Solidifying its growing reputation as one of best outdoor schools in the Blue Ridge, Western Carolina University has once again come away with top honors in our annual Top Adventure College Contest, edging out a solid effort from Emory and Henry College of Emory, Virginia.

Once again colleges and universities in the contest were selected for their outdoor clubs and curricula, their commitment to outdoor and environmental initiatives, the quality of their outdoor athletes and programs, and their opportunities for adventure, and once again WCU’s strengths shown through above the rest.

BRO hammock with campus in background“WCU truly embraces its rural mountain environment and ability to access natural resources by emphasizing outdoor recreation as a part of our university culture,” said Shauna Sleight, director of Campus Recreation and Wellness. “The university has facilities, programs, services and academic programs focused in the outdoor environment. When an opportunity presents itself to vote for WCU as the best outdoor adventure school, our university community is proud to do so for the place we call home.”

One reason that WCU is revered as a top outdoor college is its proximity to renowned outdoors adventure havens like Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests.

Amidst this backdrop of Appalachian peaks, crystal clear trout streams and rivers, and seemingly endless singletrack, WCU has cultivated an outdoor culture that only gets richer with each passing school year.BRO canoe 2Mitch Bearden just graduated from WCU this year. During his tenure he worked with WCU’s renowned outdoor program, Basecamp Cullowhee, and spent his free time backpacking, honing his adventure photography skills, and paddling the area’s endless supply of local whitewater.

We caught up with Mitch to find out what an ideal day actually looks like for an outdoor-loving student like himself.

6 a.m. — My ideal day would definitely start with a fly fishing trip on the Tuckaseegee River in the morning, specifically the section along North and South River Roads or any of the small tributaries where native trout are plentiful (i.e. Caney Fork, Rough Butt Creek, Moses Creek). 
12484785_10208435879399245_4933072590361719724_o
11 a.m.—After a morning of fishing I would typically put in on the West Fork of the Tuckaseegee for some high quality class 4+ paddling. That section has some incredible mini gorges and some of the most unique scenery of any creek or river in the area.
11947913_1471447739824509_4321214207771152345_o
2 p.m.— If I could squeeze it in after paddling I’d probably head back to campus to take advantage of our WCU multi purpose trails, which feature 6.7 miles of narrow, singletrack trails phenomenal for mountain biking.
BRO my favorite4 p.m.—To finish off the day I’d watch the sunset from Whiteside Mountain near Cashiers. It’s a pretty short and easy hike and not that far from campus.

Other great hikes to watch a sunset or sunrise near WCU include Pinnacle Peak in Sylva accessible from Pinnacle Park, Black Rock summit in Sylva also accessible by Pinnacle Park or from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Waterrock Knob, which only requires a .5 mile hike.

11134066_1425166981119252_7748844068545127045_o
Congratulations to WCU and thanks to ENO for sponsoring the 2016 Top Adventure College Contest. Be sure to check out the August issue of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine where we’ll be featuring more outdoor college content.
 Related Articles: