Best Colleges For Hiking in the USA
In the last few years, hiking has found its way back into the spotlight. It has become especially popular with young thrill seekers, usually around the college or young professional age range, who are looking for a new challenge. However, hiking is not only booming with young adults. This type of outdoor adventure can suit anyone and everyone – from younger children who need a release for all of their pent up energy to older folk who want to loosen their joints a little bit.
Not a lot of people can fit hiking into their busy schedules, though. This is why some young adults are basing their choice of the college campus on the activities available in the vicinity. For some, this could be the number of job opportunities or internships available for them after they graduate, while others have a more social purpose – looking for good nightlife and places such as beaches, pubs, and restaurants. There are also students who base their choice off of the nearest mountain or trail they can go on a hike on.
What You Need To Go Hiking
Before we talk about which colleges and universities are your best bet to bring out the outdoorsman or woman in you, let us first discuss what hiking is, what it entails, and what you need to get started. In the simplest terms possible, hiking is defined as the preferred term for an activity involving a long and vigorous walk on outdoor locations such as mountains, trails, or countrysides. If you’re from a different part of the world, you may have heard of the terms rambling, bushwalking, or tramping being thrown around interchangeably with hiking. This is different from “walking,” which is a term used for doing the same activity, but in a more urban setting.
If you’re planning to go hiking, then you’re going to need to stock up on a couple of things first. You don’t just walk up to the nearest mountain and hike up it when you wake up one day and decide you want to do it. There is a lot of preparation involved in this activity, especially for first-timers. If you don’t prepare properly, there are significant risks involved. You may end up lost, seriously hurt, or in some more extreme cases, dead. The following are some essentials you need to bring with you on a hike. There are comprehensive checklists available online that help you to not overpack.
The first thing you need to have is the appropriate apparel. You should wear weatherproof clothing, like hiking pants, with a good base layer underneath. Wearing weather-resistant clothing is good for when you come face to face with the elements, such as wind and rain. Base layers, on the other hand, are good for when it gets colder once you reach higher altitudes. To go along with your ensemble, you should also have sturdy hiking shoes, boots, or hiking sandals which will protect your feet from rocks and other forms of debris. These will also help prevent slippages. Lastly, you should bring a backpacking backpack filled with your other essentials.
Inside your hiking backpack, you should have a set of navigation tools. This includes a clearly printed map and a compass. Make sure you know, or at least have someone with you, who knows how to use either one of these. If you get a map near or at the place you’ll be hiking in, there’s a good chance that this will be very accurate, complete with landmarks and places to avoid. You should also stock up on plenty of food and water, especially if you’re going on a longer hike. Bring lots of compacts, yet energy-filled food items such as protein bars or energy bars. You could also bring sports drinks along with your insulated water bottle if you tend to sweat a lot during physical activity.
First Aid Kit
Since you’ll never know what you’ll encounter when you go hiking, it is also a good idea to bring a first aid kit with you. This will help provide temporary relief if you get sick or injured until you find proper medical assistance. A good first aid kit will also help avoid getting your cuts or bruises infected. Another thing you should bring is a high-quality multi tool. Make sure that the one you bring includes a sharp blade that is able to cut through branches or other things that might get stuck as you make your way through your hike. Make sure not to overstuff your bag, as a heavy bag will be hard to lug along during a physically-demanding hike.
15 Best Colleges For Hiking In The USA
1. University of Colorado Boulder
Now that we’ve gotten the essentials ready, let’s talk about which 15 colleges are the best for hiking enthusiasts. Up first, we have the University of Colorado Boulder. This may come as no surprise to a lot of people, seeing as it is located right in the heart of one of America’s most active cities. The people here love to get a sweat on either by running, biking, in-line skating, and, of course, hiking.
This university is located very near the Rocky Mountains, which has hiking spots for both beginnings as well as more experienced hikers. If you haven’t gone on your first proper hike yet, there’s no need to worry. You can go to a workshop in one of the university’s Outdoor Programs or you can visit the nearby Adventure Planning Center. In these places, you get to learn things such as safety techniques and light packing methods.
2. Reed College
At number two on the list, we have Reed College located in Portland, Oregon. This educational establishment features a 28-acre watershed to go along with its state of the art teaching facilities. Reed Canyon, as it’s better known, is one of the best-kept hiking spots in any college in the United States. This is largely thanks to “Canyon Day,” an annual school tradition wherein students take the time to maintain their alma mater’s beloved watershed. This practice has been going on now for over a hundred years, since 1915.
Other places to hike near Reed College include, but aren’t limited to the Columbia River Gorge as well as the Willamette River. The best part is, there are places near the campus from where you can borrow hiking gear for absolutely no charge at all. This place also has other outdoor activities such as alpine starts and beachside bonfires in Mount Hood and Seaside Beach respectively.
3. Appalachian State University
Up next we have the Appalachian State University in Boone North Carolina, which around 18,000 students call their second home. Out of these thousands of students, around 90 percent come from towns and cities near or around North Carolina. A large portion of them also say that they chose to study in ASU because of its exceptional outdoor facilities. Hiking and other activities are so engraved in student life here that the university even has a dedicated recreation management program. With this program, they are able to partner with organizations such as the National Park Service as well as the Alaska Mountain Guides, among others.
