The 35 Most Pristine College Campuses in America

Written by Gene Caballero on March 20, 2018

Imagine that you are sitting on a park bench in the campus quad sipping a latte’. As you admire the lush beautiful landscapes that surround you, you think to yourself…

“I chose the right place to attend college.”

There is no shortage of gorgeous college landscapes in America; Yale, NYU, VCU, Florida Southern, UCLA, UC Berkeley, the list goes on and on.

GreenPal has looked through 1000's of college campuses to bring you best of the best. So which college campuses top the list for the 35 most pristine college campuses in America? Let’s find out who the bragging rights go to ...

1. Duke University- Durham, NC

This impressive campus covers over 8,500 acres. Many of which are pristine North Carolina forests. Aside from the intensely unique and well renowned outstanding architecture, the reason Duke is on this list of pristine campuses is one of its lesser known secrets. Most people don’t know this about Duke, but its campus includes a nationally acclaimed botanic garden. The Sarah P. Duke Gardens consist of a highly refined 55 acres.

Here's the deal, Sarah P. Duke Gardens are awesome and consist of 4 horticulturally distinct gardens. The Culberson Asiatic Arboretum is a highly refined garden where you can admire the pond and its alluring variety of waterfowl, or experience a traditional Japanese Tea gathering. The Doris Duke Center Gardens feature a white garden and water lily pond, a woodland garden with a recirculating stream, and a sustainable, organic food garden replete with chickens, bee houses and a tobacco barn. At the Blomquist Native Plant Garden of Native Plants Garden, you can learn about plant and wildlife species that thrive in this region, as well as imperiled ecosystems such as the Piedmont prairies. Finally, at the Historic Gardens, you can enjoy iconic views of Italianate terraces, sit at the edge of the century-old Roney Fountain and explore acclaimed artist Patrick Dougherty’s “Big Easy” sculpture. These are just a few reasons that Duke was included among the most pristine campuses in America.

2. The University of Hawai’i at Mānoa- Honolulu, Hawaii

For the next award-winning campus , we will need to venture to the deep Pacific. This place is ridiculously pristine and contains landscape styles that are very zen, to say the least. Located in the lush Hawaiian valley on the south shore of Oahu, this place easily ranks high on this list.

How you will ever get any studying done with all of the hidden wonders to explore in the Hawaiian forests, and the amazing beaches that the school rests on, is beyond understanding. That being said this school boasts an impressive arboretum which is tucked into Hawai'i's amazing rain forests, called the Lyon Arboretum, which is the only tropical arboretum belonging to any US college or university. Just, wow!!!

3. Furman University- Greenville, South Carolina

From the moment you enter this award-winning campus, you are greeted by amazing landscapes. You will know when you have reached the main entrance when you see their outstanding fountain, which is enveloped by bursts of colorful flowers. But that's just part of the story.

Beside their 18 hole golf course, you will find Furman lake, a large lake with several features along its borders. Along the lake shore, you will find the amphitheater where you can see live concerts and you will also find the Furman Belltower. Other key features of this campus are multiple fountains, the Janie Earle Furman Rose Garden, lakeside patios, football and soccer stadiums, and several athletic fields. From the main entrance to Furman Hall students are pampered with a pristine environment.

4. University of Washington- Seattle, Washington

Ranked Top 3 most beautiful college campuses by ranker.com a peer-vetted platform, it is no wonder this colleges landscape attracts such aesthetic attention. What's the real story about the University of Washington? One of the first things to greet you as you enter the campus, if you are fortunate enough to arrive in spring will be the gorgeous cherry blossom trees lining the main campus quad. Set on the coast of Lake Washington this 703-acre campus knows how to choose its locations.

This well-maintained campus sits directly between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Olympus, right off of the Pacific coast, so as long as Poseidon and Zeus are on good terms the students of the UW will have nothing to worry about, other than getting their term papers in on time and enjoying the oceanic views on their downtime.

5. Connecticut College- New London, Connecticut

Located just off of the Long Island Sound, this campus is more like a cozy tight-knit community, rather than a college campus. This campus is spread out among a well managed New England landscape. Hidden among a dense landscape, this campus has many buildings worth noting. One of the most notable buildings is the Blackstone house on the old quad, which is this campuses oldest residence hall. Other buildings worth noting are are the Plant, Harkness, and Branford houses.

To top it all of is the arboretum which includes jogging trails, a native plants garden, and three natural areas; the Goodwin, Mamacoke, and Bolleswood natural areas. As it turns out, this place really knows how to pamper its students with a college campus, that blends into nature flawlessly.

