Crestone, Colorado

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Crestone, Colorado
Town of Crestone[1]
Welcome sign on Birch Street.
Welcome sign on Birch Street.
Location of the Town of Crestone in the Saguache County, Colorado.
Location of the Town of Crestone in the Saguache County, Colorado.
Crestone is located in the United States
Location of the Town of Crestone in the United States.
Coordinates: 37°59′40″N 105°41′47″W / 37.994497°N 105.696273°W / 37.994497; -105.696273Coordinates: 37°59′40″N 105°41′47″W / 37.994497°N 105.696273°W / 37.994497; -105.696273[2]
Country United States
State Colorado
CountySaguache County[1]
IncorporatedJanuary 24, 1902[3]
 • TypeStatutory Town[1]
 • MayorKairina Danforth
 • Town clerkAllyson Ransom
 • TreasurerGwynn Busby
 • Total0.385 sq mi (0.996 km2)
 • Land0.385 sq mi (0.996 km2)
 • Water0.000 sq mi (0.000 km2)
Elevation7,923 ft (2,415 m)
 • Total141
 • Density367/sq mi (142/km2)
Time zoneUTC−07:00 (MST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−06:00 (MDT)
ZIP Code[6]
Area code(s)719
FIPS code08-18420
GNIS feature ID0192409
HighwaysTake County Road T 12 miles east from State Highway 17 at Moffat

The Town of Crestone is a Statutory Town in Saguache County, Colorado, United States.[1] The town population was 141 at the 2020 United States Census.[4] It is a small village at the foot of the western slope of the Sangre de Cristo Range, in the northern part of the San Luis Valley. Crestone was originally part of Navajo country, and is still considered holy ground by the Hopi and Navajo. It later became a settled as a small mining town around 1900, but little paying ore was discovered. In the 1970s, a large land development, the Baca Grande, was established to the south and west where several hundred homes have been built.

The Crestone area, which includes the Baca Grande and Moffat, Colorado, is a spiritual center with several world religions represented, including: a Hindu temple, a Zen center, a co-ed Carmelite monastery, several Tibetan Buddhist centers, and miscellaneous New Age happenings. Much of this spiritual development was catalyzed by the couple Hanne Strong and Maurice Strong in the 1970s, who set out to make it an interfaith center, and who established the Baca.[1]

Crestone is easily accessible to visitors, a National Forest Service campground is about 3/4 of a mile north of town,[7] and other lodging is available, including several bed and breakfasts. Activities in the area include camping, fishing, hiking, climbing, as well as spiritual explorations.

Crestone is named for the 14,000-foot peaks that lie just east of the town: Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle. The Crestones, as they are known collectively, in turn, took their name from the Spanish word crestón, which, according to Walter Borneman and Lyndon Lampert's book A Climbing Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners, means: “the top of a cock’s comb”; “the crest of a helmet”; or, in miners’ jargon, “an outcropping of ore”.


Galena Avenue June 1901

The first settlement in the Crestone area occurred after the American Civil War with the granting of the Luis Maria Baca Grant No. 4 to the heirs of the original Baca Grant at Las Vegas, New Mexico. Title to the grant at Las Vegas was clouded by a second grant of the same land. The Baca heirs were offered alternative lands from the public lands of the United States. The square tract selected is 12.5 miles (20.1 km) on a side south of Saguache County Road T south of Crestone. The Bacas deeded the land to their attorney, but it soon passed by tax sale to a third party. The ranch headquarters were on Crestone Creek to the southwest of Crestone. The Baca Grant was one of the first large tracts of land to be fenced in the West and in its heyday was the home of prize Hereford cattle.

In addition to ranching there was some mining in the area to the east and south of Crestone of small shallow iron oxide copper gold ore deposits. In 1880 the town of Crestone was platted by George Adams, the owner of the Baca Grant. In 1900, with the help of Eastern investors, George Adams ignited a minor boom, reopening one of the more promising gold mines and building a railroad spur to the town and the mines along the Range south of town. However, lacking good ore, the boom was short lived. A long period of decline followed.

