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When it came to ranking North America's best places to learn, live, work, and play, we did our homework, canvassing hundreds of colleges and enlisting an able crew of undergrad reporters. Then we narrowed the honor roll down to 40 schools that turn out smart grads with top-notch academic credentials, a healthy environmental ethos, and an A+ sense of adventure.
1 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT SANTA CRUZ
Santa Cruz, California
LOCAL COLOR Beautiful beaches, great surf, redwood forests, coastal mountains, and a Mediterranean climate make UC Santa Cruz, on the northern tip of Monterey Bay, a hard place to study. Everything about this seaside oasis (pop. 55,000) is eclectic, from the surfers, farmers, students, and Silicon Valley refugees who call it home to the quirky early-20th-century architecture. On weekend mornings, you'll find kayakers on the Class III-IV San Lorenzo River, surfers paddling out to Steamers Lane, at Lighthouse Field State Beach, and scuba divers descending to the kelp forests in Monterey Bay. When the adrenaline wears off, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is the spot to people-watch.
WORD ON THE QUAD Seventy percent of the 2,030-acre campus, which sits in the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains, is undeveloped. The largely native-Californian student population is a laid-back, liberal crowd that whizzes through the campus's elaborate 11-mile trail system on (what else?) Santa Cruz mountain bikes. UCSC's academic strengths are as diverse as the town: The Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (a.k.a. the Farm and Garden program) teaches students to develop food sources that are environmentally sound and socially responsible; the Institute for Marine Sciences has backyard access to microscopic plankton and massive blue whales. The Office of Physical Education, Recreation and Sports offers everything from scuba lessons and surfing outings to day hikes and multiday backpacking trips in the Santa Cruz Mountains, as well ashow Calia variety of outdoor meditation arts.
EXTRA CREDIT Winter's the rainy season (30 inches annually) in this otherwise sunny paradise, and students celebrate its onset with a naked run through campus on the first drizzly day each year.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 831-459-0111, www.ucsc.edu; STUDENT BODY: 13,000 undergraduates, 1,300 graduates; TUITION: residents, $5,829; nonresidents, $12,980; room and board, $10,314
RACHEL SANDERS 2 UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER
LOCAL COLOR At 5,430 feet and framed by the Flatirons, Boulder, about 30 miles northwest of Denver, is the quintessential modern mountain town. Of the 95,000 people who live here, a whopping 70 percent have bachelor's degrees, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Software development, biotech, engineering, and university jobs are plentiful, and, equally important, Boulder's mountain parks system offers 200 miles of multi-use trails. Places like Chautauqua Park and Flagstaff Mountain crawl with the town's ubiquitous ür-athletes in training; runners roam the six-mile Boulder Creek Path and the trails up Boulder Canyon; and the Switzerland Trail, a jeep road just west of town, is popular with mountain bikers. Rocky Mountain National Park is less than an hour's drive northwest, with 359 miles of wilderness trails weaving over dozens of 13,000-foot summits.
WORD ON THE QUAD The neo-hippie culture at the University of Colorado at Boulder may not be completely dominant, but everyone seems to advocate recycling and alternative energy, with many students choosing science or social policy majors in the interdisciplinary environmental studies program. Plenty are proud to have turned down admission to Ivy League schools in favor of the Colorado mountains, and the active CU Recreation Center and hiking club cater to this spirit.
EXTRA CREDIT It's the powder, stupid: Colorado has 25 resorts, and CU's ski and snowboard club runs a $7 weekend bus to Vail, Breckenridge, and Keystone.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 303-492-6301, www.colorado.edu; STUDENT BODY: 22,000 undergraduates, 4,400 graduates; TUITION: residents, $3,846; nonresidents, $19,826; room and board, $6,648
3 MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE
LOCAL COLOR With white-steepled churches, clapboard houses, and a central green, Middlebury (pop. 6,000) is so cute it's almost a cliché. Vermont's longest river, Otter Creek, runs through the middle of town, and experienced kayakers paddle under the old Main Street bridge and run 18-foot Otter Creek Falls, the same water that's used downstream to brew the local Otter Creek Ale. Fifteen minutes east, the Green Mountains offer more than 500 miles of hiking trails, singletrack in Branbury State Park, and cross-country ski routes out of Middlebury College's 1,800-acre Bread Loaf mountain campus (site of the eponymous summer writing conference). But don't let Middlebury's quaint look and jocky vibe fool you: This is a progressive, cultured place, home to artisans, writers, scholars, farmers, hybrid cars, and a bustling natural-foods co-op.
WORD ON THE QUAD Some of the ivy-covered limestone buildings at Club Midd, as it's affectionately nicknamed, date back to the college's founding, in 1800, but the campus has a cutting-edge environmental conscience: Sixty percent of waste is diverted through recycling and composting, a battalion of communal bikes and an electric bus provide an eco-friendly alternative to cars, and new building projects use locally harvested woods. Midd kids are as passionate about the environment as they are about adventure: Nearly 10 percent are environmental studies majorsfounded in 1965, it's the oldest ES department in the countryand 950 belong to the 72-year-old Middlebury Mountain Club, which runs freshman orientation and weekend and spring-break adventures from Vermont to Yosemite.
EXTRA CREDIT Each February, 100-plus "Febs" don caps and gownsand strap on skis, snowboards, snowshoes, toboggans, and even a few kamikaze canoesfor the traditional "ski down" graduation ceremony at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 802-443-5000, www.middlebury.edu; STUDENT BODY: 2,350 undergraduates; Comprehensive fee: $38,100
MICHAEL LEIGH HOYER
4 WARREN WILSON COLLEGE
Asheville, North Carolina
LOCAL COLOR Tucked into the hazy Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville (pop. 69,000) is an enclave of liberal Appalachian hip, with more art deco architecture than any American city north of Miami. Sixth-generation landowners share hillside neighborhoods with transplanted New Englanders and California yuppies. Just out of town, the Green River Narrows hosts one of the most extreme whitewater races in the world each November. And for the hyperactive athlete: The Bent Creek Experimental Forest offers miles of singletrack, road riders convene every Tuesday at Liberty Bikes for a morning ride, and runners can join the Asheville Track Club. Prefer solitude? Hop onto the Mountains to Sea Trail, which links up with the AT about 100 miles west at Clingmans Dome.
