As a 17- or 18-year-old in your senior year of high school, you’re now faced with one of the toughest decisions that you’ve ever encountered: “where should I go to college?” Maybe you’re a high school senior reading this article and are stuck in that place right now, or maybe you’re asking yourself an even bigger question: “SHOULD I go to college?”
When I was 18, I found myself in that exact same boat. Despite being an honors student and getting straight A’s all the way through high school, I was pretty hell-bent on not pursuing higher education. Instead, I was more concerned with uprooting from my home in the Midwest and moving to the mountains, to take classes in bottomless powder and endless singletrack.
My decision to start off at a small (tiny!) school in the mountains of Montana was a pivotal decision in my life, and at the time I had no idea how significantly it would affect the course of my life. That one decision led to a string of choices and moves that have brought me to where I am today, sitting in my home office, staring at a 14,000-foot mountain peak, writing for one of the most widely-read mountain biking websites in the world.
Here’s the good news: your decision about whether or not you should attend college, and where you want to go if you do, doesn’t have to be an either/or. You don’t have to choose between moving somewhere to find access to world-class mountain biking or pursuing higher education. If you choose properly, you can do both at the same time!
To help make your decision easier, I decided to make the cheat sheet I wish I had as a high school senior: a list of the best colleges and universities in the United States where you can get your bachelor’s degree and at the same time, get your degree in DIRT by riding fantastic singletrack!
As we compiled this list, we considered a wide number of variables, including the proximity of on-campus or close-to-campus singletrack for students without a car, the quantity of high quality singletrack in the general area for students with transportation, the quality of the collegiate racing team, the quality of the academics (all of these are four-year institutions where you can earn a variety of bachelor’s degrees), and more.
In the following list we also do our best to not only give an overview of the trail access in each area, but the most highly developed degree tracks at each institution. So if you’re hoping to pursue a degree in engineering, or marketing, or nursing, choose the school that best applies to you!
Here are our top 10 colleges and universities in the US (in alphabetical order) where you can get a four-year degree… in dirt:
Boise State University, Idaho
Boise State University is located less than two miles of pedaling from the foothills on the edge of town, which are home “to the Ridge to Rivers trail system that boasts nearly 200 miles of singletrack,” according to Roger Phillips, our Idaho-based correspondent. “The area has a long riding season that can be nearly year-round depending on snow level. Boise sits at 2,800ft elevation, and you can climb to 7,300ft in about 16 miles to Bogus Basin, the local ski area.”
Boise State is known for its undergrad engineering program, “internationally-accredited business school, Idaho’s largest undergraduate nursing program,” and an acclaimed creative writing program. They also boast “the nation’s only master’s degree in raptor biology” and “one-of-a-kind programs in Basque Studies.” (Source)