ETSU named 2024 Top Adventure College

Published 10:54 am Monday, May 20, 2024

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JOHNSON CITY – East Tennessee State University secured the title of Top Adventure College for the second year in a row by readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine and the community. This recognition was earned through a bracket-style tournament that pitted ETSU against colleges and universities in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, culminating in ETSU’s triumph over Appalachian State University in the final round. 

“ETSU Outdoor Adventure and Campus Recreation are extremely excited to receive Top Adventure College for the second year in a row! Our students are the most important part of what we do, and we are thrilled to continue to provide diverse, growth-oriented and adventurous outdoor programming,” said Eric Payne, assistant director of Outdoor Adventure at ETSU.   

ETSU’s strategic location in the Appalachian Highlands plays a crucial role in its outdoor opportunities. Our main campus is surrounded by local, state and national parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, Roan Mountain State Park and the Cherokee National Forest. With access to abundant lakes, rivers and hiking trails, including a portion of the Appalachian Trail, ETSU students have unparalleled opportunities for exploration right at their doorstep. 

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The university has plenty of activities on campus, too. On-campus recreation includes the five-mile University Woods and Trail System, a nine-hole disc golf course, the Basler Team Challenge and Aerial Adventure Course and the indoor rock-climbing wall in the Wayne G. Basler Center for Physical Activity (CPA). Additionally, the Outdoor Adventure Center in the CPA equips students with gear rentals and organizes group excursions like backpacking, whitewater rafting, mountain biking and more at local trails and waterways. 

ETSU’s dedication to fostering outdoor recreation goes hand-in-hand with its commitment to academic excellence. The university provides students with hands-on learning experiences through innovative curricula focused on environmental studies, geography, conservation and recreation management.  

“I’ve learned so much about my career field at ETSU. They’ve connected me with a lot of opportunities, including my job with the U.S. Forest Service, and other internships. Every day looks different when you’re working outdoors, and that’s what I love about it,” said Maddy Herrmann, a recent graduate in Sport and Recreation Management

The park and recreation management concentration teaches students how to conserve the stunning wildlife and recreation offered throughout the region, maintaining East Tennessee as the perfect outdoor lover’s paradise. 

“We have many students who go the adventure route, and they’re working for rafting companies or adventure-type companies, but also state parks, which are a really integral part of this region, highlighting our natural resources. We forget how nice it really is around here as far as our natural resources go, so we have this program that really highlights the natural beauty of East Tennessee,” shared Dr. Jason Davis, coordinator for the Park and Recreation Management Program.   

By integrating outdoor adventure into its academic and extracurricular offerings, ETSU attracts students passionate about exploring the natural world and positively impacting the environment. 

To learn more about outdoor adventure at ETSU, visit For more information about Top Adventure College and Blue Ridge Outdoors, visit