If you’re just beginning (or thinking about) your tertiary education and it’s not just the quality of academia you’re after we’ve got a list of tertiary institutions that are fully engaged to help you qualify in the only degree worth getting:

the B.A. (Bad *ss) in Adventure!

1. WESTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

From a vantage point over the San Juan Islands and close to (60 minute drive) Mount Baker and the wonderful Olympic National Park lies the Western Washington University. Nestled in the Pacific Northwest and surrounded by a smorgasbord of adventure opportunities, you will find treacherous coastline, iced over ridges (think snowboarding), lush forest and even wild rapid-packed rivers.

Western Washington University makes it to the top of our list for the ultra rad (is that still a word?) adrenaline pumping possibilities on offer. Into a mix of snowboarding, skiing, hiking, mountain climbing and whitewater rafting throw the highly acclaimed academic and legislative pursuits of Huxley College of the Environment and you have yourself a formidable competitor for the spot of all time most awesome Universities in the country.

Trip around the San Juan Islands

Kayaking around the San Juan Islands

2. REED COLLEGE

The college’s inception was in 1908 and the campus itself is situated in Portland, Oregon. Classed as a co-ed, private liberal arts and sciences college, Reed offers a great outdoor adventure program.

The college has a really cool, comprehensive outdoor program aptly called the Reed Outdoor Program and Education (ROPE). It’s a cleverly designed outdoor enthusiast’s adventure program that aims to make hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, canoeing and so much more accessible to all students. Go Reedies!

Mt Hood, Oregon

Mt. Hood National Forest

3. UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT ASHEVILLE

If whitewater rafting and kayaking is important to your academic well-being, then the University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNC Asheville) could be the place to bring home your degree summa cum laude. We can’t say enough about the University of North Carolina’s capacity to meet (and then some) the aspirations of all whitewater rafting junkies. (UNC Asheville) is situated in what Outside Magazine readers voted to be one of the ‘4 Best Towns in America’.

Nantahala River

Excited rafters at Nantahala River

4. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY

In addition to its prestigious academic legacy, UC Berkeley is just four hours short of the magnificent, awe-inspiring valley of Yosemite National Park. After immersing yourself (and going trigger happy with that smartphone) in the unfathomable beauty of the Sierra Nevada one can head down to the soothing sounds of the Pacific Ocean and enjoy snorkeling, water-skiing, sailing or jet-skiing in many of the idyllic spots along the Californian coastline.

Highlining at Taft Point. Yosemite National Park

Highlining at Taft Point. Yosemite National Park

5. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA BARBARA

The University of California, Santa Barbara (UC, Santa Barbara) makes it to our top ten lists of universities geared for outdoor adventure because of the wonderful outdoor adventure program offered by their department of Recreation.

And because recreation really means fun, we suggest they rename it to the University of California, Santa Barbara’s House of Fun (no disrespect meant). This key program offers four adventures each lasting a week. The first adventure is called the ‘multi-sport classic adventure’ and comprises a week-long trip kayaking along the Santa Cruz Island through sea caves and the Santa Barbara coastline.

The second adventure is dubbed the ‘multi-sport too: mountains to the sea’ and this baby has students on a wild adventure in the Channel Islands National Park. The remaining adventures, i.e. the ‘Colorado canoe adventure’ and ‘backpacking adventure’ take students on a Colorado River canoe trip and hiking through the Sierra Nevada respectively. We could spend an entire blog on these alone so make sure you check out all the details.

Channel Islands National Park (Santa Cruz Island)

Channel Islands National Park (Santa Cruz Island)

6. UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS

In the middle of the Boston Mountains, this research university is surrounded by the Ozark Mountain range. It’s an impressive all adventure all-rounder without any pretense. If you want a general fun filled tertiary education experience encompassing wonderful (and so many) hikes, skiing, kayaking and swimming then the beautiful lake enriched, University of Arkansas is for you.

White River, Arkansas

White River, Arkansas

7. BLACK HILLS STATE UNIVERSITY

‘Spearfish’, ‘Black Hills Forest’ and ‘Thunder Basin Grassland’ and our personal fav…’Badlands National Park’ all speak to the locales that encompass Black Hills State University. With such close proximity (less than 90 minutes) to high adrenaline-fueled adventure we’re wondering if students bother attending lectures.