4. Pomona College
Coming in at the fourth spot is Pomona College in California. In fact, most of the colleges located in California can be in consideration for a spot on this list, but Pomona College in Claremont takes it due to being right on the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. Due to the college’s proximity to these mountains, you can go straight from hiking to surfing tall waves. Pomona also has an Outdoor Engagement Club that helps those who are not well-off experience the wonders of nature. This fund also grants these students access to experienced guides that will help them throughout their journey.
5. Cornell University
You may not think of New York as a hiking spot, but Cornell University in Ithaca has been hailed as one of the “most outdoorsy Ivy League schools,” an honor it shares with Dartmouth College, which we’ll also talk more about later. The Fall Creek, which has two renowned gorges, runs directly through Cornell. In fact, the city this university is in has over a hundred waterfalls within a rather small area of ten square miles.
Cornell University has its own Outing Club that boasts thousands of members, who each join for a fee of just $7 per semester. This small payment grants them not only membership but also access to a wide range of gear for different outdoor activities. If you study at Cornell, you can even earn units by taking classes in day hiking, backcountry cooking, and tree climbing.
6. Middlebury College
Despite being a smaller school, Middlebury College in Vermont has invested a lot in its outdoors program. With a budget of $5000, students are able to go on trips with things such as gas, food, and camping fees all accounted for. Students here love the outdoors so much that, in fact, Environmental Studies is the third most popular major they offer.
7. Dartmouth College
At the seventh spot, we have Dartmouth College. This academic institution has been talked about before on this list, but they thoroughly deserve another mention. Dartmouth has a history of developing outdoorsy people, as they put up the first ever collegiate outing club back in 1909. Now they have over a dozen different outdoor clubs that depart on 20 to 30 trips on a weekly basis. On these trips, they patrol and rescue wildlife on the college’s very own skiing area, or they maintain over 70 miles of the Appalachian trails.
8. University Of Utah
Next up we have the University of Utah, which also encourages their students to have a deep connection with the outdoors. So much so that students here have discounts to several ski resorts – some of them are even less than an hour away from campus. University of Utah students aren’t only interested in skiing; however, as by the time summer rolls around, they’ve already changed into their running or hiking gear. This academic institution also claims to have the largest gear shed out of any college or university in the US.
9. Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University takes the ninth spot on the list, thanks to being placed in between the Siskiyou and Cascade Mountains. Their geography is perfect for the courses they offer, as the Crater Lake National Park is well-suited for marine research and land management studies. Like many of the universities on this list, Southern Oregon University has its very own Outdoor Program, which provides students a platform to hold gear swaps and film showings, among other activities.
10. University Of Wyoming
At number ten, we have the University of Wyoming in Laramie. If you like a rougher version of the outdoors, then this place is for you. They offer a two-semester “Outdoor Leadership Development Series,” which ends with a week of backpacking in the wilds of Utah. The catch is that you’ll do this without an instructor if you’re part of the lucky 12 selected. No need to worry if you didn’t make the cut for this program, as there are many more options available from the Snowy Range to the North Platte River.
11. University Of Oregon
Other academic institutions also deserve a special mention on this list. The University of Oregon, located in Eugene, Oregon, is a go-to for cross-country skiers, backpackers, mountaineer, and hikers. Similar to the other Oregon-based universities featured on this list, this one is also close to places such as the Three Sisters Wilderness area and the Crater Lake National Park.
12. The University of Hawaii, Manoa
The University of Hawaii, Manoa also deserves a spot. Located in the heart of Honolulu, this university is extremely close to both the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean as well as the blacks and reds of volcanic terrain. If you want a more exotic location to pursue your studies, this is the place to go.
13. Green Mountain College
Green Mountain College lives up to its name by imbibing in their students the important lessons on social, economic, and environmental sustainability. This school was actually ranked second in the Princeton Review’s list of the “Top 50 Green Colleges.”
14. Black Hills State University
Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota also features here on the virtue of their proximity to various hiking spots and other natural beauties. It is located north of Black Hills National Forest and east of the Thunder Basin National Grassland. Black Hills State University is also just an hour away from the Badlands National Park.
15. Evergreen State College
Lastly, we have Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. This public liberal arts college was hailed as one of the best in the West Coast. If you study here, you can choose between over 60 different majors including biology and somatic studies. Students even study about art history and environmental sustainability. If you enroll here, you can choose to go here and do all this while taking in the beauty of their over a thousand acres of land, which serves as a lab for natural scientific research.
If you want to hike and experience what the great outdoors has to offer, you won’t go wrong with any of the fifteen universities featured here. Whether you choose to go to school on the East Coast or the West, you won’t run out of outdoor activities to enjoy.
- Day Hiking Checklist, REI
- 20 Best Colleges and Universities for Outdoor Adventurers, College Choice
- The 20 Best Colleges for Hikers, Backpacker