WORD ON THE QUAD Warren Wilson is one of the most earth-friendly colleges on the planet. Mountain-chalet architecture mixes with ivy-covered red-brick buildings, and students grow fresh vegetables in a pesticide-free garden. The whole school, in fact, runs on a student work force, with tasks ranging from sorting mail to building a new dormitory. Hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders don't even have to leave the 1,200-acre campus, as more than 25 miles of trails cut through the grounds. Warren Wilson's environmental studies program is the biggest on campus, and students can choose between sustainable agriculture, conservation biology, environmental policy, environmental education, and sustainable forestry. The Outing Program lends gear free of charge and organizes a wide variety of classes and off-campus outings like surfing, hang gliding, and caving.
EXTRA CREDIT "The Bubba" is a once-a-semester party where half the school tramps out to Dogwood Pasture to have a good ol' time around a blazing bonfire.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 828-298-3325, www.warren-wilson.edu; Student Body: 765 undergraduates, 82 graduates; TUITION: $16,674; room and board, $5,120
DAVID KENNEDY JONES
5 MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY
LOCAL COLOR It's not hard to see why Bozeman, the hub of southwestern Montana's Gallatin River Valley, appeals to the adventurous. The trout-filled Yellowstone, Gallatin, and Madison rivers offer world-class fly-fishing, rafting, and kayaking just outside town, and Bozeman is surrounded by four Rocky Mountain ranges, which draw hikers, bikers, and rock climbers. Residents (28,000 of them) and visitors (tourism is Bozeman's top industry) satisfy their cultural cravings downtown, home to art galleries, performance spaces, and coffeehouses. The dinosaur collection at the Museum of the Rockies, overseen by renowned paleontologist Jack Horner, is nationally respected.
WORD ON THE QUAD Though green space is in short supply on Montana State University's 1,170-acre campus, there's enough of it nearby to keep the nature-loving undergrads more than satisfied. When Bobcat students aren't hanging out in the Standing Room Only coffee shop or studying in the Leigh Lounge at the student union, you might find them planning their next adventure at the Outdoor Recreation Center. MSU offers a number of majors for the environmentally inclined, notably land rehabilitation, wildlife management, and environmental biology. Students in the civil engineering program specialize in bioresources engineering and apply their skills to local conservation projects.
EXTRA CREDIT Dozens of funky animal sculptures, created by students and profs, are paraded across the campus mall each April during Art Infusion, a tradition sponsored by the MSU School of Art.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 888-678-2287, www.montana.edu; STUDENT BODY: 10,600 undergraduates, 1,300 graduates; TUITION: residents, $3,807; nonresidents, $11,444; room and board, $5,120
A higher power: climbing Dartmouth's Rollins Chapel
Quick release: mountain-biking the San Francisco Peaks, near Flagstaff
6 SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
LOCAL COLOR Bounded by Burrard Inlet, the Coast Mountains, and the Fraser River, this hilly 197,000-person suburb of Vancouver has nowhere to go but up. Amid the cosmopolitan flair, locals maintain an outdoor lifestyle, running or cycling around the seven-mile seawall at Stanley Park, kayaking down False Creek, scuba diving in Porteau Cove, or playing Ultimate Frisbee on one of Vancouver's 200 teams. And, of course, there's the whole North Shore freeride mountain-bike scene and Olympic-caliber downhill terrain at Whistler Blackcomb, 90 minutes away. (No wonder Vancouver was tapped to host the 2010 Winter Games.)
WORD ON THE QUAD Home to the University of British Columbia and a half-dozen other small colleges, Vancouver has a happening student scene. But Simon Fraser University tops them allliterally: The 430-acre grounds sit on the summit of 1,200-foot Burnaby Mountain. The concrete-and-glass campus is steeped in green, with its section of the Trans Canada Trail and spectacular rose gardens. Kinesiology, computer science, and engineering are the big draws, but the school also offers programs in earth sciences, environmental science, geography, and resource management. SFU's sizable Gore-Tex contingent gravitates to the outdoor, snowboard, and ski clubs, which provide instruction and lead a variety of expeditions.
EXTRA CREDIT In February, costumed engineering students participate in a time-honored tradition: throwing one another into the icy waters of Reflection Pond.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 604-291-3111, www.sfu.ca; STUDENT BODY: 22,500 undergraduates, 3,000 graduates; TUITION: Canadian residents, $3,059; nonresidents, $8,499; room and board, $2,785
7 DARTMOUTH COLLEGE
Hanover, New Hampshire
LOCAL COLOR An affluent, intellectual town of gifted college kids, tweedy professors, overworked med students, and young families, Hanover (pop. 11,000) serves as a mini metropolitan area for the surrounding New Hampshire farm country. Picturesque Main and Lebanon streets house student bookshops and the immensely popular Co-Op, Hanover's natural-foods grocery, while downtown's 18th-century look is offset by the sleek, modern Hopkins Center for the Arts. The Appalachian Trail runs right through the middle of town, and on the west end, the wide and lazy Connecticut River is perfect for kayakers, rowers, and swimmers. The White Mountains are 40 miles northeast, and Vermont's Green Mountains are just across the river. Both ranges are soft from age but covered in brushy pine forests, knobby granite crags, and hiking and biking trails.
