26 SHELDON JACKSON COLLEGE
LOCAL COLOR Reached by boat or airplane, Sitka (pop. 8,800) is the only town on Baranof Island, in the Alexander Archipelago off southeastern Alaska, and has only 14 miles of road. But who needs blacktop when there's unlimited access to the Pacific Ocean and Tongass National Forest, and a slew of B&Bs, cafés, and fishing lodges that cater to the annual flood of cruise-boat tourists?
WORD ON THE QUAD Most students study environmental science or outdoor leadership, and the school runs the country's sole college-owned salmon hatchery.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 800-478-4556, www.sheldonjackson.edu; STUDENT BODY: 250 undergraduates; TUITION: $9,400; room and board, $6,920
27 BREVARD COLLEGE
Brevard, North Carolina
LOCAL COLOR Three miles from Pisgah National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Brevard (pop. 6,800) is a haven of upscale Appalachia. Everything centers around Broad and Main streets, where you'll find coffee shops, antique stores, and twenty-something grads with kayaks on their Subarus who can't quite bring themselves to move away.
WORD ON THE QUAD One eighth of the student body earns a B.A. in wilderness leadership and experiential education. Non-WLEE majors can participate in the Voice of the Rivers, a semester-long paddling expedition down a major river. (The last trip was to Argentina's Rio Santa Cruz.)
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 800-527-9090, www.brevard.edu; STUDENT BODY: 665 undergraduates; TUITION: $13,480; room and board, $5,510
STEPHANIE PEARSON 28 UNIVERSITY OF OREGON
LOCAL COLOR Home to 140,000 people, Eugene is Oregon's second-largest city, but its residents somehow manage to emit an earthy, 100 percent organic aura. It helps that the Class II-III Willamette River runs through town and that the Spencer's Butte bike trails are nearby, making for fit (as opposed to fat) and happy locals.
WORD ON THE QUAD A heightened sense of activism pervades student life, with regular protests against everything from war to animal abuse to logging. Nike founder Phil Knight has been the single largest donor to the university.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 541-346-1000, www.uoregon.edu; STUDENT BODY: 14,800 undergraduates, 3,700 graduates; TUITION: residents, $4,875; nonresidents, $16,416; room and board, $6,570
29 UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO
LOCAL COLOR Moscow (pop. 21,000), in the hills of Idaho's Palouse region, delivers a lively music scene, capped by the annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, in February. Locals run on the paved eight-mile path along Paradise Creek, bike the trails on 5,000-foot Moscow Mountain, and paddle the Snake and Salmon rivers.
WORD ON THE QUAD The Student Recreation Center has the highest climbing wall (55 feet) of any U.S. university. Thanks to an outstanding outdoor program, fledgling mountaineers learn on British Columbia's Kokanee Glacier and later climb Mount Rainier.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 888-884-3246, www.uidaho.edu; STUDENT BODY: 8,000 undergraduates, 1,800 graduates; TUITION: residents, $3,350; nonresidents, 10,740; room and board, $4,868
30 FORT LEWIS COLLGE
LOCAL COLOR Home to 14,000 people, Durango is the kind of place where the sporting equipment on the car racks is often more expensive than the cars themselves. River rats swarm to the town's Class II-III Animas River, and just off 25th Street, backpackers can trek to Denver on the 468-mile Colorado Trail.
WORD ON THE QUAD Southwest studies, chemistry, and biology are top fields of study; the outdoor pursuits program vies for student time with mountaineering trips to Mexico's 18,810-foot El Pico de Orizaba.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 970-247-7010, www.fortlewis.edu; STUDENT BODY: 4,400 undergraduates; TUITION: residents, $2,020; nonresidents, $10,560; room and board, $5,664
26 SHELDON JACKSON COLLEGE