Girl on zipline obstacle course.

Camp Life

The Cheley Experience has withstood the test of time. Frank Cheley believed in the positive nurturing of young people when he opened Cheley in 1921. Over 100 summers later, our commitment to the development of youth remains steadfast. We believe that every summer in a young person’s life is a window of opportunity. Cheley truly gives its campers formative experiences that nourish body, mind, and spirit. We are an accredited summer camp and are always working with these associations to help preserve, promote, and improve the camp experience. We give young people time to slow down, open up, and explore.

What to Expect

You will notice that the Cheley Experience follows a routine: one that repeats both First Term and Second Term. Each term begins with Arrival Day and Orientation Day and ends with Final Weekend and Departure Day. Twenty-seven days might sound like a long time, but it takes that long to unwind, and get in shape, and makes this experience one to remember. Four weeks at camp might sound like a long time, but once you are at Cheley you realize that it takes time to settle into the camp schedule, get in shape, and commit to the camp community.

So Much More Than Fun

Our campers often say they feel more alive, more connected, and their best selves at Cheley. Whether they are standing on a summit high in the Rockies, cantering around the riding ring, or cheering a fellow mountain biker up the hill, they feel as if they learn skills and values to help them succeed in our ever-changing world. The camp experience offers youth the opportunity for unstructured play, to meet people from all over the world and country, to form strong relationships within a supportive community, to unplug from technology, gain independence, and have fun.

Girls laughing.

The Code of Living

Cheley initiates each summer with the creation of a Code of Living, a tradition rooted in the foresight of our founder, Frank H. Cheley. Recognizing that the values relevant in the 1920s might not seamlessly apply to our community decades or even a century later, Frank envisioned a dynamic system. This core set of values, known as the Code of Living, evolves with society. At the start of every term and summer, each unit, counseling staff, and support staff collaboratively formulate their own Code of Living.

This Code is a collection of traits suggested by campers within each unit, embodying the ideals they aspire to uphold throughout the term. These ideals often encompass values such as responsibility, integrity, trust, and empathy, seamlessly woven into the fabric of our camp experience. Campers frequently reference the Code of Living as a guide, using it to hold themselves and their peers accountable. It’s not uncommon for campers to proudly display their Code of Living on their walls at home, using it as a touchstone for personal growth during the school year.

The Blue Kerchief

The tangible representation of the Code of Living is the Blue Kerchief, a symbol of commitment to the Cheley Experience. During the Blue Kerchief Ceremony, held on the first Saturday evening of each term, campers receive their “BK.” Light blue is worn by campers, yellow by Campers in Leadership Training (CILTs), dark blue by counselors, and light green by Quarter B-4 campers.

The Blue Kerchief is not only a symbol but also a canvas for memories. Campers and staff personalize their kerchiefs by adding patches and recognitions earned throughout the summer. These embroidered patches or pins serve as a testament to their achievements. In addition to patches, campers often adorn their kerchiefs with name tags and other mementos from their Cheley Experience. The Blue Kerchief, rich with these personal touches, becomes a cherished keepsake, representing not only a commitment to the Code of Living but also a tapestry of memories from a transformative summer. The privilege to wear a Blue Kerchief is earned, and, importantly, revocable.

The Rockies as Our Playground

The Rocky Mountains are our playground for our free-choice program, which is designed to keep friendship groups open and flexible and allows each camper to request the activities of their liking. On Orientation Day and each Sunday thereafter, campers learn about the offerings for the week and communicate their preferences to their counselors. We encourage campers to try a wide variety of options by stretching themselves in our challenging program areas. Each day, our campers head out to explore the amazing Colorado Rockies on hikes, backpacks, horseback rides, mountain bikes, and technical climbs. Or they choose to slow down as they raft on the Poudre River, stand up paddleboard at Union Reservoir, create something in the crafts shop, or spend a few days camping in nature. Our activities are the vehicle for teaching youth the values and ideals necessary to establish their path toward becoming thriving young adults.

Each summer, campers come from over 45 states and at least 15 foreign countries, fostering a vibrant and diverse community. You will create friends from around the globe, and many campers form friendships here that last for a lifetime. The average Cheley camper spends four to five summers at camp, with some staying as long as ten summers, showcasing the enduring appeal of the Cheley Experience. Still, on average, each summer, 30% of our campers are first-time Cheley campers, ensuring a continuous influx of fresh perspectives and energy. This rich tapestry of experiences contributes to the warm, familiar feeling of family at this gorgeous mountain summer camp.

More than just a summer experience, Cheley is a community that extends to our dedicated staff. In fact, over 40% of our staff returns each summer, a testament to the rewarding and transformative nature of working at Cheley. This commitment from our staff plays a crucial role in maintaining the unique culture and sense of family that defines the Cheley experience.

At camp, our campers develop nurturing and trusting relationships with counselors who serve as positive role models in their jobs as youth development professionals. We believe young people learn best by doing. For example, campers actively participate in decision-making processes, from planning activities to managing responsibilities, fostering personal responsibility and self-reliance. Each summer, our challenge as leaders in youth development is to protect and preserve the rugged, rustic character of their experience while providing opportunities for growth. Through our high-adventure activities, leadership initiatives, and tailored programs, we empower campers to develop essential life skills. This commitment to a balanced approach is what makes Cheley a top-rated summer camp, with a legacy of campers and counselors returning summer after summer. We are dedicated to improving and evolving every summer to ensure that Cheley remains a transformative and enriching experience for all.

Next Steps

Ready for the summer of a lifetime?