6. Florida Southern College- Lakeland, Florida

This campus is located on the shore of Lake Hollingsworth and is marked with those classic Florida landscapes. Palm trees, tall grasses, and tightly manicured lawns are just a few of the reasons that this campus is marked as one of the most pristine. The Roux library is an amazing architectural marvel, and if you don’t want to study indoors, you can sit out front by the massive library fountain.

Furthermore, this college campus retains the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world! Think about it, for this reason, the Florida Southern College Historic District was declared a national monument in 2012, by the U.S. Department of Interior. This college campus really aims to please its students with National Monuments and finally managed landscapes.

7. Lewis & Clark College- Portland, Oregon

Established in 1867, Lewis and Clark college sits on 137 acres atop Palatine Hill in Portland, Oregon. One of this campuses marvels is the Estate Gardens, which were established for the Lloyd Frank estate in the 1920’s and were gifted to the campus. Best of all, the gardens feature 4 terraces and a reflecting pool. 

The astoundingly designed Frank Manor Estate, a nationally registered monument, houses the administrative offices. Additionally, the Watzek library is not only elegantly designed, its gardens highlight it beautifully. All in all this college houses a pristine campus, and is a joy for all who have the fortune of attending it.

8. Berry College- Mt. Berry, Georgia

This place is the Gem of Georgia. Laid out over the Georgian mountains on a sprawling 27,000 acres, this place is awesome.

Stressed out from your coursework? Why not take a hike, or ride your bike on one of the many well-maintained trails stretching throughout the wooded campus. Among the many campus buildings, the Ford Auditorium is easily the most notable. Even better, the beauty of the English inspired gothic structure of the Ford Auditorium is accentuated by the reflecting pool which lay at the center of this structure.

9. University of California Los Angeles- Los Angelas, California

But wait there's more, Minutes away from the Pacific ocean, UCLA easily makes this list of most pristine campuses. The classic architecture of Royce Hall and Powell Library with the classic brick architecture, combined with the excellent landscaping makes it rather hard to believe you are in the heart of LA.

But that’s not all, each of UCLA’s 20+buildings, laid out across 419 acres is highly detailed and well managed. With the So. Cal. Pacific ocean only miles away, this college campus works hard to maintain its luxurious landscape.

10. University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill, North Carolina

UNC is a 700+ acre campus located just west of Raleigh, NC. Though this college campus is possibly the oldest public university in the United States being chartered in 1789, it certainly does not look it. The Old East Residence Hall, constructed in 1793 still stands as a remarkably pristine marvel amongst the Carolina landscapes.

In my experience is I have found one of the neatest features of this campus is The Forest Amphitheater, a stone amphitheater neatly tucked into a wooded hillside. Another remarkable feature of this luxurious campus is the Old Well, which is a rotunda based on the Temple of Love Gardens of Versailles. As if that were not enough don’t forget the Coker Arboretum, which is a lovely garden that was began in 1903 by Dr. William Chambers Coker. All in all this pristine campus pampers its students to some of the oldest architecture in the nation, lovely gardens, and a well-maintained landscape.

11. St. Olaf College- Northfield, Minnesota

Just south of Minneapolis, Ohio this campus has an outstandingly pristine design and shines with beauty throughout all four seasons. Throughout this 930 acre campus, you will find finely detailed hardscapes, alongside perfectly placed and pruned trees and shrubs which bloom with color in the fall. Apart from the outstanding landscape, the amazing architecture of this campus really makes it a pristine campus.

In fact, two buildings on this unique campus are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Old Main building is a turret topped, Gothic structure which has been part of the campus since its 1877. The second building is a the Steensland Library which boasts a Greek Revival design. This campus is a wonderland of pristine design in the winter, and a luxurious green landscape in the warmer months. What's the bottom line? All in all this campus is easily one of the most beautiful in the nation.

12. Kenyon College- Gambier, Ohio

Sitting alongside the Kokosing River, in the heart of Ohio is the unique and mysteriously pristine Kenyon College. Much of what makes this campus so unique can be seen by walking down Middle Path which passes from one end of this pristine campus to the other. Perhaps one of the most striking features of this campus is the Olin and Chalmers libraries, the pairing of the unique landscape, architectural design and lighting, make this library one of the coolest looking buildings I have ever seen at night time.