WORD ON THE QUAD With 200 acres of green-shuttered brick-and-stone buildings, towering pines, and sprawling lawns, Dartmouth couldn't look more collegiate if it tried; in nice weather, the Green's grassy expanse disappears beneath pickup disc sessions and Ivy Leaguers with laptops. The environmental studies major offers courses in natural-resource development, environmental law, ecological agriculture, and Native American environmental issues; Dartmouth's Outing Club, founded in 1909 and today numbering 2,400 members, is the country's oldest and largest. Famous for its five-day freshman backpacking trips (complete with a green-eggs-and-ham breakfast in honor of alum Dr. Seuss), the club also offers dozens of other trips year-round and maintains 70 miles of the AT.
EXTRA CREDIT The Big Green party scene is still as wild as ever, with competitive beer pong, frat and sorority disco ragers, and the notoriously wild Dartmouth Winter Carnival.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 603-646-1110, www.dartmouth.edu; Student Body: 4,100 undergraduates, 1,100 graduates; TUITION: $28,965; room and board, $8,740
8 UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
LOCAL COLOR Charlottesville, a town of 45,000 in the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, is like the most popular girl in school: Don't hate her because she's beautiful. With gorgeous Jeffersonian architecture, a fertile live-music scene (Dave Matthews got his start playing at Miller's), and all the culinary perks you'd expect from a thriving college town (the White Spot's greasily delicious Gusburger is a fine hangover remedy), C'ville has substance and styleand plenty of outdoor cred. There are miles of hiking trails close to town, in the Ivy Creek and Ragged Mountain natural areas; cycling on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, 20 miles north; and canoeing, fishing, and tubing on the nearby James River.
WORD ON THE QUAD Founded and designed in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia is steeped in history. At the heart of its 1,200-acre grounds is the Lawn, a central green backed by TJ's Pantheon-inspired Rotunda and flanked by red-brick pavilions and single rooms (with fireplaces, and brass nameplates on the doors)honorary housing for esteemed profs and brainy seniors. Best known for its English and history departments, UVA offers undergraduate majors in environmental sciences and biology, as well as one of the country's leading landscape architecture programs. UVA Outdoors provides a break from the books, whether it's caving at Riprap Hollow, rafting on the Gauley, or trad climbing at Seneca Rocks.
EXTRA CREDIT Head out for wine tastingsseyval blanc is a local specialtyat the swanky vineyards in the hills outside town.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 434-982-3200, www.virginia.edu; STUDENT BODY: 13,000 undergraduates, 6,000 graduates; TUITION: residents, $6,149; nonresidents, $22,169; room and board, $5,550
9 NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY
LOCAL COLOR Those who think of Arizona as a hot, saguaro-dotted sandbox haven't been to Flagstaff. Just 140 miles north of Phoenix, Flagstaff (pop. 57,000) is perched at a cool 6,910 feet and surrounded by thousands of acres of ponderosa pine forest. Localsa mix of liberal mountain-town types, conservative ranchers, Native Americans, and a fair share of snowbird retireestake advantage of the adventure-perfect landscape and mild climate to get outside whenever they can. To the north, the 12,000-foot San Francisco Peaks are laced with trails for hiking and mountain biking, while the canyons to the southeast have some of the best crags in the region. (The Kaibab limestone face of Le Petit Verdon, a.k.a. the Pit, near Walnut Canyon National Monument, offers more than 50 routes, rated up to 5.13.) When the snow fliesFlagstaff gets about 84 inches each wintersnowboarders and skiers head for the Arizona Snowbowl, a small resort with more than 2,000 feet of vertical, 20 minutes north of town.
WORD ON THE QUAD Spread over 738 acres just south of Flagstaff's historic downtown, Northern Arizona University's turn-of-the-20th-century sandstone buildings and newer stucco structures mingle with stands of aspen, pine, and oak. Students in NAU's field-oriented, interdisciplinary School of Forestry learn the science of thinning and controlled (we hope) burns in the 80-acre swath of ponderosas on the south side of campus. Also popular is the Parks and Recreation Management Programwhich includes a one-semester park ranger certification course that's recognized by the National Park Serviceand the Grand Canyon Semester, a three-month immersion in the canyon's history, native cultures, and environmental issues. (The South Rim is 90 minutes northwest of campus.) NAU Outdoors hosts weekend and day trips throughout northern Arizona and skills seminars covering everything from wilderness survival to bicycle repair.
EXTRA CREDIT Stargazers love Flagstaffit became the world's first International Dark-Sky city when its city council passed an ordinance regulating light pollution in 2001.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 928-523-5511, www.nau.edu; STUDENT BODY: 13,600 undergraduates, 6,300 graduates; TUITION: residents, $3,508; nonresidents, $12,028; room and board, $5,374
10 UNIVERSITY OF IOWA
Iowa City, Iowa
LOCAL COLOR In the middle of miles of cornfields, Iowa City is one of the ten most literate and enlightened towns in the nation, according to the American Booksellers Association. This city of 62,000, set on the winding Iowa River, is a pocket of sophistication with the feel of small-town America. Locally run bookstores, ethnic restaurants, cafés with gallery space, and organic grocers line the brick streets, and summers are a whirl of jazz musicians, artists, and food vendors. Most residents are connected to the university, which employs 21,000, but health care and manufacturing also provide many jobs. Iowa has 41,000 acres of lakes and 90 state parks, recreation areas, and preserves, giving locals plenty of room to roam. Mountain bikers head to nearby Sugar Bottom Recreation Area for its 15 miles of singletrack, paddlers row or kayak on the Iowa River, climbers tackle the limestone cliffs at Palisade-Kempler State Park, and cross-country skiers hit the wooded trails of McBride State Park.
