Crestone, Colorado

Crestone, Colorado

Crestone is a Statutory Town in Saguache County in Southwestern Colorado, United States. The population was 73 at the 2000 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 a small mining town, but little paying ore was discovered. In the 1970s a large land development, the Baca Grande, was established to the south and west and several hundred homes have been built.

The Crestone area, which includes the Baca Grande and Moffat, Colorado, is a spiritual and new age center with several world religions represented; including a Hindu temple, a Zen center, a coed Carmelite monastery, several Tibetan centers, and miscellaneous new age happenings.

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're 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 miner’s lexicon, "an outcropping of ore."


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 tract selected near Crestone was 12.5 miles on a side and was located to the south of the town 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 of Crestone, but no big strikes. 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 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 souls, mostly retired folks 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 the Arizona-Colorado Land and Cattle Company 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, now AZL. Maurice Strong, owner of a controlling interest in AZL and his fiancee Hanne Marstrand visited the development and "fell in love with it." The Strongs 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.


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). A stream, North Crestone Creek runs through it and 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 (37.995792, -105.699757).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.2 square miles (0.6 km²), all of it land.


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/sq mi (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

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 now the biggest 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. They purchased a great deal of land in the 1970s and 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." Many of the groups in the area were made possible by this support.

A number of spiritual leaders have remarked upon what they perceive as special qualities of the area. The name of the nearby Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountains are one indication of the early impression the area made on settlers. Thrangu Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist lama, has stated that in part because Crestone is near the Continental Divide with waters that flow in both directions, it is a particularly auspicious place. According to Buddhist scholar Reginald Ray, another high-ranking Tibetan Buddhist lama, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, told him "Crestone is one of the two or three places on Planet Earth for best suited for retreat practice."

The chart below details the centers that have been established in Crestone.

Religion Organization Sect
Christian The Spiritual Life Institute and Nada Hermitage Retreat Center Roman Catholic (Carmelite)
Buddhist (Zen) Crestone Mountain Zen Center Soto
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
Other Shumei International Institute Church of World Messianity

See also


Further reading

  • A study by Colorado College anthropology students about the potential impact of natural gas drilling on Crestone's spiritual communities:

External links

A study by Colorado College anthropology students about the potential impact of natural gas drilling on Crestone's spiritual communities:

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