Outside University: 02. University of California, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

University of California, Los Angeles.     Photo: Daniel Brady/UCLA Outdoor Adventures

Yeah, this surprised us too. Ruggedness isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when stepping onto this very urban, very pretty school that abuts the poshness of Bel-Air. But blonde ingénues and their Hollywood aspirations aside, fresh air, in fact, turns out to be critically important here.

The Bruins’ hilly, park-like campus includes a botanical garden and is an easy drive (for Angelenos, that is) to the Hollywood Hills’ trails, the woodsy Santa Monica Mountains and their Topanga State Park, and Leo Carillo’s teeming tide pools. Santa Monica and Malibu are also near—hence all of UCLA’s boardshorts-clad men in flip-flops—they’re headed to Zuma after class.

This is L.A., so the weather barely needs mentioning, but we’ll point it out anyway: With 73 percent possible sunshine per year, you’re guaranteed that the majority of your days here will be beautiful.

To make sure that your studies get you outside, major in anthropology, biology, geography, marine biology, or environmental science (sample classes: “Coastal Ecology in Southern Thailand” and “Los Angeles Watershed”). Even if you don’t major in his subject matter, take a class from geography professor Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Speaking of steel, the athletes here are nothing to mess with. UCLA holds 108 national team titles—more than any other school—and water polo and beach volleyball players regularly fetch Olympic medals. The women’s sailing team, too, is one of the nation’s best.

Rec facilities include the John Wooden Center—the school’s main gym, with a 15-rope rock wall—and the Marina Aquatic Center, whose robust list of programs includes rowing, sailing, SUPing, windsurfing, sculling, “birding by kayak,” full-moon paddles, eskimo-roll clinics, and scuba certification ($240).

Both centers rent equipment at reasonable rates: An Osprey backpack is $14 for three days, a 24-speed bike is $8, and snowshoes cost $10. Kayaks are free for two hours, $10 for a day. Local getaways (like a “sustainability day hike” in Temescal Canyon) range from about $20 to $50 while trips farther afield (“Backpack Catalina Island”) move into the $300 realm. For $125, students become wilderness guides via UCLA’s year-long outdoor-leadership training program, which makes use of a tree-centric challenge course located by the dorms.

Students can also gain outdoor-leadership skills by applying to be camp counselors at Bruin Woods, the alumni association’s popular family camp up on Lake Arrowhead. Summer activities there include waterskiing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and a full schedule of events designed to leave kids loving nature.

CONTACT: (310) 825-4321, ucla.edu
STUDENT BODY: 26,162 undergraduates, 13,431 graduates
TUITION: residents $11,604, nonresidents $34,482, room and board $13,979

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