WORD ON THE QUAD The university's gray-stone and red-brick buildings rise from hillsides flanking the river, and green lawns and running trails follow the water's edge. Established in 1847, the 1,900-acre campus is best known for the Writers' Workshop, an M.F.A. program (founded in 1936) that was the first of its kind in the country and is still the most prestigious. Undergrads take advantage of majors in environmental studies or environmental science, leisure studies, and therapeutic recreation. Though there are 24 frats and 18 sororities, students tend to head to the "Res" (the Iowa Reservoir), just outside of town, or hang out at one of 30 pubs (like Quinton's Bar & Deli), in a four-block radius of downtown. There are 46 adventure- and sports-related organizationseverything from the Cycling Club to the Lawn Sports Cluband two student environmental groups.
EXTRA CREDIT April brings Riverfest, a student-run festival that attracts headlining bands like Widespread Panic, amusement-park rides, andafter darkcops, to tame the rowdy.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 319-335-3500, www.uiowa.edu; STUDENT BODY: 20,000 undergraduates, 9,000 graduates; TUITION: residents, $4,993; nonresidents, $15,285; room and board, $5,930
Taking the high road in the Adirondacks outside of Ithaca
11 UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT
LOCAL COLOR Location, location, location: Sandwiched between the Green Mountains, to the east, and Lake Champlain and the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, to the west, it doesn't get much better than Burlington, a trendy city of 39,000 in northern Vermont. Down on Church Street, tattooed bikers mingle with preppy college kids from Connecticut, fifth-generation dairy farmers, and product techies from one of several local ski manufacturers. Outside of town, the scene is just as varied: multipitch climbs at Chapel Pond in the 'Dacks, ungroomed chutes at Mad River Glen, and stiff sailing winds at Sand Bar State Park.
WORD ON THE QUAD On the hilltop campus overlooking downtown and the lake, students take the well-worn college motto"Work hard, play hard"to extremes. UVM's environmental studies program has more than 90 programs, with courses in sustainable agriculture, environmental law and policy, environmental education, and restoration ecology. The enormously popular Outing Club runs local climbing, telemarking, and backpacking trips, as well as summer expeditions to South America and Alaska.
EXTRA CREDIT UVM's renegade traditions include springtime couch burning and "420," the annual April 20 protest at which students toke up to rally against marijuana laws.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 802-656-3131, www.uvm.edu; STUDENT BODY: 7,500 undergraduates, 1,500 graduates; TUITION: residents, $8,696; nonresidents, $21,748; room and board, $6,680
ANDRÉ SCHOUMATOFF 12 HUMBOLDT STATE UNIVERSITY
LOCAL COLOR Known both affectionately and derisively as "Sixties by the Sea," Arcata (pop. 16,500) sits on the edge of Northern California's Humboldt Bay, the state's second-largest natural harbor. The 575-acre Arcata Community Forest and Redwood Park has ten miles of hiking and biking trails, but all the unprotected areas in the mountains east of town mean that the lumber industry remains a vital, if controversial, part of the local economy.
WORD ON THE QUAD Humboldt State continues to be the largest employer in this town of 17,000, and Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants, isfor the next 15 minutesthe school's most famous graduate. Its programs in environmental engineering and alternative technologies have drawn national attention for their fuel-cell research, and so has the school's proximity to great Pacific-swell surfing and hiking on the Lost Coast Trail.
EXTRA CREDIT Downtown's grassy, flowery central plaza is a virtual theme park of impromptu performance art and music, with lots of community events, like the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race of people-powered vehicles and the crowded weekly farmers market.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 707-826-3011, www.humboldt.edu; STUDENT BODY: 6,600 undergraduates, 1,000 graduates; TUITION: residents, $2,464; nonresidents, $10,924; room and board, $6,500
13 COLORADO COLLGE
Colorado Springs, Colorado
LOCAL COLOR At 14,110 feet, Pikes Peak dominates the Springs' western skyline. Home to the Olympic Training Center, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and countless family-values organizations, this city of 380,000 emanates a certain overachieving vibe. Combine that with 300 days of sunshine per year and you've got jockaholics everywhere, climbing at Garden of the Gods, topping out on a Front Range fourteener, and playboating on the South Platte River.
WORD ON THE QUAD Just eight blocks from downtown, alongside Monument Creek in a historic late-1800s neighborhood, 90-acre Colorado College is an alternative enclave. With its innovative Block Plan, in which students take one three- to four-week class at a time (average class size: 14), the workload is intense, but the schedule leaves ample daylight for playing. Some professors hold their classes at Baca, the school's extension campus, 3.5 hours away, next to Great Sand Dunes National Monument. After class, students hang out in front of the dining hall and practice slackliningbalancing on a loose piece of webbing tied between two trees.
EXTRA CREDIT Several Olympians, including world champion mountain biker Alison Dunlap, are CC graduates.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 719-389-6000, www.coloradocollege.edu; STUDENT BODY: 1,900 undergraduates, 28 graduates; TUITION: $27,270; room and board, $6,800
14 CORNELL UNIVERSITY
Ithaca, New York
LOCAL COLOR This progressive town of 29,000 at the southern tip of Lake Cayuga, in New York's Finger Lakes region, does its boasting on the most popular bumper sticker in town: ithaca is gorges. Fall Creek and Cascadilla Creek carve out plunging waterfalls and swimming holes right in town; Little Falls, in nearby Utica, sports a dozen or so gneiss 5.3 to 5.12 routes; Cayuga waters are ideal for sailing and paddling; and cyclists rave about the 100-mile round-the-lake loop.
