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Adventure Abounds

April 19, 2018
woman hiking
Ana Holley enjoys a winter hike at Vedauwoo Recreation Area.

Surrounded by mountains and national forests, Laramie is an outdoor lover’s playground. 

By Micaela Myers 

Ana Holley of Longview, Texas, knew she wanted to attend college in the Rocky Mountain West. So when the time came, she toured schools in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. “I just fell in love with Laramie,” says Holley, who will graduate in 2020 with a double major in environmental systems science and environment and natural resources with a minor in outdoor leadership. The sophomore loves hiking, paddleboarding, backpacking, skiing and rock climbing.

Holley’s not the only one to recognize the University of Wyoming as a great fit for outdoor lovers: In 2012, Outside Magazine ranked UW as one of the top 15 schools in the country for students interested in the outdoors, and in 2016 Backpacker magazine ranked UW No. 3 in its “Adventure U” list of the nation’s best colleges for hikers and other outdoors enthusiasts.

Here, four current UW students share how they make the most of the outdoor opportunities. 

Ana Holley

Holley, who found Colorado’s recreation areas overcrowded, has embraced a variety of outdoor opportunities at UW, including taking part in UW’s Outdoor Leadership Development Series, a yearlong series through the Outdoor Program. The leadership development program is open to all UW students via an application process. Those who are chosen participate in classroom and backcountry sessions, including planning a backpacking trip in the fall with a Leave No Trace trainer certification and a winter backcountry trip.

“The whole purpose is to develop our wilderness skills and at the same time to develop leadership skills,” says Holley, who also serves as a Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources ambassador and was a peer mentor for the school’s August field week. “I took part in the field week as a participant my freshmen year, and we got to go to the Teton Science Schools outside of Grand Teton National Park, which was incredible. It’s a field week where we’re working on a project and coming up with solutions. It was amazing that I got to serve as a mentor this year.”

The field weeks welcome environment and natural resource students who are part of a Freshmen Interest Group, and the experience ties into their first-year seminar course. 

With the Haub School, Holley also attended the SHIFT Festival (Shaping How we Invest For Tomorrow) in Jackson Hole. “Getting to go to these conferences and meeting such influential people is an incredible opportunity,” she says. “It really opened my eyes about how I have an influence on the world.”

Holley hopes to work in public land management upon graduation and already has internship offers for the coming summer as well as plans to study abroad next year.

“I absolutely recommend UW,” she says. “I looked at schools all over the country—big schools, little schools and private colleges everywhere. Here, you have all these incredible opportunities—research, scholarships, grants—but you feel like you’re a part of a community.”

man fly-fishing
Nathan Brock takes a fly-fishing break on the Laramie River.

Nathan Brock

“I looked at a lot of schools in Colorado before coming here,” says senior Nathan Brock, who grew up in California but came to UW from Monument, Colo. “I remember the second I stepped on campus here, I knew it was right. The campus was beautiful. People were so welcoming and friendly. I feel that Wyoming was in God’s plan for me. It was a perfect fit.”

While Brock enjoys a number of outdoor pursuits, including hiking and rock climbing, fly-fishing is his true love. His two favorite locations are both within an hour’s drive: Poudre Canyon and the lakes of the Medicine Bow National Forest. A double major in economics and environment and natural resources, Brock joined the Outdoor Leadership Freshmen Interest Group (FIG) when he came to UW, and that’s where he first learned rock climbing. FIGs group freshmen by major or areas of interest. Brock enjoyed the experience so much that he went on to become a resident assistant (RA) for the Outdoor Leadership FIG.

“The cool thing about the Outdoor Leadership FIG in particular is that people have different majors and interests, but they all have a common goal of enjoying the outdoors and a passion for the environment in general,” he says.

The advice Brock gives to freshmen is the same advice he used to shape his college experience: “Take in every moment and every opportunity presented. Step forward and push your comfort zone all the time.”

Brock lived this by participating in intramural sports, joining registered student organizations, becoming an RA and studying abroad in Australia.

“The biggest thing I’m involved with currently is the Cowboy Country Swing Club,” Brock says. “It’s another of the cool things I never would have seen myself doing.”

His experience at UW has been so positive that he plans to stay for a master’s in economics.

“The quality of education here is really hard to beat,” Brock says. “UW makes it a priority to get people connected with clubs, organizations, leadership opportunities, internships, study abroad and sporting events.”

After completing graduate school, Brock hopes to help impoverished countries find long-term solutions through economics.

woman holding cross-county skis
Morgan Robins is a member of UW’s highly competitive Nordic Ski Club.

