Outside University: 01. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Aug 14, 2012
Outside Magazine

University of California, Berkeley.   

Everyone pictures something different when they think of U.C. Berkeley. Some see strident political protests and drug-happy hippies. Others remember massive frat parties and a dominant sports program rife with Olympians. There are the extreme eccentrics on grungy Telegraph Avenue. And a collection of intellectuals and tastemakers so influential that they’ve become household names: Steven Chu, Michael Pollan, Alice Waters.

Whatever your perception of this school, there’s no denying that it’s a highly dynamic place where the richness isn’t only in the people and the culture, but also the physical surroundings. Just across the water from San Francisco, Berkeley’s forested campus has Strawberry Creek babbling through it, trees that have stood in the school’s groves since its 1869 founding, and an 800-acre eco-preserve. The weather’s generally mild and pleasant, so the temptation’s always there to abscond from the classroom in favor of strapping on hiking boots.

The list of wild places within easy driving distance is too long to list here, but it includes Muir Woods, Mount Diablo State Park, and the bay itself. Really, it’s hard to overstate the area’s abundance of outdoor assets—stunning nature views are commonplace. Unless you’re a snow athlete, there’s almost immediate access to any type of physical pursuit.

Athletically, the Golden Bears are a force to fear. The swimming coach, Teri McKeever, managed this year’s U.S. Olympic team and has trained legends like Natalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer. Other Cal teams that consistently win national championships include rugby, crew, and sailing.

Lest we forget that Berkeley is widely regarded as America’s best public university, it’s worth mentioning that top-notch academic departments like agriculture, anthropology, biology, and environmental sciences provide ample opportunities for getting outside the classroom. “Field Course in Archaeological Methods,” for example, teaches excavation and mapping, and “Introduction to Environmental Sciences” requires an eight-hour outing.

The outdoor-rec department is pretty high-caliber too. Its catalog is excellent, offering everything from rock-climbing and rappelling clinics to wilderness-medicine classes—and a small but meaningful selection of trips, including one to backpack Big Sur or Lassen, and another to kayak Point Reyes. There are also scuba classes, including a three-credit course called “Introduction to Scientific Diving.”

An Adventureship Pass ($275 per academic year) buys unlimited equipment rentals at the U.C. Aquatic Center, plus tuition for a well-rounded list of on-the-water classes, including sailing, windsurfing, and SUPing.

A ropes course, strung high in the redwoods of the campus’ Strawberry Canyon Recreation Area, presents seven challenging elements, including a zipline.

Alumni look forward to Cal’s beloved Lair of the Bear family camp, a rugged but spirited all-ages summer experience in the Sierras. Many Berkeley students apply to be counselors and only a few get picked, but the ones who do get rewarded with nature-filled memories for life.

CONTACT: (510) 642-6000, berkeley.edu
STUDENT BODY: 25,540 undergraduates, 10,298 graduates
TUITION: residents $11,767, nonresidents $34,645, room and board $15,272