WORD ON THE QUAD Cornell's 745-acre hilltop campus is a mix of stately Grecian facades and Gothic towers, bordered by 3,500 acres of woods and botanical gardens that give the grounds a farmy feel. In addition to Ivy League arts and sciences, Cornell has strong programs in ecology, evolutionary biology, plant sciences, and landscape architecture. Students can sign on for wilderness-medicine workshops with Cornell Outdoor Education, as well as weekend kayaking, skiing, and caving trips.
EXTRA CREDIT On Collegetown's grubby, happening Stewart Ave., seniors and graduate students hold forth at the venerable Chapter House, where 50 kinds of beer are always on tap.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 607-255-2000, www.cornell.edu; STUDENT BODY: 14,000 undergraduates, 5,900 graduates; TUITION: residents enrolled in Cornell's three state-supported colleges, $14,634; nonresidents, $25,924; $28,754 per year for the five private colleges; room and board, $9,580
LISSA E. HARRIS
15 UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
LOCAL SCENE John Updike once called Missoula the Paris of the nineties, because of the city's legendary population of writers, but Paris lacks three world-renowned trout rivers and proximity to Glacier and Yellowstone national parks. The abundance of water around 57,000-person Missoula is a boon to kayakers and rafterswhitewater boaters have 20 miles of Class I-IV water on the Clark Fork's Alberton Gorge alone. Then there's mountain biking in Pattee Canyon, shredding at Snowbowl Ski Resort, and backpacking in the Mission Mountains.
WORD ON THE QUAD Founded in 1893, the University of Montana lies along the Clark Fork River, at the base of 5,158-foot Mount Sentinel. The 157-acre campus is a mix of late-19th-century Romanesque architecture, mature shade trees, and vast lawns. UM's environmental studies program scores heavy hitters like Peter Matthiessen and Rick Bass as visiting instructors, and the M.F.A. program in creative writing was the second of its kind in the U.S. The Campus Recreation Outdoor Program offers skills clinics in whitewater kayaking, bike maintenance, and rock climbing.
EXTRA CREDIT Last May, undergrad Jess Roskelley, 20, became the youngest American to summit Mount Everest.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 800-462-8636, www.umt.edu; STUDENT BODY: 10,800 undergraduates, 2,300 graduates; TUITION: residents, $4,104; nonresidents, $11,474; room and board, $4,900
16 BOWDOIN COLLEGE
LOCAL COLOR The legions of leaf peepers that flock to Maine for its vibrant autumn foliage have also added quaint coastal Brunswick to their circuit. Shop-lined Maine Street is the drawand home to the Bohemian Coffee House, where some of the 21,000 locals tank up for sea kayaking on Casco Bay, whitewater runs down the Class IV Kennebec and Penobscot rivers, surfing at Reid State Park, and fly-fishing on the Cathance River. Winters can be snowy (71 inches annually) and cold (a 30-degree day is cause for celebration)good thing Sunday River and Sugarloaf ski resorts are an easy two hours away.
WORD ON THE QUAD Founded in 1794, Bowdoin College is built around a tree-lined quad on 200 acres. In 2002, the Bowdoin Outing Club received a shiny new present to match its importance as the largest student organization on campus: the 5,500-square-foot Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center, with its extensive map library, industrial kitchen, and overflowing gear room.
EXTRA CREDIT Thanks to a long tradition of Arctic exploration by alums (including the first man to reach the North Pole, Robert E. Peary, class of 1887), students taunt opposing hockey-team crowds by chanting that Bowdoin's polar bear will eat their mascot.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 207-725-3000, www.bowdoin.edu; STUDENT BODY: 1,700 undergraduates; TUITION: $29,470; room and board, $7,670
LAUREN M. WHALEY
17 STANFORD UNIVERSITY
Palo Alto, California
LOCAL COLOR A hotbed for Silicon Valley tech types, Palo Alto (pop. 59,000), on the south side of San Francisco Bay, is a wealthy, family-oriented place (the average home sells for more than $800,000). Talk about a prime location: 30 minutes from Big Basin Redwoods State Park, 40 minutes from the Pacific rollers at Half Moon Bay, and four hours from Lake Tahoe and Yosemite.
WORD ON THE QUAD Stanford students are crazy about running on the 8,180-acre Spanish Mission Revival campus, whether on four-mile Campus Drive Loop or on trails in the green foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The university is best known for its engineering and computer science departments, but geological and environmental sciences are also popular (the latter runs a Wilderness Skills class each quarter). Stanford Outdoors is an umbrella group for six outdoor clubs and courses that offer rock climbing, ski mountaineering, kayaking, and hiking.
EXTRA CREDIT One is not a true Stanford student unless kissed by a senior under a full moon. Hence, "Full Moon on the Quad," each September, when bands serenade and resident assistants dole out breath mints.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 650-723-2091, www.stanford.edu; STUDENT BODY: 6,700 undergraduates, 7,500 graduates; TUITION: $28,563; room and board, $9,050
18 UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN
LOCAL COLOR On a broad isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona, 80 miles west of Lake Michigan, this liberal midwestern town of 208,000 is constantly abuzz, thanks to its rambunctious student body, contentious state government, and lively State Street pedestrian mall.
WORD ON THE QUAD UW is home to the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, which offers undergrad classes and graduate degrees in conservation biology, environmental monitoring, land resources, and water-resource management. The 933-acre campus is right downtown, but the ample green space and barnlike old armory (which now houses administrative offices) make it feel more rural. The lakes are the largest outdoor draw, and many students learn how to windsurf, kayak, sail, or row before their four-year tenure is up. More than a thousand students pay dues to the Hoofers, the outdoor rec program that runs hang-gliding, mountaineering, equestrian, scuba, sailing, skiing, and snowboarding clubs.