Perhaps most astonishing however is the 500 acre Brown Family Environmental Center. No doubt about it, this lovely land preserve sits on both sides of the Kokosing River, includes observatories, overlooks, and views of Ohio’s most pristine landscapes. This place knows how to pamper its students, particularly those that want a quiet environment to find themselves and build long lasting friendships with others.

13. The University of the South- Sewanee, Tennessee

This rural 13,000-acre campus sits atop the Cumberland Plateau in the Tennessee Mountains, this campus sure lives up to its name as The University of the South. The illustrious campus buildings a sparsely spread out amongst a dense Tennessee landscape.

From the University Quadrangle, you will see why this university belongs on this list. From the quad, you will see Walsh-Ellett Hall, Carnegie Hall, and All Saints’ Chapel, each of which is elegantly designed and pristinely maintained. Though this is not the Manhattan Carnegie Hall, this hall was donated by the same Andrew Carnegie. You see, these are just a few of the reasons for ranking this amazing campus on this list.

14. Cornell University- Ithaca, NY

This pristine college campus located at the base Cayuga Lake, one of NY’s largest finger lakes, this campus has a lot to compete with. Yet, somehow even while competing with the pristine waters of the beautiful Cayuga finger lake, this college stands above the grade. This Proud American University was the very first to offer a major in American Studies, and still to this day holds its own.

Here’s the thing, though the campus itself extends only 740 acres itself, the Cornell Botanical Gardens envelope over 4,300 acres, which extend from Ithaca to NYC. That is all without mentioning the F.R. Newman Arboretum. If only we could wrap up the true beauty of this campus in one post we would, but perhaps the best way to experience this campus is to visit for yourself.

15. Wake Forest University- Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Oh say can you see those lovely landscapes!?!

No doubt about it this campus has one of the loveliest landscapes in the nation. With some of the greenest grass, you can imagine. This picturesque 340-acre campus maintains its beautiful, pristine landscapes throughout the year. Nestled in the heart of the Carolina Piedmont, this college campuses landscape is more than worth noting. Peppered with Oaks, Cedars, Magnolias, and Maples, to name a few. Each causing the red brick campus buildings to pop out amongst the green landscape. Could you imagine studying here? I am almost compelled to go back to school so I can soak up this lovely scenery.

16. Creighton University- Omaha, Nebraska

This college may not be as eccentric as the rest on this list, but it still holds its own when it comes to the pristine campuses. From the moment you enter the campus, you are in a new place. Every detail on this campus has been noted, and no stone was left unturned when the designed this place.

Its true, the extensive hardscapes, gently round each and every garden bed so precisely, that you can hardly see the buildings right behind them. Finding a break from the stresses of college life will not be difficult here.

17. Virginia Tech- Blacksburg, VA

Next, we venture just a bit north where the Hokies come to roost, and with good reason.

This place is crazy, in fact, this is one HUGE campus, standing in at over 2,500 acres. That is not all, this campus makes this top 35 list for being one of the most pristine campuses that pamper their students for several reasons. From Buress Hall to the War Memorial Chapel, this place has some really ridiculously amazing architecture and landscapes. Each building and hall on this campus has an exquisitely unique design, this campus is seriously worth appreciating.

18. University of Michigan- Ann Arbor, Michigan

The sprawling 3,177-acre campus lays in the heart of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Easily two of its most notable features are the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and the acre Nichols Arboretum. The secret to the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor’s pristine nature-scape is the Nichols Arboretum has almost 3.5 miles of trails including; the peony, riverfront, forest, and the Arb trails.

Other key features of this campus include the Burton tower, which contains the 3rd largest set of bells in the world, and the Hill auditorium, whose suburb acoustics really accent the music. This college campus really knows how to pamper its students in a pristine environment.

19. Truckee Meadows Community College- Reno, NV

Though Arizona is not a place we often think about as pristine, Truckee Meadows College is there to prove us wrong. In the heart of the Nevada desert, TMCC is only 10 miles from the Sierra Mountains and the California border.

Heres the thing, the views from this campus may be the most majestic on the list. The views from this campus seem to be from another world. Not only is the scenery super unique, the campus grounds themselves are on point. This well-maintained campus has some of the most gorgeous views of any campus in our great nation.

20. University of San Diego- San Diego, California

This campus is easily the most unique campus on this list. With its modern architecture and sprawling palm trees, this place feels more like a futuristic Caribbean town than a college. If the landscape and the unique architecture of this place weren’t enough, keep in mind that you are only one and a half miles from the beach.

