Trail Historian Eric Swab: The Trail to Buffalo Roost

Ormes Map Detail (short trail)

There is a short trail that connects the Gold Camp Road (GCR) with Buffalo Canyon trail 624. The trail first appears on the 1913 edition of Manly Ormes map, Mountain Trails of the Pikes Peak Region, but it is likely older than that. The GCR end of the trail is near Fairview where early 20th Century trekkers could disembark from the Short Line Railroad for a hike to St. Marys Falls in Buffalo Canyon. The trail was also used by the YMCA Boys Group as a shortcut to their cabin at the Buffalo Creek end to the trail. This cabin was built in the early 1890s by a man named McBride, but given to the YMCA five years later. The “Y” called it “Buffalo Roost”, and used it as a retreat.

By 1923 it had been badly vandalized and was torn down. All through high school and college Frank Howbert Cheley (1889-1941) worked in the Boys Department of the Colorado Springs YMCA, eventually becoming its director. His responsibilities included leading the boys on outings in the mountains near town. Based on the family’s oral tradition, Frank, his father Robert Austin Cheley (1851-1920), and boys from the YMCA built an addition to Buffalo Roost between 1906 and 1909. Robert was a professional bricklayer and probably built the fireplace and chimney, which did not exist on the original cabin. Frank’s early experience working with the boys of the “Y” developed into a life-long passion to guide boys on their journey into manhood. Frank wrote at least 18 books promoting his belief that a boy’s development into a productive man was enhanced by his experiencing the outdoors.


Frank’s first book was titled Buffalo Roost. It is based on his experience leading his boys on outings in North Cheyenne Cañon, Buffalo Canyon and South Cheyenne Cañon. In the main story line of the book, amale leader, guides a group of teenage boys on a four-day back pack. Their objective is to find a cabin, or a site on which to build a cabin that would serve as their retreat. In the story they find Buffalo Roost. Frank uses place names throughout the book that are still in use today, but gives fictitious names to his characters. In 1921, after working for ten years directing boy’s activities in Indiana and Missouri, Frank returned to Colorado., He established a camp called “Bear Lake Trail School” in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Over the years the school grew into a series of summer camps for teenage boys and girls known as the “Colorado Cheley Camps”, which are still operating today.

The cabin at the Buffalo Creek end of the short trail no longer exists but it’s site can be easily identified by the large boulder beside the stream seen in this photo. It is visible when coming down the “Short Trail” that crosses the ridge dividing GCR and Trail 624.

The Cheley family built another cabin for their own use in South Cheyenne Canon. Look closely at the map above and you will see the “Cheley’s Cabin” label. They called it “Twilight Lodge”. At the time, “Twilight Canon” was the popular name for South Cheyenne Canon.

That cabin is also gone.

Created with GIMP
Twilight Lodge
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