EXTRA CREDIT In the Spring Chicken Regatta, held every April, dinghies race at the UW boathouse on Lake Mendota to celebrate the start of summer's sailing season.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 608-263-2400, www.wisc.edu; STUDENT BODY: 29,000 undergraduates, 13,000 graduates; TUITION: residents, $4,470; nonresidents, $18,390; room and board, $5,940
19 UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII
LOCAL COLOR Close to one massive dormant volcano (13,796-foot Mauna Kea), with views of another (13,677-foot Mauna Loa), Hilo overlooks Hilo Bay, on the east coast of Hawaii's Big Island. Even with 41,000 residents, Hilo has the sleepy, small-town feel of old Hawaii. On a typical day, townspeople kayak or paddle canoes on Hilo Bay, jog along Kamehameha Avenue, or surf at nearby Honolii Beach. Farther afield, there's hiking in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, 30 miles to the southwest, and skiing and snowboarding on Mauna Kea.
WORD ON THE QUAD Diversity is the buzzword herewith students from Asia, the Pacific Islands, Europe, and mainland USA. And the Big Island is like a giant enviro laboratory: Geology majors watch a live volcano, Kilauea, erupt; astronomy majors visit the prestigious observatory at the top of Mauna Kea; and geography majors can study 11 of the world's 13 climate zones. When not hanging around Library Lanai on the 115-acre campus, students hike, canoe, or head to the beach.
EXTRA CREDIT Few students can say they study near the world's tallest volcano: Measured from the ocean floor to the summit, Mauna Kea is 32,000 feet.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 800-897-4456, www.uhh.hawaii.edu; STUDENT BODY: 2,900 undergraduates, 135 graduates; TUITION: residents, $2,376; nonresidents, $3,564 to $7,944; room and board, $4,839
20 SOUTHERN OREGON UNIVERSITY
LOCAL COLOR Within two hours of Ashland, you'll find five world-class whitewater rivers: the Rogue, the Upper Klamath, the Salmon, the Scott, and the North Umpqua. The 5,000-plus-foot Siskiyou, Cascade, and Klamath mountains wrap around three sides of town. But it's not just paddlers and climbers who are drawn to this community of 20,000 in southwest Oregon. Ashland's thriving theater scene and the eight-month Shakespeare Festival attract artsy visionaries from throughout the Pacific Northwest and California.
WORD ON THE QUAD On sunny days, the Stevenson Union courtyard on SOU's green 175-acre campus fills with students in frayed corduroys and the requisite rafting sandals. Hardly anyone graduates without paddling southern Oregon's whitewater, hiking the 2.3-mile White Rabbit Trail, or snowboarding or skiing at 7,530-foot Mount Ashland. Students interested in natural-resource management enroll in the environmental studies program for biology, geology, and environmental policy courses; field-oriented classes like Geology of the Rogue River also get students outdoors.
EXTRA CREDIT Thanks to the theatrical influence, Halloween is huge in Ashland: Prepare for wild parties and creative costuming.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 541-552-7672, www.sou.edu; STUDENT BODY: 5,000 undergraduates, 560 graduates ; TUITION: residents, $4,113; nonresidents, $12,783; room and board, $5,500
Try studying with this view out the window: Washington's Mount Rainer
21 PRESCOTT COLLEGE
LOCAL COLOR Climbers flock to Prescott, a mountain town of 34,000, for trad and sport climbing on Granite Mountain, as do Phoenix tourists trading the valley's heat for the town's 5,347-foot elevation. Everyone mingles at the Palace Saloon on Whiskey Row.
WORD ON THE QUAD The school's downtown campus is a motley cluster of converted homes, an old hospital, and a former motelfitting for an educational philosophy that has students self-design the curriculum to create their own course of study (60 percent choose environmental studies or adventure education) and operates a marine research station in Bahia Kino, Mexico.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 800-628-6364, www.prescott.edu; STUDENT BODY: 800 undergraduates, 200 graduates; TUITION: $14,970
22 WILLIAMS COLLEGE
LOCAL COLOR Known as "the Purple Bubble," thanks to its isolated location in a cozy North Berkshire valley, this burg of 8,400 plays host to a high-profile culture in its art museums and theater festivals. The Green and Hoosic rivers run through the valley, and you can pick up the Appalachian Trail five miles east of town.
WORD ON THE QUAD In addition to its 450-acre campus, Williams owns the 2,200-acre Hopkins Memorial Forest next door, with more than 15 miles of trails for runners and hikers. Many geology and biology majors pursue a concentration in environmental studies, and the Outing Club offers classes in everything from orienteering to bouldering.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 413-597-3131, www.williams.edu; STUDENT BODY: 2,000 undergraduates, 50 graduates; TUITION: $27,890; room and board, $7,660
SAM VANVOLKENBURGH 23 UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS
LOCAL COLOR Fayetteville is as diverse as a town of 65,000 in northwest Arkansas's Ozark Mountains can be: It's home to millionaires, hippies, artists, students, hunters, and hillbillies. Pretty much any outdoor activity that doesn't require snow can be found within a 20-mile radius of the university's Dickson Street bar scene: canoeing the Buffalo River, fly-fishing the White River, and cragging at Devil's Den State Park.
WORD ON THE QUAD U of A's undergrad business school wins national props, but enviro coursework is still slim pickings (save for the lone degree in environmental soil and water science).
VITAL STATS 800-377-8632, www.uark.edu; STUDENT BODY: 12,900 undergraduates, 2,800 graduates; TUITION: residents, $2,968; nonresidents, $8,280; room and board, $5,780
24 EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE
LOCAL COLOR Olympia's 43,000 residents are a strange brew of indie-rock hipsters, activists, fishermen, and earthy ex-hippies. Brick buildings, many painted with murals, sit along tree-lined streets on Puget Sound's Budd Inlet, with 14,410-foot Mount Rainier on the horizon.