Here's the deal, this is an awesome campus for students that are looking for a more vibrant campus design campus that really has the vibe of relaxation. To make a point, this place is like as close to a vacation spot as you can get for a University campus.

21. Utah State University- Logan, Utah

Located in the vast state of Utah with both Logan and Bierdneau peaks in the background this college has some jaw-dropping scenery. As if those lovely mountains were not enough this campus is finally landscaped and explodes with color year round. The classic architecture of the old main building dates all the way back to 1888, yet somehow it looks like it could have been built yesterday.

Here’s the deal, this campus is so pristine, it would be hard to believe you would ever be stressed by your coursework

22. Pepperdine University- Malibu, California

Next stop, Pepperdine University, our 3rd University on the California coastline. It is no secret that Malibu is one luxurious place, Think about it. I mean it’s off of the Pacific ocean for goodness sakes. So besides “perfect weather” all year round what else does this campus offer that makes it so pristine?

This 830 acre Malibu campus sits in and around the Malibu Bluffs. Although the amazing landscapes are enough of a reason to add this college to the list, the architecture, and landscaping of the campus itself are also elegantly designed and tightly maintained. The Keck Science Center is a fine example of the Mediterranean architecture that colleges very early pull off. Seriously if you want an amazing campus in a pristine environment, this one is worth a look.

23. Georgia Southern University- Statesboro, Georgia

Nestled in the heart of the south, this campus 903-acre campus truly maintains a small feel approach, which treats each of its students as an individual. The campus is surrounded by rich southern greenery and is still centrally located to such a large area.

This campus features one of the largest libraries in the southeast, the Zach S. Henderson Library. But you’re probably wondering, that combined with an 11 acre Georgia Southern botanical garden, Lake Wells and Ruby, and the Georgia Southern Museum, it is no wonder that this campus sets itself apart as a luxurious American university.

24. University of Texas Arlington- Arlington, Texas

Let me break it down for you. Though there are certainly many colleges to choose from in the Lone Star State, we chose the Lone Star College alone to represent this fine state. This is perhaps the simplest and most modern campus on this list, but don't let that fool you, this place is pristine and luxurious in its own right. Each square foot of this campus is exquisitely maintained and upkeep, making students feel as if they are on a new campus every day.

The oldest building on campus the Ransom Hall is perhaps the most stunning example of the pristine environment this campus maintains throughout every student's education. The College Park Center Arena shows the modern qualities of this campus. From beginning to end this college campus is sure to pamper its students with luxury, just be sure to get your paperwork in on time!

25. University of Notre Dame- South Bend, Indiana

From the main building with its famous golden dome to the furthest reaches of this campuses 1,200 acres, no detail was spared. This place is loaded with other renowned movements such as the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

But there's a catch, these sacred monuments combined with the classic collegiate gothic architecture not only bring you to another place, but another time. You will easily find yourself at home on this awesome campus.

26. Elon University- Elon, NC

From the pristinely managed campus quads to the Academic Village, it is no wonder this North Carolinian marvel was ranked the nations most beautiful campus By The New York Times. If you are lucky enough to find yourself on this campus be sure to admire the red brick colonnades as you enter the main building.

Not only are the buildings and hardscapes of this campus elegantly designed, the meticulously maintained lawn of this campus is easily a perfect 10. As if that weren’t enough don’t forget the 600-acre botanical garden which was added in 2005. This place is great for anyone looking for natural surroundings, and a grade A education.

27. Mount Holyoke- South Hadley, Massachusetts

Want to know what's the most beautiful campus in Massachusetts? Well then keep reading. Founded in 1837 this expansive campus covers nearly 3,000 acres of pristine Ohio woodlands. The classic red brick architecture is perhaps one of the most stunning things about this campus, there is no shortage of amazing vintage brick buildings spread throughout the campus. Perhaps the most stunning of these buildings is the Mary Lyon Hall, with its outstanding watchtower and colonial design.

That is not all, however, this campus also features the John Payson Williston Observatory, a classic observatory which was constructed in 1881 and is still operational to this day. The awesome architecture and landscapes of this campus are surrounded by nearby forests, ponds, and rivers. this college a luxurious place and an excellent choice for any student that admires the classic architecture and a pristine natural setting.

28. University of Southern California- Los Angeles, California

This 302-acre urban college is located on the western side of Los Angeles. This campus has some stunning features. The key reason this campus is in this exclusive list is not only for its generally meticulously maintained gardens and architecture but for the reason, this pristine campus has not one but two amazingly designed libraries.

