50 Best Outdoor Colleges

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.



Stanford University

Stanford University


Location: Stanford, CA

Tuition: $46,320 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Engineering, social sciences, and computer science.

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

University of Hawaii, Manoa

Location: Honolulu, HI

Tuition: $11,404 in state, $31,516 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Business management, social services, and health professions.

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, paddleboarding, and other sports for beginners. Students can also participate in any of the student organizations.




University of Georgia

University of Georgia

Location: Athens, GA

Tuition: $11,622 in state, $29,832 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Psychology, biology, and finance.

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


Location: Coral Gables, FL

Tuition: $45,724 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Business management, biological sciences, and health professions.

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

University of Colorado

Location: Boulder, CO

Tuition: $11,091 in state, $34,125 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Social sciences, biological sciences, and business management.

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.



College of the Atlantic

College of the Atlantic

Location: Bar Harbor, ME

Tuition: $42,084 annually

Popular Programs of Study: human ecology

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


Location: Bozeman, MT

Tuition: $6,968 in state, $21,961 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Business, elementary education, and mechanical engineering.

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

University of Alaska

Location: Fairbanks, AK

Tuition: $7,370 in state, $21,350 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Engineering, business, and biological sciences.

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


Location: Ithaca, NY

Tuition: $49,116 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Engineering, biological sciences, and business management.

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

University of Arkansas

Location: Fayetteville, AR

Tuition: $8,522 in state, $23,320 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Business, engineering, and social studies.

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

University of Vermont

Location: Burlington, VT

Tuition: $16,226 in state, $37,874 out of state

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.




Location: Los Angeles, CA

Tuition: $12,753 in state, $35,631 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Social sciences, psychology, and English language.

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


Location: Bellingham, WA

Tuition: $8,964 in state, $20,406 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Business management, social sciences, and English language.

Western Washington University has an outdoor center where students can rent bikes and go on excursions. They even have resources for students like books, maps, and training videos. The  University overlooks Bellingham Bay, and is close to state parks like Birch Bay State Park and Sucia Island State Park.


University of Nevada

university of nevada reno

Location: Reno, NV

Tuition: $6,902 in state, $20,812 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Business management, health professions, and biological sciences.

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.


Berry College

Berry College

Location: Mount Berry, GA

Tuition: $31,996 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Business management, biological sciences, and psychology.

This University was founded in 1902. There are many programs available through the Outdoor Recreation Department. Students can rent outdoor gear, or even reserve a campsite. It is also the world’s largest campus, with 27,000 acres of land. Biking and rock climbing classes are available. The school is close to Little River Canyon National Reserve, Talladega National Forest, and the Chattahoochee National Forest.


University of Idaho


Location: Moscow, ID

Tuition: $7,020 in state, $21,024 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Psychology, mechanical engineering, and finance.

Located in Moscow, the University is close to the Moscow Mountains, and has plenty to do outdoors. They offer an Outdoor Program where students can climb rock walls, rent equipment, and even get trip planning assistance. Students go on excursions like whitewater rafting trips. There are also a variety of intramural sports and campus recreation facilities and activities at the students’ disposal.


University of Iowa

The University of Iowa Campus looking west from Old Capitol and the Pentacrest.

Location: Iowa City, IA

Tuition: $8,104 in state, $27,890 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Business and parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies.

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

wellesley college

Location: Wellesley, MA

Tuition: $46,836 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Economics, psychology, and English language.

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, intramural sports, running trails, and even a boathouse. There are also student organization initiatives to help the campus become more eco-friendly.


University of Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin

Location: Madison, WI

Tuition: $10,415 in state, $29,665 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Biology, economics, and political science.

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.


UC San Diego

 UC San Diego

Location: San Diego, CA

Tuition: $14,042 in state, $38,066 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Biology, economics, and computer engineering.

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

Davidson College

Location: Davidson, NC

Tuition: $46,966 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Political science, economics, and biology.

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


Location: Tucson, AZ

Tuition: $10,872 in state, $30,025 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Business management, biology, and social sciences.

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.




Sewanee: The University of the South

Sewanee: The University of the South

Location: Sewanee, TN

Tuition: $38,700 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Social sciences, English language, and biological sciences.

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


Location: Asheville, NC

Tuition: $32,560 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Psychology, creative writing, and global studies.

Warren Wilson College is located in Swannanoa Valley. They have great views of mountains and nature from campus. They offer outdoor programs to get students involved. They help you plan trips, and also go on their own excursions. This University even has a unique Outdoor Leadership Studies Degree. They also have an EcoDorm with energy-efficient designs and renewable-energy sources.


California Polytechnic San Luis University

California Polytechnic San Luis University

Location: Obispo, CA

Tuition: $9,000 in state, $20,160 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Engineering, business management, and biology.

