When Californians think of far-north Humboldt, they think redwoods and hippies—and plant-based drugs, sometimes. Though those elements definitely exist, that’s a bit of a simplification: The university emphasizes responsibility, both ecological and physical.
Students can become certified swiftwater rescuers—which involves an in-depth look at river dynamics—or wilderness first responders. The focus on outdoorsy heroism extends into academic programs, too, such as wildfire management.
At Humboldt State, you can study environmental protection, watershed management, or fisheries biology (there’s an on-campus hatchery). The forestry program is extensive, and the campus greenhouse holds one of the most diverse plant collections in California—the better to serve environmental-biology classes with.
Fifteen miles north, in Trinidad, is the Marine Lab, whose recirculating seawater system is perfect for growing sea animals. The whole main campus, though, has views of the Pacific and is just west of the beauty that is Trinity National Forest.
Extracurricular classes maintain a good emphasis on adventure: There’s cross-country skiing, rock-climbing, cycling, all manner of paddling and rafting, sailing, surfing, and outdoor skills (Dutch-oven cooking, for instance). Excursions include backpacking trips into the legendary redwoods and coastal biking—in fact, the newish cycling programs have already been competitive on a national level, and the men’s crew team is always a powerhouse on the national scene.
Backpacking trips hover around $70, and gear rentals (windsurfers, canoes, rock-climbing stuff, and much more) are reasonably priced too: $45, for example, makes a sailboat yours for the day.
CONTACT: (707) 826-3011, humboldt.edu
STUDENT BODY: 7,222 undergraduates, 680 graduates
TUITION: residents $6,474, nonresidents $12,750, room and board $10,486