By 1948 Crestone had declined to its post-war population of 40, mostly retirees and cowboys who worked on the Grant, as the Baca Grant was called. Many of the old cabins were used as vacation homes. By 1971 the Baca Grant came into the ownership of a corporation which subdivided a portion of the Grant, creating the Baca Grande, a subdivision originally platted for about 10,000 lots. At great expense, underground utilities were installed and roads built. However, sales lagged and by 1979 the development was considered a liability by the corporation. Maurice Strong, owner of a controlling interest and his fiancée, Hanne Marstrand, visited the development and "fell in love with it." They were inspired to create a world spiritual center and began granting parcels of land to traditional spiritual organizations.

The population gradually began to increase and by 2006 several hundred homes had been built and a number of small spiritual communities had become established. As the Baca Grande contained no provision for business uses, Crestone became the business center of the community and having enacted a small sales tax was in a position to finance further improvements.

Passive solar building near Crestone


Crestone is located near the 38th parallel, in the San Luis Valley in south central Colorado. It is platted on a quarter section of land (160 acres; 0.6 km2) on the alluvial fan of North Crestone Creek. Much of the land near the creek where the main part of the city sits, is well watered in normal times, but during a prolonged drought the creek may dry up and underground water levels may fall.

At the 2020 United States Census, the town had a total area of 246 acres (0.996 km2), all of it land.[4]


Census data is for the Town of Crestone; most people in the Crestone area live in the Baca Grande, a large land development which lies to the south and west of the town.


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census

The following is derived from the US census and covers only the town itself, thus giving a misleading idea of the area. About half of the homes in Crestone itself are used only on a seasonal basis. The Crestone community is much larger, consisting also of several hundred homes in the Baca Grande subdivision, the surrounding rural area, and the small town of Moffat, Colorado which hosts one of the local schools. (There is also a charter school)

As of the census[8] of 2000, there were 73 people, 45 households, and 18 families residing in the town. The population density was 290.8 people per square mile (112.7/km2). There were 79 housing units at an average density of 314.7 per square mile (122.0/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 95.89% White, 4.11% from other races. 1.37% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 45 households, out of which 8.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 28.9% were married couples living together, 4.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 60.0% don't fit into the above categories. 48.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.62 and the average family size was 2.22.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 8.2% under the age of 18, 4.1% from 18 to 24, 23.3% from 25 to 44, 45.2% from 45 to 64, and 19.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 52 years. For every 100 females there were 102.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 103.0 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $31,250, and the median income for a family was $40,000. Males had a median income of $22,813 versus $27,917 for females. The per capita income for the town was $22,291. There were 18.8% of families and 19.7% of the population living below the poverty line, including no under eighteens and none of those over 64.


Spiritual centers[edit]

The deity Haidakhandeshwari in the temple of the Haidakhandi Universal Ashram near Crestone

Crestone has become internationally known as a locus for a large number of many different religious and spiritual traditions. Accommodation of spiritual pilgrims and eco-tourists is the major industry in Crestone. Crestone's development as a spiritual center was initiated by Maurice Strong, a multimillionaire businessman and United Nations Undersecretary, and his wife, Hanne Marstrand Strong. Using land acquired from the corporations Strong controlled they established the Manitou Foundation and Manitou Institute, which, according to its website, "provides and grants and some financial support in Crestone/Baca, Colorado, to qualified religious and spiritual projects." Grants of land from the foundation were made to a number of spiritual centers in the area.[9]

Spiritual centers in Crestone:

Religion Organization Sect
Christian The Spiritual Life Institute and Nada Hermitage Retreat Center Roman Catholic (Carmelite)
Buddhist (Zen) Crestone Mountain Zen Center founded by Zentatsu Richard Baker Sōtō
Buddhist (Tibetan)
Dharma Ocean Retreat Center founded by Reginald Ray Karma Kagyu
Karma Thegsum Tashi Gomang founded by the 16th Karmapa Karma Kagyu
Mangala Shri Bhuti founded by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche Nyingma
Vajra Vidya founded by Thrangu Rinpoche Karma Kagyu
Yeshe Khorlo founded by Gangteng Tulku Rinpoche Nyingma
Yeshe Rangsal Retreat Center founded by Tsokyni Rinpoche Drukpa Kagyu
Hindu Haidakhandi Universal Ashram[10] Haidakhan Babaji
Sri Aurobindo Learning Center Sri Aurobindo
Temple of Consciousness Ashram Humanity in Unity
Other Academy of On Academy of On
The Shumei International Institute in Crestone Colorado Shumei International Institute
Chamma Ling founded by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche Bön
The Church Ministry of Mother of All Creation Love Has Won