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

University of California Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, CA

Tuition: $13,432 in state, $38,140 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Social sciences, biological sciences, and engineering.

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

University of Wyoming

Location: Laramie, WY

Tuition: $4,892 in state, $15,632 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Registered nursing, elementary education, and psychology.

The University of Wyoming has student organizations like club tennis, lacrosse, fly-fishing and an equestrian team. Their outdoor program lets student rent equipment. They have a climbing wall, and go on trips to get students outside. The University also has the National Outdoor Leadership School that allows students to get credit for training and experience in nature.




Lewis and Clark College

Lewis and Clark College

Location: Portland, OR

Tuition: $45,104 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Social Sciences, psychology, and biological sciences.

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.


UC Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz

Location: Santa Cruz, CA

Tuition: $13,481 in state, $38,189 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: psychology, business, and cellular biology

Recreation at UC Santa Cruz offers classes, plans trips, and provides certifications in First Aid and CPR. They also go on organized adventure outings, and provide equipment that students can rent at affordable rates. Their Office of Physical Education and Recreation offers scuba diving certification classes, ranging from beginner to instructor.


Green Mountain College

Green Mountain College

Location: Poultney, VT

Tuition: $33,736 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Parks, Recreation & Leisure Studies, Resort Management, and Biology.

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 College


Location: Olympia, WA

Tuition: $8,682 in state, $22,752 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Liberal arts, biological, and physical sciences.


Evergreen College is close to the Olympic National Park. Students have the privilege of being close to skiing and snowboarding. Near campus are a series of community gardens available to students and the public. The University 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. They even have  an Outdoor Adventures Program to allow students to get more involved in camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

Middlebury College

Middlebury College

Location: Middlebury, VT

Tuition: $47,828 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Economics, political science, and English language.

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

Bowdoin College

Location: Brunswick, ME

Tuition: $48,212 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Political Science, economics, and mathematics

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

Location: Arcata, CA

Tuition: $7,164 in state, $18,324 out of state

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

Colorado State University

Location: Fort Collins, CO

Tuition: $10,590 in state, $27,258  out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Business management, biological sciences, and family & consumer sciences.

This University also has an outdoor program that plans trips to train students in backpacking, fishing, skiing, and other sports. They offer free clincis, 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

University of Tampa

Location: Tampa, FL

Tuition: $27,044 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Business management, social sciences, and fitness studies.

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 paddleboarding, camping, and paintballing.

University of North Carolina


Location: Asheville, NC

Tuition: $6,485 in state, $22,099 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Psychology, business administration, and environmental studies.

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.  

Belmont University

Belmont University

Location: Nashville, TN

Tuition: $30,000 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Music management, registered nursing, and recording arts technology

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

Northern Michigan University

Location: Marquette, MI

Tuition: $9,984 in state, $15,216 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Business management, health professions, and education.

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. The rec center rents gear  of all kinds, at a reasonable price.



Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University

Location: Phoenix, AZ

Tuition: $17,050 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Business, nursing, and education.

Every student here needs to go visit the Grand Canyon. The school coordinates hikes to explore this landmark, and prepares students by teaching classes on ropes and knots, rappelling, and fire starting. They also have many intramural sports teams and clubs to get students involved in activities. For most of the year, they enjoy warm temperatures making it a great college for nature enthusiasts.

Boise State University

boise state campus

Location: Boise, ID

Tuition: $6,876 in state, $20,926 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Registered nursing, health professions, and business.

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

Alaska Pacific University

Location: Anchorage, AK

Tuition: $19,680 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Business administration, parks, recreation & leisure studies, and liberal arts

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

Williams College

Location: Williamstown, MA

Tuition: $50,070 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Economics, history, and psychology.

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

Oberlin College

Location: Oberlin, OH

Tuition: $50,586 annually

Popular Programs of Study: music performance, political science and biology

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

Bates College

Location: Lewiston, ME

Tuition: $48,435 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Social sciences, biology, and psychology.

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

bard college

Location: Annandale-On-Hudson, NY

Tuition: $49,906 annually

Popular Programs of Study: Visual and performing arts, social sciences, and English language.

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

Location: Durango, CO

Tuition: $7,600 in state, $17,816 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: Business, social sciences, and psychology.

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 College


Location: Salt lake City, UT

Tuition: $31,228 annually

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


Location: Ashland, OR

Tuition: $7,701 in state, $21,279 out of state

Popular Programs of Study: business, visual and performing arts, and psychology

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

Northland College

Location: Ashland, WI

Tuition: $32,754 annually

Popular Programs of Study: physical sciences, business management and biology

Northland College is very environmentally friendly. New students are required to participate in an Outdoor Orientation trip; this orientation trip helps expose students to Wisconsin’s beauty on backpacking expeditions and exploration. They have an Outdoor Education program that helps students gain skills and experience outdoors.