Closest Singletrack: UCSC Trails, 0mi
The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) is the only NCAA Division III school on our list. So if you’re coming here to mountain bike, expect to embrace the renegade spirit of the mountain bike pioneers and shirk traditional athletics in every form! But if you’re willing to be counter cultural, you’ll be rewarded with the best on-campus trails anywhere in the nation, if not the world.
While some of the other colleges on this list offer short trails on campus, or the campus proper directly abuts a massive trail system, the UCSC campus is an enormous, sprawling complex that covers a great deal of land. As a result, the closest trails to ride–and the best trails in all of Santa Cruz–are actually located on UCSC property. Having a singletrack commute from your dorm to your classroom is not only possible, but extremely likely. While the legality of some of the on-campus trails is questionable, conflicts are rare because, let’s face it: mountain biking just isn’t counter-cultural anymore. Bike brands like Santa Cruz Bicycles, Ibis Cycles, and Bell Helmets (and more) that are located in Santa Cruz, evidence that mountain biking has become thoroughly mainstream in this coastal college town. Alright, and of course UCSC does have a pretty well-developed cycling team, the Banana Slugs.
UCSC is ranked #79 academically out of all universities in the United States, according to this list. Among the colleges and universities we chose, it ranks the second highest academically, behind Virginia Tech. If you’re focused on both academics and getting your shred time in, you can’t go wrong with UCSC. While they offer 65 undergraduate degrees (as well as 41 graduate degrees), the most popular majors include Art, Business Management, Economics, Molecular and Cell Biology, and Psychology, according to The Princeton Review. UCSC is known for providing unique programs that you can’t get anywhere else, such as “Feminist Studies, American Studies, Environmental Studies, Visual Studies, Digital Arts and New Media, and the unique History of Consciousness Department,” according to Wikipedia. Click here for a full academic catalog.