WORD ON THE QUAD You've got to love a school that has the geoducka large saltwater clamas its mascot. Students are free to design their own academic pathways, and innovative courses like snow ecology combine a mix of ecology, technical mountaineering, and wilderness first-response training.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 360-867-6000, www.evergreen.edu; Student body: 4,100 undergraduates, 300 graduates; TUITION: residents, $3,441; nonresidents, $12,264; room and board, $5,610
25 ST. JOHN'S COLLEGE
Santa Fe, New Mexico
LOCAL COLOR The second-oldest town in the United States, Santa Fe (pop. 62,000) has long attracted artists and free spirits looking to connect with the expansive high-desert landscape. But 20-minute access to the 12,000-foot peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Range also lures avid skiers, mountain bikers, and runners.
WORD ON THE QUAD A sister campus of the original in Annapolis, Maryland, St. John's borders the Santa Fe National Forest and has only one course of study: the liberal-arts-focused Great Books program, in which students study the foundational texts of Western culture.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 505-984-6000, www.sjcsf.edu; STUDENT BODY: 450 undergraduates, 90 graduates; TUITION: $28,840; room and board, $7,320
CASSIE V. HEMSTROM
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
31 ALASKA PACIFIC UNIVERSITY
LOCAL COLOR Wedged between Cook Inlet and the Chugach Mountains in south-central Alaska, and within striking distance of Prince William Sound, Denali National Park, and the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage (pop. 260,000) attracts everyone from fishermen and backcountry guides to oilmen and military personnel.
WORD ON THE QUAD The tiny student body of mostly outdoor types has a flair for hemp and Patagonia duds. On Friday nights, the question isn't "Where's the party?" but "Where are you headed this weekend?"
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 800-252-7528, www.alaskapacific.edu; Student body: 500 undergraduates, 200 graduates; TUITION: residents, $12,300; nonresidents, $16,200; room and board, $6,000
CAMERON O' CONNELL
32 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT SAN DIEGO
La Jolla, California
LOCAL COLOR La Jolla (pop. 35,000) offers small-town ambience adjacent to San Diego's 1.2-million-resident sprawl. Medical sales reps, surf bums, and biotech geeks thrive here, drawn by La Jolla's proximity to the Pacific. Most residents surf, sail, bike, run, dive, or swim SoCal coastline.
WORD ON THE QUAD From the diamond-shaped library to the tree sculptures that recite poetry, 1,200-acre UCSD is a happy blend of surfer charm and high-tech innovation. The renowned Scripps Institute of Oceanography is housed here, and UCSD's outing club rents surfboards and organizes hiking, rock-climbing, and kayaking excursions.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 858-534-2230, www.ucsd.edu; STUDENT BODY: 19,100 undergraduates, 3,300 graduates; TUITION: residents, $5,150; nonresidents, $12,980; room and board, $8,622
KARLA DEVRIES 33 UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
LOCAL COLOR On the edge of the Sonoran Desert, Tucson (pop. 490,000) is a confluence of Hispanic and Anglo culturesnot to mention rock climbers, cyclists, hikers, and mountain bikers.
WORD ON THE QUAD The 356-acre campus is flush with palm trees and students showing lots of skin. Water conservation is a hot topic for enviro studies majors; astronomy students conduct fieldwork at the Mount Graham International Observatory; and the creative-writing program is ranked one of the top five in the country. A favorite study break: hiking the 2.5-mile Sabino Canyon trail under a full moon.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 520-621-2211, www.arizona.edu; STUDENT BODY: 28,000 undergraduates, 8,000 graduates; TUITION: residents, $3,604; nonresidents, $12,374; room and board, $6,810
34 UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING
LOCAL COLOR There's nothing trendy about Laramie, a high-plains cowboy/college town on the edge of Wyoming's Snowy Range Mountains. Good thing for the 27,000 residents that the great outdoors is close at hand: trad climbing at Vedauwoo, nordic skiing in the Medicine Bow Mountains, and singletrack riding on the trails at Happy Jack. Afterward, $4 buys you a ride on the Cowboy Saloon's mechanical bull.
WORD ON THE QUAD The state's sole university, UW offers the full range of academic fare, including first-rate programs in agriculture, education, and environment and natural resources.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 307-766-1121, www.wyoming.edu; STUDENT BODY: 9,200 undergraduates, 1,500 graduates; TUITION: residents, $3,076; nonresidents, $8,926; room and board, $5,546
35 PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
Princeton, New Jersey
LOCAL COLOR What this preppy community of 30,000 in central New Jersey's horse country lacks in epic outdoor opportunities, it makes up for with its Gothic Ivy League charm and upscale main drag, Nassau Street. Rowers launch on Lake Carnegie, trail runners love the six-mile shoreline loop, and cyclists swear by the flat Jersey blacktop. If you're desperate for backcountry, head to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, 70 miles north.
WORD ON THE QUAD The Princeton Environmental Institute oversees the environmental science major and coordinates campus-wide education and research.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 609-258-3000, www.princeton.edu; STUDENT BODY: 4,600 undergraduates, 2,000 graduates; TUITION: $28,540; room and board, $8,109
36 UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA-DULUTH
LOCAL COLOR Duluth's hilly waterfront evokes San Francisco Bayat least on sunny days. The town of 87,000 has more than 100 parks, 42 streams, six cross-country ski areas, and grand neighborhoods of 100-year-old mansions.
