.
Northern Michigan University
Even though students at this University have to face cold winters, they are surrounded by nature. They are close to Lake Superior, Marquette Mountain, and other beautiful locations. The outdoor recreation center has a climbing wall for students, where many go to get lessons. NMU Students receive free rentals of snowshoes, fat tire bikes and cross country skis to explore.
Boise State University
Boise has opportunities for whitewater rafting, kayaking, and canoeing. They even let students get credit for some of these activities. The University plans several trips and clinics, so students can get outdoors to go surfing, explore caves, and just take a break from school. They also have an outdoor rental center open to students and the community.
Alaska Pacific University
While this University may be cold, it still has access to many outdoor activities. They even have an Outdoor Studies major that is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. The outdoor programs let students rent gear for activities like cross-country skiing, canoeing, and even ice climbing. They also plan trips and clinics to get students outdoors.
Williams college is located close to the Appalachian Trail. They have the Williams Outing Club which is the largest student organization, and the school supports outdoor activities regardless of age or experience level. They do trips throughout the year that include polar bear swims, and indoor, and outdoor climbing. Students can rent equipment, which is especially nice during winter months.
Oberlin College has an Outings Club. Members enjoy canoeing, hiking, and exploring nature. They organize trips for students and provide rental gear. They also have initiative to be more eco-friendly with sustainable student housing. The school uses locally-grown foods in their cafeterias, and have Ohio’s largest solar arrays. The campus has a bike co-op that lets students rent bikes for the semester.
Bates College has an Outing Club that is one of the oldest collegiate outing clubs. The school sponsors trips each year that include; backpacking, hiking, canoeing, skiing, and skydiving.
There are eco-friendly policies on campus. And as far as classes go, their student-faculty ratio is 10:1 letting students get more personalized instruction.
Bard College as a wide variety of student activities to choose from. They organize student runs and other large-scale events. This college is only 90 miles from New York City so it is close enough that students can still get a taste of the big city. They have farming programs on campus and recycling policies.
Fort Lewis College
Fort Lewis College has an Outdoor Pursuits program that plans trips and adventures for students. They have a climbing wall, and have developed a Student Leadership Program that lets students plan and lead their own outdoor trips. The school also offers equipment rentals at good rates. The campus is close to the Animas River and the Colorado Trail.
Westminster is located close to world-class skiing, mountain biking, and rock climbing. They have an Outdoor Program to help students explore all of Utah. They offer classes, and even a minor in leadership. They also have a Fitness, Wellness, and Recreation Department to help students maintain an active lifestyle. The school offers many clubs and organizations for students to join.
Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University has an Outdoor Program to provide adventures to students. They plan trips throughout the year. Students can rent gear to go on their own trips. They also have a Raider Wilderness Experience that give students a number of challenges to explore nature and sharpen their skills.
Northland College is very environmentally friendly. Their mission is to get students out into wilderness no matter their major. They accomplish this through Outdoor Orientation, classroom experiential learning, fieldwork, and internships. They also have a fully-stocked gear rental shop on campus, called the Outpost, that provides everything students need to get out on their own. Students participate in May Term “courses” that include hiking 296 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail, biking around Lake Superior, biking from northern Wisconsin to New Orleans, rock climbing in Yellowstone, and the list goes on. No matter the season, students at Northland College are always outdoors. Students not only learn the skills necessary for being in the outdoors, they are active in getting even younger students out into the outdoors.