Morgan Robins

In addition to NCAA Division I sports, UW is home to a plethora of club and intramural teams. One of the most successful club teams is the Nordic Ski Club. Members participate in United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association races and regularly qualify for national championships and Winter World University Games (Winter Universiade).

“It’s a really fun group of people, and they’re very encouraging,” says senior Morgan Robins, treasurer of the club. Robins transferred from Central Wyoming College and is majoring in anthropology with a focus in archeology. “With the ski team, I’ve skied all over the country. I love being outside.”

In addition to Nordic skiing, Robins enjoys hiking, rock climbing and camping, as well as trail running with her teammates. “There’s a whole bunch of outdoor stuff you can do in any weather. Laramie’s a really good place to do it all,” she says.

Robins took her love of the outdoors into her undergraduate research as a member of the Interdisciplinary Climate Change Expedition at Central Wyoming College—work she’s continued and presented at UW’s Undergraduate Research Day. The project includes fieldwork on the Wind River Range’s Dinwoody Glacier each summer, where a bison jump was discovered. “It’s the highest bison jump in North America,” Robins says. “It shows there were bison up there, and they were being hunted. It also provides information into other areas of archeology that we hadn’t thought about before. It’s been very rewarding being able to present it to different people.”

Robins chose UW in part because of the community. “This university is a lot more close-knit than others I visited,” she says, also noting the strong school spirit and excellent communication. Over the long term, her goal is to work in cultural resource management in archeology for the Bureau of Land Management. 

man biking on mountainside
Tyler Carroll appreciates UW’s easy access to outdoor recreation, including mountain biking. Photo by BHP Imaging

Tyler Carroll

Senior Tyler Carroll of Parker, Colo., loves just about every form of outdoor recreation: mountain biking, skiing, camping, backpacking and rafting—“pretty much anything you can do outdoors,” he says. He even incorporated these interests into his degree—majors in geography and environment and natural resources with minors in sustainability and outdoor leadership—and his job with the Wyoming Conservation Corps (WCC).

He loves heading east to Vedauwoo, Happy Jack and Curt Gowdy State Park for non-winter sports or west to the Snowies for winter sports. During his sophomore year, Carroll took part in the Outdoor Leadership Development Series and earned his wilderness first responder certification. He also worked for the Outdoor Program as a trip leader, teaching backpacking, mountain bike and backcountry cooking clinics, as well as helping with the wilderness first aid course.

“I think our Outdoor Program is awesome,” Carroll says. “It’s a really good way to get to know people who have similar interests and get experience in the outdoors.”

The WCC works on public lands, and students can earn money and credit by taking part. Carroll started as a crew member in 2016 and worked his way up to field supervisor this past fall. “I fell in love with it that first season,” he says. “I got to meet really cool people who work for public land management agencies throughout the state. It’s been a way for me to develop my education and interests.”

Carroll plans to stay on at the WCC for now and eventually move on to other public land work.

In addition to the outdoor opportunities, Carroll has appreciated UW’s tight-knit community. He says, “UW is affordable, a great education and has that small-town feeling.” 

Outdoor Program

Part of Campus Recreation, the Outdoor Program operates the indoor climbing wall and a rental/resource center, plus it offers leadership development and seasonal outings, clinics and programs. Students can rent bikes, kayaks, skis and other equipment or sign up for trips through the Outdoor Program, such as snowshoeing, skiing, ice climbing, bouldering, rock climbing and kayaking. The program also oversees the Outdoor leadership Development Series and fall and summer Outdoor Experiences, which are wilderness-type orientations for incoming freshmen. Learn more at 

Recreation Roundup

Laramie is surrounded by outdoor recreation areas. Only a 15-minute drive to the east, there’s Happy Jack Recreation Area, which features great hiking, mountain biking and groomed cross-country ski trails in the winter. This eastern part of Medicine Bow National Forest also features Vedauwoo campground and recreation area, home to stunning rock formations that make for world-class climbing. Vedauwoo offers great trails for mountain biking and hiking, as well as a popular campground. Past Happy Jack, there’s Curt Gowdy State Park, which includes three reservoirs great for fishing, boating and paddleboarding. The park is also popular for camping, hiking and mountain biking.

To the west of Laramie is the Snowy Range, part of the larger section of the Medicine Bow National Forest. Combined, the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and Thunder Basin National Grassland cover nearly 2.9 million acres from north-central Colorado to central and northeastern Wyoming. The small mountain town of Centennial rests at the base of the Snowies, 27 miles west of Laramie. Just up the hill, visitors can enjoy skiing and snowboarding at Snowy Range Ski Area or partake in snowmobiling, snowshoeing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, camping and other recreation in the Snowy Range. The range includes a number of picturesque lakes and campgrounds.

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