WORD ON THE QUAD Founded in 1894, the 247-acre campus is connected by covered concourses, which makes sense when January windchills drop to minus 20. UMD's Natural Resources Research Institute allows students to study forestry, mining, and ecology. Its Outdoor Recreation Department leads dogsledding and winter camping trips, with warm-weather options as well.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 218-726-8000, www.d.umn.edu; STUDENT BODY: 8,600 undergraduates, 650 graduates; TUITION: residents, $6,688; nonresidents, $16,947; room and board, $4,960
37 CALIFORNIA POLYTECHNIC STATE UNIVERSITY
San Luis Obispo, California
LOCAL COLOR In the foothills of the Central Coast, this town of 44,000 has a stringent downtown preservation campaign, even banning drive-through windows in fast-food restaurants. But with surf spots Montana de Oro, Morro Rock, and Cayucos Reefs nearby, what residents value most is riding waves.
WORD ON THE QUAD Due to its top-ranked engineering program, Cal-Poly gets a gearhead rep, but students can also major in horticulture, forestry, or recreation administration. The campus outing club runs rafting, kayaking, and survival-skills trips.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 805-756-1111, www.calpoly.edu; Student body: 17,500 undergraduates, 1,100 graduates; TUITION: residents, $3,435; nonresidents, $10,203; room and board, $7,619
38 UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
LOCAL COLOR At the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Athens (pop. 153,000) is a day trip to the Atlantic, an hour and a half south of the Appalachian Trail, and 25 miles west of the Class II Broad River and the Class III-IV Ocoee River.
WORD ON THE QUAD With sprawling lawns and staid, pillared buildings, the 605-acre main campus has a scholarly vibe. UGA's environmental programs range from the School of Environmental Design to the Daniel B. Warnell School of Forest Resources. Its outdoor-recreation program schedules whitewater rafting, hiking, caving, canoeing, backpacking, and paddling trips.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 706-542-3000, www.uga.edu; STUDENT BODY: 25,000 undergraduates, 8,000 graduates; TUITION: residents, $4,078; nonresidents, $14,854; room and board, $5,756
TODD FRALEY and MARCIA ANNE APPERSON
39 UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN
LOCAL COLOR Known as the "Live Music Capital of the World," Austin (pop. 657,000) has a relaxed atmosphere, mild year-round temperatures (summers are sticky, though), and more than 16,000 acres of parks and lakes, like Barton Springs, a huge 68-degree spring-fed pool.
WORD ON THE QUAD Founded in 1883, UT has the largest student body in the nation (52,300). The climbing wall at Gregory Gym is always busy, and Enchanted Rock, about an hour and a half west, is a favorite bouldering spot.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 512-471-3434, www.utexas.edu; STUDENT BODY: 39,700 undergraduates, 12,600 graduates; TUITION: residents, $5,340; nonresidents, $11,446; room and board, $7,088
40 UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI
Coral Gables, Florida
LOCAL COLOR An upscale 'burb south of Miami, Coral Gables (pop. 42,000) is ten minutes from Key Biscayne and 20 minutes from South Beach. You'll find Latin cuisine and all the watersportssailing, kayaking, bodysurfingyou could want.
WORD ON THE QUAD Lots of tony New Yorkers and Miami locals flock to this tree-lined, 260-acre campus on the shore of Lake Osceola. Aspiring scientists can earn marine biology master's degrees through the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 305-284-2211, www.miami.edu; STUDENT BODY: 9,500 undergraduates, 5,000 graduates; TUITION: $26,280; room and board, $8,328
Fast Tracks To Adventure
Why spend Monday to Friday behind a desk when you could be getting paid to do what you love best? Here are our favorite adventure jobs, and top academic programs that will prepare you.
Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL (850-644-2525, www.fsu.edu)
To embark on this enviable career exploring shipwrecks on the seafloor, Florida State's program in underwater archaeologythe only undergraduate program of its kindrequires students to be certified divers. Fieldwork includes looking for the HMS Fox, a ship lost off Florida's St. George Island in 1799.
Duke University, Durham, NC (919-684-8111, www.duke.edu)
The Nicolas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, ranked one of the country's top environmental colleges, isn't just for lobbyists and policy wonks. In the field, students also study natural habitats, including marine environments, forests, and fisheries.
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI (734-764-1817, www.umich.edu)
No other profession involves more outdoor work, and this geology programconsistently ranked in the nation's top tenincludes a summer hiking and studying the northern Rockies near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Park Ranger
Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, PA (800-778-9111, www.sru.edu)
Study emergency medicine, search and rescue, firefighting, and criminal law at one of only two four-year programs in the United States (Northern Arizona University is the other) and you may soon be calling Yosemite "the office."
University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA (510-642-6000, www.berkeley.edu)
Berkeley leads the field in teaching students how to design intelligent buildings that blend harmoniously with the surrounding ecosystem, using gray water, superefficient cooling systems, and passive solar heat.
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY (315-470-6500, www.esf.edu)
Learn forest management and its economic, political, and aesthetic impacts. You'll also have the opportunity to study overseas, analyzing watershed-management programs in Nepal or reforestation efforts in Mongolia.
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA (213-740-2311, www.usc.edu)
After you're schooled in building suspense, constructing narrative, and operating a boom kit at this prestigious film school (since 1965, at least one USC graduate has been nominated for an Academy Award each year), you can chase Dean Potter up the Nose, camera in hand.
Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA (215-898-5000, www.upenn.edu)
Hit B-school! This programstyled after a small-business workshop, complete with focus groupswill help you decide whether to start a rafting company in the Amazon or a trekking outfit in Asia, and teach you how to market your idea and find funding. Undergrads can earn a minor in entrepreneurial management.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA (617-253-1000, www.mit.edu)
A materials-science degree from the country's top engineering school will open doors. Study fluid dynamics to build the ultimate rodeo kayak, or master the elasticity of solids for creating an ultralight shockless mountain bike.
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM (505-277-0111, www.unm.edu)
This program in the exercise science department delves into the effects of elevation on VO2 max and why elliptical training improves conditioning, while encouraging students to become ultrafit themselves. CRISTINA OPDAHL