The 5 Best Colleges for People Who Love the Outdoors

Purpose. The thing we were born for.

We all have one. We all want one
We all might struggle at times to find it. To define it. To pursue it.
It’s not always easy to identify what we are meant to do with this one life of ours.

And that’s OK. Heck, that’s normal.

Maybe life is not always about the what. It’s also about the where.

Think about it. A freshwater fish needs water. But if you put that fish in saltwater, things are not going to end well.

Plants flourish when they have nutrient-rich soil.
Oak trees do not do well in hot conditions.
Cacti need arid conditions.

It’s all about finding what you need. Every person has a place where he or she will thrive. A place where our roots will take hold so we can grow to our full potential.

College is one of those Big Life Choices when the where is as important as the how and what. Where you go to college can help feed your passions and find your pathway.

School used to be confined to classrooms with a blackboard and chalk. Not anymore. Which is great news if you are looking for more than a typical English 101 syllabi and mountain-less skylines. If your soul feels tethered when you sit behind a desk, we get you.

American colleges are as varied in their surroundings as they are their classes. Certain schools align well with you wild ones who need a ceiling of sky and a class list stocked with adventure. Schools are shifting with the times and offer programs to coincide with the passions of people. Colleges across America have beefed up their options, speaking right to the souls of us outdoor enthusiasts who need nature in their lives.

If you love nature, if you live for the outdoors, if the concrete jungle and closed-up classrooms are not your thing, then…look no further than this list.

#1. University of Colorado-Boulder

Location: Boulder, CO

This one’s for you, all-inclusive outdoor enthusiasts. Boulder, Colorado is one of the most active cities in the nation. You’ve got hiking at nearby Flagstaff, solid biking paths, and OH HEY ROCKY MOUNTAINS. The school is located right at the foot of these towering beauties. The university is also home to Boulder Freeride, the largest collegiate ski and snowboard club in the world. Plus Boulder was voted the #1 college town in America. Need we say more?

#2. Montana State University

Location: Bozeman, MT

MSU is the hub of some of the nation’s coolest outdoor landmarks. Located in Bozeman, the school is surrounded by five mountain ranges: the Bridger, Tobacco Root, Big Belt, Gallatin and Madison ranges. The skiing in Montana has been recognized by National Geographic, Outside and the New York Post. It’s also located within 30 minutes of the Gallatin, Madison and Yellowstone Rivers. One hour away from Big Sky Resort. Two hours away from Yellowstone National Park. Twenty minutes from Bridger Bowl Ski arena. Go Big Sky Country, or go home.

#3. Cornell University

Location: Ithaca, NY

This Ivy League school is home to the largest rock climbing wall. The surrounding Ithaca community has a whopping 150 waterfalls. Plus the Cornell Outdoor Education program is one of the largest college outdoor programs in the county. Taking a class but don’t have the gear? No problem. The school has their own Outdoor Education Outfitting Center, aka Ithaca’s most encompassing equipment rental center. Students are supplied with any type of outdoor gear they need for an outdoor recreation course. Plus the entire community can rent from the long list of equipment. Need camping and backpacking gear? Canoes? Sea kayaks, cross country skiis, snowshoes? Cornell has you covered.

#4. University of Alaska Fairbanks

Location: Fairbanks, Alaska

Located 200 miles from the Arctic Circle, UAF is perfect for all you snow lovers. The school is just a few hours away from the famed Denali Wilderness. Cross-country ski to class on North Campus, which is surrounded by over 1,000 forested acres. Take a class in dog mushing or ice climbing, and witness those infamous Northern Lights. The school also has Outdoor Adventures, an initiative to—as their website states— “foster personal growth and a spirit of adventure in the UAF community through education, experience and accessibility in the wilderness of Alaska and right here on campus.” What does that mean? It means, my friend, that you can go on epic nature-based activities and adventures lead by university staff and student leaders. We’re talking extended opportunities to go wilderness backpacking, ice climbing, cabin trips, rock climbing, dog mushing, and more. They also offer outdoor-related events and workshops, like the Banff Mountain Film Festival, the Annual Winter Gear Swap, and avalanche awareness workshops (yup, that’s a thing).

#5. University of California, Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, California

Let’s break it down with a little good ole’ fashioned number crunching, shall we?

Days of sunshine per year: 70%.

Campus covered in eco-preserve: 65%+, aka 800 acres.

Opportunities to paddleboard, windsurf, sail, sea kayak: Um. Lots. The school is in San Francisco Bay.

Best Forestry Program in the Country: Yes.

Student organizations like dragon boat (yup, you read that right), Quidditch, surfing, and skydiving: Check, check, check, check.