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Crestone, Colorado
Statutory Town
Town of Crestone
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, Colorado is located in the United States
Crestone, Colorado
Crestone, Colorado
Location in the United States
Country  United States
State  Colorado
County Saguache County
Incorporated January 24, 1902
 • Type Statutory Town
 • Total 0.385 sq mi (0.996 km2)
 • Land 0.385 sq mi (0.996 km2)
 • Water 0 sq mi (0.000 km2)
7,923 ft (2,415 m)
 • Total 198
 • Density 367/sq mi (142/km2)
Time zone UTC−07:00 (MST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−06:00 (MDT)
ZIP Code
Area code(s) 719
FIPS code 08-18420
GNIS feature ID 0192409
Highways Take 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. The town population was 141 at the 2020 United States Census. 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 platted in 1880 by George Adams, owner of the neighboring Luis Maria Baca Grant No. 4. In the 1970s, a large land development, the Baca Grande, was established on the lands of the Baca Grant 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, 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”.


Chatting on Galena Avenue

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, the main part of town, is well watered in normal times, but during a prolonged drought the creek may dry up and underground water levels may fall.

In more technical terms, Crestone is located at 37°59′45″N 105°41′59″W / 37.99583°N 105.69972°W / 37.99583; -105.69972 (37.995792, -105.699757).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2), all of it land.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 231
1920 74 −68.0%
1930 86 16.2%
1940 172 100.0%
1950 72 −58.1%
1960 51 −29.2%
1970 34 −33.3%
1980 54 58.8%
1990 39 −27.8%
2000 73 87.2%
2010 127 74.0%
2020 141 11.0%
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 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

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.

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) Chamma Ling founded by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche Bön
Dharma Ocean Retreat Center founded by Reginald Ray Karma Kagyu
Karma Thegsum Tashi Gomang founded by H.H. 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 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

Fairs and markets

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. Crestone has a free box which is enthusiastically supported by the community.


Bear scat on October 11, 2011 showing consumption of garbage bags in Crestone's business district

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, 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. An internal investigation by the Division of Parks and Wildlife came to the conclusion that the right bear had been shot.

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