Designing Environments for Innovation
Washington D.C. and Crestone, CO.


Crestone, Colorado, U.S.A.

About the Crestone/Baca Community

The Weather You'll Encounter

About the Crestone/Baca Community

Crestone, Colorado bills itself as "a truly unique community." The following information is excerpted from The Crestone Guide 2000, a publication of Rainbows Unlimited. For more information about the Crestone Guide, contact Caryl Dennis.

When Europeans first arrived in the San Luis Valley in 1540, there were seven Native American tribes occupying and/or frequenting the area. Over the centuries, the Native Americans were increasingly forced out of the Valley and onto reservations. Europeans came to the Valley for various reasons: in search of land upon which to settle, in search of fortunes to be made from mining ore and gold, and in search of health through soaking in the nearby mineral hot springs. The town of Crestone was officially founded in 1880 with a population of 50; in 1999, Crestone/Baca had a population of 906.

Hanne and Maurice Strong acquired the big track of land knows as the Baca Ranch in 1978. Guided by the vision of Native American elders that his land had a great purpose, and her own desire to establish a sustainable, interfaith retreat community in North America, Hanne began to implement a new kind of development. She consolidated tracks of land and gave them to traditional religious and educational/intellectual organizations. By 1988, the following centers had been established: the Spiritual Life Institute (Carmelite monastery), the Crestone Mountain Zen Center, The Haidakhandi Universal Ashram, the Sri Aurobindo Learning Center, the Aspen Institute ( which was later acquired by Colorado College), and the San Luis Valley Tibetan Project.

In 1988, Hanne and Maurice founded the Manitou Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization, to provide land and financial support to qualified spiritual organizations, earth stewardship programs, and related educational opportunities for youth and adults. To date, the Foundation has granted land to the Baca Center for High Altitude Sustainable Agriculture; EDUCO, a youth leadership and Earth Restoration Corps training center; Mangal Shri Bhuti (Nyingma Tibetan Buddhist lineage); SUBUD (which utilizes environmental and sustainable technologies for building and agriculture); Naropa Institute; and Yeshe Khorlo, a Bhutanese Tibetan retreat center. Applications for land grants from a Shinto organization, a Gelugpa Tibetan monastery, Zorastrian, Kriya Yoga, and a Native American group were under consideration as of 2000.

The Crestone/Baca community of centers of the world's religious traditions is currently the largest intentional interfaith ecumenical community in North America. The Foundation has also instigated its own solitary retreat hermitage project, providing the opportunity for individuals to focus on their contemplative practices.

For more about the Manitou Foundation, visit

The Weather You'll Encounter

The Crestone-Baca area is part of the San Luis Valley, a semi-arid, high mountain alpine valley ecosystem. The valley is ringed with mountains: the San Juans to the west and the Sangre de Cristos to the east.

The valley floor receives an average annual precipitation of only 7.57 inches. The Crestone-Baca community, however, lies in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and therefore receives considerably more precipitation, almost double. By contrast with the valley floor, the foothills are also not as hot in the summer and not as cold in the winter. January is typically the coldest month, with the low averaging 50.8 degrees F, and July the hottest, with the high averaging 82.3 degrees F.


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