It appears, so did the university, because at Black Hills State University, the faculty has met their adventure junkie students in the middle (so to speak) by offering a major in outdoor Education in zoos, aquaria, lodges and field stations.

Badlands National Park South Dakota

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

8. BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY

Outside magazine has classified Boise, Idaho as one of the ‘Best River Towns in America’ and we can see why. According to the government gazette, this quaint town is the healthiest and most active town in the US. For prospective students, Boise State University offers 130 miles of hiking, many mountain bike trails, the wonderful twenty-five miles of Boise River Greenbelt and a staggering two thousand plus acres of skiiable surfaces.

Boise River Greenbelt in Autumn

Boise River Greenbelt in Autumn

9. UNIVERSITY OF MAINE

Located on the Penobscot River in Orono, Maine, this excellent school has been included on the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll. The Acadia National Park is nearby and offers spectacular eco-tourist adventures. Students can enroll in the Maine Bound curriculum and partake in many activities such as biking, rope climbing, backpacking and even sea kayaking in the Everglades!

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, Maine

Also check out: 10 Ways How to Score Cheap Discounted Outdoor Gear

10. EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE

Located in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest, Evergreen State College is just 60 minutes from Olympic National Park. This experimental public liberal arts college has a comprehensive curriculum and large variety of outdoor activities to choose from.

The Puget Sound with its complex eco-system offers a variety of outdoor opportunities. Also nearby is the Pacific Ocean, mighty Mount Rainier for those inclined…well…towards an incline.

Lake of The Angels, Olympic National Park, WA

Lake of The Angels, Olympic National Park, WA

If you want the excellent grades and enjoy the great outdoors, then we suggest you consider applying to one of these wonderful institutions mentioned above. Make sure to get your waterproof outdoor gear here before heading into your next adventure.

Should your college be on this list? Let us know, leave a comment below. 

Further reading: 10 Outrageous Outdoor Holiday Adventures in Mexico

Image credits (in order): kurt; BLMOregon; anoldent; Jeff P.; David Wan; Thomas & Dianne Jones; Mr. Hicks46; Charles Knowles; heipei; Nick Mealey – all @ flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0 license)

The Top 10 Best US Colleges and Universities for Outdoor Adventurers
5 (100%) 2 votes

7 Comments

  • I think you forgot the University of Nevada… we’re on the trukee river, 50 minutes from Lake Tahoe, and we are surrounded by the Toiyabe National forest ?

  • Haha what about CU Boulder? 10 minutes from what is widely considered some of the best rock climbing in the world.

  • Don’t forget the University of Alaska Southeast! Campus sits in the Tongass National Forest, a run of wild coho comes to campus, Eaglecrest ski area is 20 minutes away, and our Outdoor Studies Program (1-year and 4-year degree options) prepares you to enjoy all of it!

  • CU Boulder doesn’t belong on the list, the trails in Boulder aren’t even open to mountain bikers and it’s wicked expensive! Colorado State University in Fort Collins is way better. We have easy access to Rocky Mountain National Park, the Poudre River is a wild and scenic river with amazing recreation opps, we’re close to the Pawnee National Grassland, and all of our trail systems are multi-use! Great fishing on the Poudre in town, an incredible system of bike trails in town, and all are connected to open space and natural areas. (Fort Lewis is pretty epic too, but I didn’t say that)

  • University of Montana in Missoula – the school’s “M” Trail leads up Mount Sentinel off campus to a national recreation area. Clark Fork River on the the edge of campus is a popular spot for fly fishing, floating and tubing, and a whitewater wave just downstream has kayakers and surfers on it year-round. Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness outside town is popular with mountain bikers and trail runners. Closest ski resort is 15 miles from campus, with others one to two hours away – if there’s enough snow, some even ski down Mount Sentinel behind Main Hall. Plenty of other national forest lands, recreation areas and wilderness in the area, and town is halfway between Glacier and Yellowstone national parks, making them ideal for weekend getaways.