Spiritual centers external links[edit]

Volunteer and community services[edit]

Emergency services for the town of Crestone and the Baca Grande are provided by the Crestone Volunteer Fire Dept. and the Baca-Crestone Ambulance Service.[11]

The Crestone End of Life Project provides open-air cremation and end of life support. CEOLP is a non-denominational community-based group promoting informed end-of-life choices and supporting their fulfillment. Cost is modest but is available only to the 1,000 or so people who live in the local community.[12]

Fairs and markets[edit]

The Annual San Luis Valley Energy Fair is held in Crestone's town parks over Labor Day weekend each year. The fair features ideas and products that relate to environmental sustainability such as solar power and straw bale construction as well as booths offering food and local products. Crestone hosts an annual Artists Open Studio Tour during the first weekend in October, allowing for visits to the many artist's studios in the area. Food and local products are offered regularly at the Saturday Market which happens in the middle of town on Silver Avenue every Saturday during the summer.[13] Crestone has a free box which is enthusiastically supported by the community.[14]


Crestone has historically been a deer park; Mule deer are commonly seen grazing in yards in town. Black bears are also common, but usually only at night when they raid apple trees and the dumpsters at the cafes and stores in downtown Crestone. In 2011 a bear with two cubs was frequently seen during the day. This bear, which was generally well-behaved other than raiding trash, was killed by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources following a bear attack on a tethered goat. Local sympathizers complained bitterly the wrong bear had been killed, receiving extensive coverage through Channel 9 in Denver which was distributed nationally by the Associated Press,[15] prompting an investigation of the incident by the Division of Parks and Wildlife and possible re-evaluation of management of bears in mixed rural-urban communities such as Crestone.[16] An internal investigation by the Division of Parks and Wildlife came to the conclusion that the right bear had been shot.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Active Colorado Municipalities". Colorado Department of Local Affairs. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  2. ^ "2014 U.S. Gazetteer Files: Places". United States Census Bureau. July 1, 2014. Archived from the original on February 7, 2015. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
  3. ^ "Colorado Municipal Incorporations". State of Colorado, Department of Personnel & Administration, Colorado State Archives. 2004-12-01. Retrieved 2007-09-02.
  4. ^ a b c d "Decennial Census P.L. 94-171 Redistricting Data". United States Census Bureau, United States Department of Commerce. August 12, 2021. Retrieved September 4, 2021.
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  6. ^ "ZIP Code Lookup". United States Postal Service. Archived from the original (JavaScript/HTML) on November 4, 2010. Retrieved September 6, 2007.
  7. ^ "North Crestone Creek Campground". National Forest Service. Retrieved May 16, 2011. The campground stretches 0.7 miles up a mountain along North Crestone Creek. It is rustic with camping sites nestled among Aspen, juniper, fir and other riparian-loving trees. Because the sites are so far apart each has a feeling of secluded wilderness camping with few of the inconveniences. The campground is convenient to a public golf course and the interesting village of Crestone.
  8. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  9. ^ Brady, Tracy Lynn (2004). "Kivas, cathedrals and energy seats: The making of religious landscapes in the upper Rio Grande Valley". University of Colorado at Boulder (PhD Thesis). Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  10. ^ "About Us". Babaji Ashram. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  11. ^ The Baca Grande Property Owner's Association. "Fire". Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  12. ^ Moreno, Ivan (January 31, 2011). "Funeral pyres an option in Colo. mountain town". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Archived from the original on February 3, 2011. Retrieved January 31, 2011.
  13. ^ "Energy fair is this weekend" Archived 2011-07-07 at the Wayback Machine article based on a press release in the Valley Courier Aug 30, 2010, accessed August 31, 2010
  14. ^ "Editor’s Notes August '09 Crestone Eagle, accessed September 19, 2010
  15. ^ "Crestone residents say wrong bear killed". The Denver Post. The Associated Press. August 30, 2011. Retrieved September 20, 2011.
  16. ^ Kevin Torres (September 19, 2011). "Parks & Wildlife meets with residents over bear's death". Channel 9 News in Denver. Retrieved September 20, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Internal review finds officials shot right bear" report by Christina Dickinson, 9News.Com, Nov 24, 2011

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]