A group of people walks through a tall forest on the Colorado Plateau A group of people walks through a tall forest on the Colorado Plateau
Science & Discovery 

We hold class on the Colorado Plateau


Imagine a university set in one of the most remarkable geographic regions on our planet, where you can step out of the classroom to study everything from art to archaeology; from economics to education to ecosystem science; and from remote sensing science to practicing nursing in rural areas.

At Northern Arizona University’s Flagstaff campus, the Colorado Plateau is literally in our back yard—and as one of the most ecologically diverse natural labs in the world, it offers mountains, rivers, deserts, mesas, canyons, and the largest ponderosa pine forest on Earth. Our unique setting enhances the university experience for faculty and students from nearly every academic discipline:

  • World-class faculty in NAU’s forestry, earth sciences, environmental sustainability, and biology programs conduct a wide range of field research among the many natural wonders of the Plateau—in the Grand Canyon, on the San Francisco Peaks, on the Navajo Nation lands, and in the Colorado River—mentoring students in scholarly inquiry, research methodology, and the excitement of discovery. Informatics experts use state-of-the-art drones to survey snowpack and measure the impact of climate change on the region’s vegetation.
  • Students in NAU’s fine arts programs are inspired by the unparalleled natural beauty of the Colorado Plateau to reach new heights of artistic expression.
  • The Colorado Plateau is home to eight Native tribes, each with a distinct history, culture, and language. NAU students engage in a variety of academic pursuits in the arts, letters, and social sciences as faculty guide them in the study of the region’s peoples, including Southwest history, literature, and anthropology. Students in NAU’s education program prepare for their careers by teaching at schools in Native communities, and those in NAU’s health sciences programs receive hands-on experience in public health and healthcare by working in clinics serving Native populations. And students in NAU’s business programs study the economic impact of real-life events on the region, such as wildfires and overgrazing on public lands.
A student paints on an easel near a river while a professor looks on

A World of Opportunity

The Colorado Plateau is much more than a stunning view seen through an NAU classroom window. It’s a vibrant, diverse, exciting landscape that has so much to teach us, in so many ways.

Bring your aspirations—if studying, researching, and learning on the Colorado Plateau sounds like a beautiful prospect, NAU could be your perfect fit.


  • Encompassing 240,000 square miles, the Colorado Plateau straddles the region known as the Four Corners, where Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico meet.
  • The Colorado Plateau ranges in elevation from 2,000 to nearly 13,000 feet above sea level.
  • There are five ecological life zones on the Colorado Plateau:
    1. Upper Sonoran (desert steppe or chaparral)
    2. Transition (open woodlands)
    3. Canadian (fir forest)
    4. Hudsonian (spruce forest)
    5. Arctic-Alpine (alpine meadows or tundra)
  • The Colorado Plateau is home to nine national parks:
    1. Grand Canyon
    2. Black Canyon of the Gunnison
    3. Mesa Verde
    4. Canyonlands
    5. Arches
    6. Petrified Forest
    7. Zion
    8. Capitol Reef
    9. Bryce Canyon
  • The Colorado Plateau is home to 18 national monuments
  • The Colorado Plateau has been continuously inhabited by Native people of the Americas for approximately 12,000 years. Today, the Native peoples of the Colorado Plateau include the Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, Hualapai, Havasupai, Ute, Apache, and Southern Paiute.

Students and an instructor stand on the edge of a body of water at the Colorado Plateaumap of Colorado Plateaus Province