Cheley Colorado Camps was founded in 1921 by Frank H. Cheley. As a young man, his dream was to provide an opportunity for boys to get away from the city in a beautiful outdoor setting, to learn the ways of the woods and wilderness, and to develop a spiritual awareness from the world of nature. His work with the YMCA convinced him that youth learn best through firsthand experiences, particularly under the direction of dedicated adult leaders. A century later, these basic principles are still the foundation for our work with young people.
In 1921, Frank put his dreams into action when he opened the Bear Lake Trail School, An Alpine Summer Camp for Boys. Nine adventurous boys journeyed high into the Colorado Rockies to a rustic summer camp on the shores of Bear Lake inside the newly minted Rocky Mountain National Park. The Bear Lake Trail School was a collection of log buildings clustered on the lake’s far shore, what was still in many ways a wilderness. This leadership training summer camp became very popular and in 1926, “vigorous girls” were welcomed to Chipeta, named after the Queen of the Utes, wife of Chief Ouray.
“To inculcate in young people that spirit of honesty, purity, unselfishness, love, alertness, determination and courage. Cheley aims to help young people cultivate the ability to act spontaneously in the right, and by doing this to contribute definitively to the creation of a better world.”Frank H. Cheley
Building Our Legacy
By its sixth summer, Bear Lake Trail School participation had grown immensely, but Bear Lake was increasingly popular with national park visitors, too. “One day we’ll have fifty cars a day coming up here!” complained Frank. Determined to get away from the masses visiting Bear Lake, Cheley moved to the Land O’ Peaks Ranch (LOP) in 1927, now “main camp.” Situated at 8,200-foot elevation, the new site offered the perfect setting for the physical, mental and spiritual growth of young people. LOP is comprised of three separate units for boys and three for girls.
By the mid-1930s, Frank thought campers were losing the pioneer spirit and getting soft, so he established a more “roughing it” camp where life and activities would be based on community cooperation. In 1937, Frank opened the Trail’s End Ranch for Boys (BTE) on Fox Creek, near Glen Haven. In 1941, this camp became Trail’s End Ranch for Girls (GTE) and BTE was moved to 80 acres of land located on the North Fork of the Big Thompson River. Since then, the massive lodges, cozy cabins, and covered wagons have been carefully maintained, providing a legacy rich in tradition and memories.
The Cheley family has consistently upheld the philosophy of camp life envisioned by Frank. After Frank’s passing in 1941, Jack and his wife, Sis, admirably guided Cheley for four decades before passing the torch to their son, Don, and his wife, Carole. Today, Cheley thrives under the fourth-generation leadership of siblings, Jeff Cheley and Brooke Cheley-Klebe. Throughout the years, Cheley has gained recognition in numerous local, national, and even global publications. This legacy endures despite weathering floods, fires, pandemics, a World War, the Great Depression, and more.
Cheley has provided invaluable experiences to over fifty-thousand campers, employed a multitude of dedicated staff, marked the centennial of Fun Plus®, and made significant advancements in youth development and nature preservation.