Colorado summer camp

Our History

One-hundred years ago, Frank Cheley had a dream. In 1921, 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 located in what was still in many ways a wilderness.

Meet the Cheley Family

Four generations of the Cheley Family have dedicated their careers to Frank’s dream. They are grateful for their part of 100 years of youth development. Read more...

The Cheley Story

As a young man, Frank H. Cheley’s dream was to help boys grow into manhood in the great outdoors. His work with the YMCA convinced Frank Cheley that youth learn best through firsthand experiences, particularly when those experiences come under the direction of dedicated adult leaders. More than 90 years later, these basic principles are still the foundation for our work with young people at Cheley Colorado outdoor living summer camps.

Frank Cheley put his dreams of a character-building camp set in the high mountains of Colorado into action in 1921, the year he opened Bear Lake Trail School—An Alpine Summer Camp for Boys on the shores of Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Most of all, he wanted the boys to become good sportsmen, which he described as “self-propelled, independent individuals with real character and personality.” These leadership training summer camps became very popular and five years later, in 1926, Frank Cheley welcomed “vigorous girls” to his “vigorous camp” and called it Chipeta, named after the queen of the Utes, wife of Chief Ouray.

The entire operation moved to the Land O’ Peaks property in 1927, and in 1941, Frank opened the Boys’ and Girls’ Trail’s End camps. Today all eight outdoor living summer camp units are housed on these three properties. The massive lodges and cozy cabins of the 20’s and 30’s have been carefully maintained, providing a legacy of rich memories for the children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren of those early campers.

Frank Cheley’s family has been steadfast in upholding the philosophy of camp life envisioned by their forefather. Following Frank’s death in 1941, son Jack and his wife, Sis, led Cheley for 40 years before entrusting its leadership to son, Don and his wife, Carole. Today, Cheley camp remains a mission for the entire family as its leadership transitions to the two oldest members of the fourth generation, Jeff and Brooke. The well-preserved history of Cheley lives on in this outdoor living summer camp’s historic log and stone lodges, the hearts and souls of countless satisfied campers, staff and alumni, and the stories that embody the fun and spirit of the Frank Cheley program.

For more information regarding the history of Cheley's historic leadership training summer camp, please Contact Us.