Finding a college with a nice engineering program or an exciting football team is great, but what are you going to do when the weekend comes and the mountains beckon or the sea calls? Choosing a college with a great outdoors program will give you the opportunity to learn new skills like rock climbing or wilderness medicine, rent gear such as a mountain bike or kayak, and go on student-led adventure outings at discounted rates. You’ll also be able to meet friends who share your passion for the outdoors. Here is a list of six standout outdoor programs in the country.
The University of Oregon’s Outdoor Program (link)
This outdoor program allows students to rent a bike anywhere from 1‑day to an entire term. You can also fix your bike in their DIY bike maintenance shop, which is complete with manuals and tools. The University of Oregon’s proximity to the ocean, mountains, and eastern desert allows for a well-rounded program where students can go surfing at the coast, rock climbing at Smith Rock, and hiking in the Cascades.
Colorado University’s CU Outdoor Program (link)
At Colorado University, incoming students can get acquainted with the Rocky Mountains through the CU Mountain Fest, where they spend a few days river rafting, hiking, rock climbing, and partying in Keystone. This outdoor program also offers fly fishing courses where students get in-river experience, and eight different rock climbing courses that include guided trips to the top of First Flatiron. Students also have the opportunity to become certified in Wilderness Medicine.
University of Central Florida’s Outdoor Adventure (link)
If you’re a river rat, lake rat, or sea dog, University of Central Florida’s Outdoor Adventure program is for you. The school is within miles of the Caribbean, the Atlantic, and all sorts of swamps, rivers, and lakes. The program lets you rent SUPs, surfboards, and kayaks as well as takes you on excursions to see manatees and go kayaking through the Everglades. You can also get scuba certifications, or you can gain confidence on the 45-foot tall Odyssey III challenge course.
Montana State University’s Outdoor Recreation Program (link)
Montana State University students can access some of the nation’s most iconic national parks through rafting trips down the Yellowstone River, as well as backpacking trips into Glacier National Park. This outdoor program also sports one of the nation’s best winter gear rental shops, which includes things like XC ski packages, avalanche transceivers, and ice skates. With all that amazing snow in Big Sky country, it’s important to understand avalanches, which is why Montana State’s outdoor program offers 3‑different courses in avalanche safety.
University of Tennessee’s RecSports (link)
Nestled in the heart of Appalachia, the University of Tennessee outdoor program offers plenty of hiking and rock climbing excursions. You can rent a bouldering crash pad and a pair of rock climbing shoes for as low as $12. If ladies night is your thing, female-only excursions are common (sorry guys). This outdoor program also offers mountain bike trips for beginners.
University of Alaska Fairbanks’s Outdoor Adventures Program (link)
If playing in the snow is your cup of iced tea, then this is the place to be. You can learn to ice climb in class and then hone your skills on the ice wall. In addition to the 1,100-acre North Campus area, which is a forest filled with cross country ski trails, University of Alaska Fairbanks is in the process of building its own ski and snowboard terrain park. This outdoor program’s gear rental shop has a broad range of equipment for both summer and winter sports.