Best of all, the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey library and the Doheny libraries certainly are some luxurious marvels. Specifically the Leavey Library with its elegant entrance which included not only highly refined gardens but also its small wading pool.

29. Northern Arizona University- Flagstaff, Arizona

Located in the heart of the Coconino National Forest at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, this college campus is the marvel of Arizona state. With its amazing hardscapes and its finely tuned gardens, It is hard to believe that this campus is in Arizona at all. This campus is home to the Walkup Skydome, which is the 2nd largest wooden dome in the world, covering over 6 acres.

Perhaps the best example of this colleges pristine environment is the Engineering Building, which is a well landscaped architectural marvel. Now, this campus is easily the most pristine in Arizona, and certainly one of the most pristine in America.

30. Earlham College- Richmond, Indiana

Lying on the southwest corner of Richmond, Indiana is a hidden college paradise . Not only does Earlham itself have a pristine campus, this place has extensive outdoor activities that really can make students feel right at home.

Here's the deal, from its horseback riding courses (which are the only in the country run by its own students), outdoor hiking trails and hands-on sustainability courses this college pampers students with a very nature-oriented campus, all the while maintaining itself as notable education institution offering a unique and memorable experience to each of its students.

31. Sweet Briar College- Sweet Briar, Virginia

Sweet Briar College is a 3,250-acre college that boasts a remarkably pristine campus with several notable buildings. Apart from being in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, this campus is well designed and maintained. This unique campus holds 21 buildings which are on the National Historic Register. These buildings include Mary Helen Cochran Library, The Sweet Briar House, and The Colonial Revival style buildings which are spread through this majestic campus were largely designed by Ralph Adams Cam, who also took part in the architectural designs of the West Point and Princeton campuses.

As it turns out, this secluded Virginia campus has an impressive equestrian program and loads of trails for long meditative walks. This campus is certainly among the most pristine in the nation.

32. University of Alabama- Tuscaloosa, Alabama

This 1,970 acre sits just below the Black Warrior River in the heart of Alabama. This campus is the states oldest university and is each of its many buildings are maintained and kept in pristine order. One of the most eye-catching buildings, as seen from the quad, is the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library. With its massive stairway and large columns, this prominent feature of the library gives you a glimpse into the luxurious greek revival architecture you will see throughout many of the campus's buildings.

That is not all, other notable architecture on the campus can be seen in the Foster Auditorium and Malone-Hood Plaza and the Lucy Clock Tower, each is set amongst finely maintained landscapes. As if that's not enough, even with its nearly 40,000 students this campus knows how to maintain a pristine, luxurious environment, which is sure to pamper each student throughout their college careers.

33. Rollins College- Winter Park, Florida

If you are looking for a pristine campus with year-round greenery in the heartland of the Sunshine State this campus is for you. Just north of Orlando, on the shores of Lake Virginia sits this lovely campus with its Mediterranean Revival architecture, and evergreen landscapes. Some of its most notable buildings include the Knowles Memorial Chapel, and the Annie Russell Theatre, whose elegant designs have earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

Think about it when you are done soaking up the sun or touring around Florida, students can always enjoy the luxurious Cornell Fine Arts Museum. This place is perfect for any student seeking for a pristine campus with tier one architecture and constant sunshine in between their intense study sessions.

34. Gettysburg College- Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

This mid-north eastern campus gives the feeling of a classic American college. Apart from the ultra-modern Center for Athletics, Recreation and Fitness center, this classic campus takes you straight back to the founding of the nation. What's more, the classic architecture of the Pennsylvania and Glatfelter Halls, really give a very historical impression, that most campuses aim for, but do not achieve.

It is no wonder that 96% of students opt to reside on this 200 acre, rural Pennsylvania campus. The mix of classic architecture, combined with the sculpted native landscape leave the Gettysburg College campus a lot to be reckoned with when it comes to luxury and pristine beauty in the NE.

35. University of Cincinnati- Cincinnati, Ohio

This 473-acre campus has some of the most modern architecture of any American college campus. Even though this campus is located in the heart of Cincinnati its cleverly integrated design makes it feel like a city of its own.

Want to know the best part? Perhaps the uniqueness of this campus is best seen from MainStreet which is the heart of the campus. From here you can see the campuses award-winning recreation center is located. This recreation center is home to over 500 student organizations. Did I mention the lazy river and rock climbing wall? Now that is some high-class stuff.

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