In 1948, Sandy and Laura Sanborn founded Big Spring Camp for Boys.


In the years just after World War II, Laura and Sandy Sanborn wanted to help put the world back together. Their original dream was to set up a working ranch and develop an exciting hands-on program for boys that would allow them to gain knowledge of the outdoors and of themselves.

One dream led to another, and now, almost 70 years later, the High Trails Outdoor Education Center operates together with Sanborn Western Camps and The Nature Place to provide outdoor experiences for thousands of children and adults each year. Together, we are the nonprofit Colorado Outdoor Education Center.


High Trails Outdoor Education Center provides educational experiences in the outdoors in which children and adults will gain greater skills, knowledge, and understanding of the relationships of all living things, of working together as a team, and of growing positively as a person.

A few days at High Trails flies by. We use every moment to create an experience for each student, counselor, and teacher that sticks to your gut for long after the week is over. As participants explore the diversity and beauty of our natural surroundings at High Trails, the web of interrelationships between all living and non-living things becomes powerfully apparent.

Our natural place as humans in this system, and the responsibility inherent, is often a revelation for those who learn here. As students build confidence in the outdoor classroom, they gain formative new perspectives - on nature, friends, teachers, and the relationships between them all.



At High Trails Outdoor Education Center, we use our land and a unique strategy of role-playing to teach lessons in science and history. We run 3, 4and 5-day programs, specializing in 4th-6th grade. Students learn from our staff and high-school mentors, gleaning lessons in both academic subjects as well as self-sufficiency. 


Our days at High Trails center around Discovery Groups. Students set out for 2.5 and 6 hour lessons to search for minerals as Prospectors, pack for a trip west as Homesteaders, or examine healthy and diseased forests as Woodsmen. Discovery Groups are fully hands-on experiences, with activities designed to spark discussion.  


In addition to Discovery Groups, we pack our days with hikes, free play, and community building. A High Trails day starts before breakfast, with morning hikes, and concludes with snacks and storytelling around the cabin's fireplace. 


With any program, we are always open to working with schools to tailor the experience so that it builds upon the rest of the school year.




The High Trails campus is located on the 6,000-acre property of the Colorado Outdoor Education Center, with the Florissant Fossil Bed National Monument on our northern border and National Forest Land all around.


Non-Discrimination Policy 

High Trails Outdoor Education Center and the Colorado Outdoor Education Center admit students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to participants. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin or any other status protected by applicable law in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship program and other administered programs.

High Trails Outdoor Education Center and the Colorado Outdoor Education Center are committed to providing equal employment opportunities. All qualified applicants and employees will be considered for employment and advancement without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, age, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, or any other status protected by applicable law.