In 1948, an idealistic young couple, Sandy and Laura Sanborn, founded Sanborn Western Camps on 480 acres near Florissant, Colorado.
Sandy had been a member of the Tenth Mountain Division during World War II, and he and Laura wanted to create a place where young people could learn to live together and experience the joys of living in the natural world.
They began with a summer camp for boys named Big Spring Ranch. Then, in 1962 they opened a summer camp for girls named High Trails Ranch. In 1967, they opened High Trails Outdoor Education Center, a residential environmental education program for school children from many schools in Colorado. Colorado Outdoor Education Center was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1973 for the purpose of operating the school programs.
In 1978, Laura and Sandy recognized that adults also benefit from time spent in the outdoors, The Nature Place Conference Center was built, and began offering programs based on leadership and team development, as well as natural history programs and reunions of all types.
In 1999, Sanborn Western Camps and Colorado Outdoor Education Center merged and operate today as Colorado Outdoor Education Center. In its history of over 60 years, COEC has provided summer camp programs for more than 35,000 campers and staff, and more than 100,000 students have attended the High Trails Outdoor Education Center. The Nature Place annually serves 3,000 guests.