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Natural Class: Eleven U.S. Colleges at One with Nature

Some U.S. colleges blend architecture and nature so seamlessly, you might forget that they're primarily places of learning and not backdrops to your next adventure. But if you're going to spend four years anywhere, why not opt for the most spectacular surroundings possible?

University of Colorado at Boulder: Boulder, Colorado

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Students here walk to class with an ever-present view of the majestic Rocky Mountains. When it snows, the rustic buildings almost look like part of a ski lodge, which fits right in with Boulder’s culture.


Photo: Photo: Zach Dischner on Flickr

University of California, Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz, California

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At UCSC, you have the best of both worlds: a gorgeously lush forest leading to the mountains and numerous trails with dazzling ocean views. And what better way to revive yourself after a long day of learning than with a walk among the redwoods?


Photo: Photo: Peter Alfred Hess on Flickr

University of Washington: Seattle, Washington

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The entire campus is dotted with huge, beautiful trees and rests on the shores of both the Union and Potage bays. Visitors can see Mount Rainier in the distance or experience nature up close by checking out the school’s botanical gardens, wetlands, or grasslands.


Photo: Photo: Wonderlane on Flickr

College of the Atlantic: Bar Harbor, Maine

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This liberal arts college is located on Mount Desert Island, just off the coast of Maine. The school itself is small (only thirty-five acres), but Acadia National Park’s tranquil greenery, as well as the vast expanse of the ocean, are just a short drive away. _Photo source: "The Udall Legacy Bus Tour: Views from the Road": (cc)_

Evergreen State College: Olympia, Washington

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Recently voted the third greenest college in the country by the Sierra Club, Evergreen takes up one thousand acres of forest, giving students easy access to Washington’s wealth of natural beauty. There are trails from campus that lead to beaches in Puget Sound, or you can stick around and visit the school’s organic farm or Japanese Garden. _Photo source: "HeyRocker": (cc)_

University of the South: Sewanee, Tennessee

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Also called “The Domain” or simply “Sewanee,” this university is found on top of Cumberland Plateau and spans thousands of acres. Thanks to the surroundings’ natural resources, active students enjoy everything from rock climbing and caving to mountain biking and hiking. _Photo source: "spakattacks": (cc)_

Pepperdine University: Malibu, California

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As if living in sunny, breezy Malibu isn’t enough of a treat, this private school is situated up high in the Malibu hills (where the celebrities live). You can see the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean from campus, or go down the hill and travel along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. _Photo source: "shredded77": (cc)_

Aquinas College: Grand Rapids, Michigan

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The school’s one-hundred-plus acres are traversed by small streams that you might encounter while walking along one of the many trails that lead around the surrounding woods. There’s also a park right next door that offers basketball and tennis courts and a playground. _Photo source: "klynslis": (cc)_

University of Arizona, Tucson: Tucson, Arizona

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True to the surrounding region’s hot, arid atmosphere, the buildings that span this school’s four hundred acres have a very desert-like feel. The palm trees and cactus gardens covering the grounds contribute to that effect, as well. The university also has a huge Campus Arboretum, in which you can view hundreds of desert plants from all over the world. _Photo source: "kevindooley": (cc)_

Mount Holyoke College: South Hadley, Massachusetts

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Just ninety minutes outside of Boston, Holyoke’s sprawling lakes, waterfalls, and grounds feel worlds away from the big-city bustle. With its idyllic setting and classic Gothic architecture, is it any wonder that the Princeton Review Guide recently named it America’s seventh most beautiful campus? _Photo source: "dawnzy58": (cc)_

Cornell University: Ithaca, New York

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Like UCSC, Cornell is situated on a hilltop that offers visitors and students alike a breathtaking view of Cayuga Lake. You can also find waterfalls, gorges, gardens, and nature trails throughout its 745 acres. _Photo source: "kathia shieh": (cc)_

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