Back in March we launched our Top Adventure College Contest presented by ENO, where 32 colleges from all over the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic battled it out in a bracket-style competition for the honor of being named the top outdoor adventure college in the region.

Once again, the votes poured in—this year to the tune of 150,000 plus—as many worthy adversaries went head-to-head over the course of five round. But at the end of the day only one school could reign supreme.

For the fourth year in a row, that school was Western Carolina University, a university with an enrollment just under 11,000 and a campus that sits at the edge of North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains.

For the fourth year in a row,  Western Carolina University has won the Blue Ridge Outdoors Top Adventure College Contest.

Whether it be mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, fly fishing or nature photography, outdoor recreation is all the rage at WCU, and their fourth year at the top of our adventure college contest heap is strong evidence of that fact.

“Winning the top award for four straight years is confirmation that Western Carolina University’s location as the closest four year college to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway provide exceptional opportunities for living and learning in this beautiful area,” says Steve Morse, director of WCU’s Hospitality and Tourism Program.

“Because of the exceptional location and natural resources available in the area, WCU’s academic programs have outdoor laboratories where professors and students can connect theory with real-world applications that are unmatched.  Outdoor-minded students have the opportunity to become engaged with our sustainable natural resources in the area while studying a wide variety of subjects.”

While we’re excited to recognize WCU’s fourth straight win, we also wanted to shine a light on the runner-up of this year’s Top Adventure College Contest, Sweet Briar College.

A university that boasts a 3,250-acre campus in the foothills of the Virginia Blue Ridge, Sweet Briar swept through the small school portion of the bracket and made an impressive showing against WCU in the finals days of the contest.

Sweet Briar director of outdoor programs Kate Macklin ’13 and Koda form the rear guard at Cole Mountain, a popular day hike in Amherst County.

“It means a lot to win the Top Adventure College Contest in our category because it is recognition of the quality programming that we’ve developed over the years,” says Director of Media Relations Jennifer McManamay.

“Even though we’re smaller than probably any other school in the competition, the Sweet Briar Outdoor Program offers students every kind of activity you could want, from hiking, backpacking, climbing, white water kayaking and canoeing to skiing, mountain biking, and caving. Outdoor programming is driven by student interest, and student instructors organize and lead most trips. We offer Wednesday evening trips almost every week and at least one trip per weekend.”

During the month of May we will profile both of these outdoor-loving colleges individually, highlighting a few outdoor-obsessed students at both Sweet Briar and Western and the outdoor opportunities that those students enjoy at their perspective campuses. Stay tuned!

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