25 Schools for Nature Lovers: Take a Hike!

Need a break from the library? Want to take the edge off of studying for finals? There’s nothing like a good hike, bike, or surf session to make college life less stressful.

Spectacular outdoor scenery and a nature-focused education add up to the perfect college experience for nature lovers. The following schools score high in all things green, with degree programs that help you discover, protect, experience, and enjoy nature.

From Beaches to Bike Trails: 25 Colleges for Nature Lovers

  1. UC Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)–From Natural Bridges State Beach to the Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve, Santa Cruz is a haven for nature lovers. The Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems and a carbon-neutral campus contribute to the university’s green appeal.
  2. Evergreen State College (Olympia, WA)–Forests, an organic farm, hiking trails, wetlands, and a half-mile beach on Puget Sound draw nature lovers to Washington’s state capital.
  3. Lewis & Clark College (Portland, OR)–The view of Mount Hood serves as a constant reminder of Oregon’s natural beauty. Outdoor clubs sponsor caving expeditions, mushroom hunting trips, and river rafting trips.
  4. University of Colorado, Boulder (Boulder, CO) Nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains, the university campus earns its green credentials with a student-directed recycling program and LEED Gold facilities.
  5. Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT) Vermont’s Bread Loaf mountain region features 500 miles of hiking trails, single-track biking trails in Branbury State Park, and cross-country ski routes.
  6. Alaska Pacific University (Anchorage, AK)–Anchorage offers a base for exploring the unspoiled wilderness of Alaska. The university promotes responsible stewardship of the environment through its “Active Learning” program.
  7. College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, ME)–This Eco League university features just one degree program: human ecology. The school’s environmental report card includes carbon neutrality since 2007 and the organic Beech Hill Farm.
  8. University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)–The Ross School of Business ranks number one in the Aspen Institute’s biennial survey of green business graduate schools nationwide.
  9. University of Oregon (Eugene, OR)–Besides the Willamette River, Eugene offers nature lovers eco-friendly living and an activist local culture.
  10. Northland College (Ashland, WI)–Eco-visionaries get their start at Wisconsin’s Eco League institution.
  11. Sierra Nevada College (Incline Village, NV)–Set in a “living lab of granite walls, river gorges, and mountain peaks,” this private university incorporates the outdoors into its curriculum. The campus’ Lake Tahoe location draws skiers and other mountain folk.
  12. Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, AZ)–The Ponderosa pine forests and canyons of Arizona’s highlands attract outdoorsy types. The university features field-oriented bachelor’s degree programs in forestry and park management.
  13. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)–This Ivy League veteran is leading twenty-first-century innovation with environmental degree programs as well as eco-friendly campus policies.
  14. Stanford University (Stanford, CA)–“The Farm” not only occupies acres of rolling hills in Silicon Valley, but also hosts one of the top-ranked green MBA programs in the nation according to GreenBiz.com and the Aspen Institute for Business Education.
  15. University of Washington (Seattle, WA)–Views of Mt. Rainier and energy-efficient facilities please nature lovers on campus. Off campus, you’ll find a hiking, skiing, and kayaking playground extending from the Cascades to the San Juan Islands.
  16. Bates College (Lewiston, ME)–This scenic Maine college boasts eco-friendly campus policies as well as environmental action programs for students.
  17. The University of the South (Sewanee, TN): Sewanee’s 13,000-acre campus on the Cumberland Plateau “invites students to engage in both a multitude of outdoor activities and careful study of the natural environment.”
  18. University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL)–The Florida Keys and Lake Osceola offer the perfect setting for a marine biology education.
  19. University of Hawaii (Hilo, HI)–Hawaii needs no introduction as a nature-lover’s paradise. Hilo’s volcanoes and observatory make it an ideal place to study geography and astronomy.
  20. Warren Wilson College (Asheville, NC)–This North Carolina school ranks as one of the greenest colleges in the U.S., thanks to its emphasis on nature conservation both inside and out of the classroom.
  21. University of Montana (Missoula, MT)– With Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks nearby, Missoula attracts conservationists and other outdoorsy types.
  22. Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)–The “gorgeous” gorges and waterfalls of Ithaca, in upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region, offer a dramatic backdrop for college or graduate school. Hike, sail, windsurf–or study in campus buildings overlooking Lake Cayuga.
  23. Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA)Wellesley, Massachusetts offers an ideal venue for appreciating New England’s seasons, from spring rhododendrons to fall colors and winter snow.
  24. Montana State University (Bozeman, MT)–Bozeman is a fly-fishing Mecca, gateway to the Rockies, and home to an eco-minded university. Bachelor’s degree and graduate school programs include land rehabilitation, wildlife management, and environmental biology.
  25. Humboldt State University (Arcata, CA) The towering redwoods and crashing waves of California’s Lost Coast make this a popular place for nature lovers, from oceanographers to outdoor adventurers.

    College education and the great outdoors go hand in hand at these nature-friendly institutions. At work and at play, these campuses let you spend your college years immersed in nature.

    Browse additional schools that offer environmental science degree programs.


    “Survey: Stanford Tops List of Sustainable MBA Programs,” GreenBiz, October 18, 2005, http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2005/10/18/survey-stanford-tops-list-sustainable-mba-programs

    “QS World University Rankings 2014/15 | Top Universities,” QS Top Universities, 2014/2015, http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2014#sorting=rank+region=140+country=158+faculty=+stars=false+search=

    school listing icon
    Our Partner Listings