Kit Carson Mountain in the background
Crestone is nestled in the pines at the base of Kit Carson Mountain, on the east edge of the San Luis Valley. Between Crestone and the Baca Grande Chalets and Grants, there might be 900-1,000 people living here. It's a beautiful setting, 40 miles north of Alamosa on Colorado Highway 17 and then about 10 miles east on paved road.
Back in the late 1800s, there was a lot of gold and silver prospecting in the Sangre de Cristo's but not much mineral was ever found. Crestone was founded in one of the few areas where there was a producing ore body, albeit a small one. George Adams, owner of the Baca Grant, platted the town of Crestone in 1880. Originally, there was a stamp mill built here but the ore didn't last too long. In 1900, Adams revived interest in the area when he built a railroad spur from Moffat to Crestone and then down along the range to the south to connect with other mines along the way but, in the end, there simply wasn't enough gold ore to make it profitable. There was a stamp mill operating in Blanca to deal with ore coming down from the Commodore mine on Mt. Blanca but when that supply ran dry, gold mining in this area was just about over.
Today, the Crestone area has many spiritual centers espousing many different doctrines and disciplines. There's a few gas stations, a convenience store, a couple of hotel/lodges, restaurants, hardware store, lumberyard, coffee shop, and the Baca Grande Golf Course (sort of).
Crestone is a beautiful little town...
with lots of history and culture...
and a foot in the future...
The Luis Maria Baca Grant No 4 was a Land Grant given to the heirs of the original Land Grant that had been given to Luis Maria Baca by the King of Spain in the 1600's. The original grant was in the area of Las Vegas, New Mexico but the title was clouded by the same land being included in a second grant to someone else. So right after the Civil War, the US Government offered the Baca heirs an alternative tract of land from the public lands of the United States. Baca Grant No 4 was a square, 12.5 miles on a side, encompassing approximately 100,000 acres just south of what is now the town of Crestone. The Baca Grant included the summits of Kit Carson Peak and Challenger Point.
In 1971, the Arizona-Colorado Land & Cattle Company bought the Baca Grant and subdivided a portion of it immediately south of the town of Crestone into the Chalets and the Grants of the Baca Grande. They installed underground utilities and built roads to service approximately 10,000 lots. Sales were slow and by 1979, the developer considered the property a liability. At that point, the principal shareholder, Maurice Strong and his fiancee Hanne Marstrand, visited the property and "fell in love with it." They were so inspired by the land and the location that they created a world spiritual center there and started granting pieces of land to various traditional spiritual organizations. Today it looks as though quite a bit of the development is listed for sale. But there is a Hindu temple, a Carmelite monastery, several Tibetan centers, a Zen center, and miscellaneous other New Age centers on the property. As the original subdivision rules for the Baca Grande had no provisions for business uses, the business center of the area is Crestone.
The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service have bought that major part of the Land Grant that isn't developed (and the water rights that go with it) and transferred nearly all of that into the control of the Great Sand Dunes National Park, the Rio Grande National Forest and the Baca National Wildlife Refuge.
One of Crestone's many meditation centers