Crestone has received a fair amount of press in the past few years as news of our tiny Colorado community leaks out into the world. We are not your usual mountain town, I once heard someone describe the local population as a community of hermits. With so many spiritual centers in our midst, 23 at last count, this comes as no surprise. Many of us choose to live here because of access to those most precious of commodities: peace and quiet.
That said, there is much more on offer in Crestone than a silent meditation retreat. Summer is a thriving season here, and there are plenty of things to do. Here are just a few reasons to visit:
- Mountains. Crestone is nestled up against the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, a sub-range of the Rocky Mountains considered by Native Americans to be sacred land. Four 14,000 foot (4200 meter) peaks loom over the valley, and turn a shade of deep red at sunset, hence their name. A one hour hike from North Crestone campground will take you right to the gate of protected wilderness area where you can see the peaks up close.
- His Holiness 16th Karmapa Stupa. His Holiness was offered land here long ago, and devoted students maintain a stupa in his honor. Sitting halfway up the mountain with a vast view over the Saguache valley, it is an easy forty minute walk up a jeep road, or you can drive and park at the stupa, to make offerings or circumambulate.
- Pilgrimage. Crestone has become a modern mecca of sorts, with 23 spiritual centers representing a variety of faiths, philosophies, teachings, practices. While many of our sanghas overlap for celebrations, centers maintain the purity of their lineages to keep a lively diversity. Most have opening hours for the public to visit or join a practice session.
- Rinpoche Season. Thrangu Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Gangteng Tulku Rinpoche, and Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche all have centers here and often visit in summer to offer teachings. Ringu Tulku Rinpoche and Anam Thubten make occasional appearances. Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche visited on his US tour. Tsoknyi Rinpoche has land here and hosts a retreat or two each August.
- Local Art. The State of Colorado recently nominated Crestone as an official Creative District, a designation awarded to communities that show exemplary creative talent. Artisans Gallery downtown showcases local artists and artisans with an eclectic mix of fine art and handicrafts.
- Sand Dunes National Monument. Touted as the tallest dunes in North America, scientists once rated it one of the most quiet places on earth. As the crow flies, it is an easy walk from the Crestone Baca to this national park, but a drive to the official park entrance takes about forty minutes. It’s also worth a visit to nearby Zapata falls where, according to one local legend, Padmasambhava left signs.
- Momos! The Desert Sage Restaurant, run by Bhutanese owners, serves the best and only momos in town, and a variety of other western and Bhutanese options.
- Wildlife. With 79 registered Crestonian voters, it often feels like deer outnumber the human population. Coyotes, elk, lynx, bear, rabbit, fox, hawk, eagles and hummingbirds all share our precious enviornment. Every so often you’ll catch site of a few graceful antelope, and it is even said that Bigfoot lives in remote parts of the mountains.
- Farmer’s Market. Saturdays during summer an ever-changing variety of vendors set up to sell their wares. You’ll find homemade treats, arts and crafts, fresh local produce, herbal concoctions and occasionally a roaming bard who will cite you a poem for a dollar.
- Go Local. Years ago when I lived in one of Colorado’s ski towns, the ski company had trouble finding lift-operators because none of the applicants could pass the drug test. Since then, they’ve abolished the drug test. Whether or not it supports your view of enlightened activity, at the turn-off to Crestone on the T road sits High Valley Cannabis, where with a photo ID you can legally purchase a growing variety of edibles, tinctures, pre-rolled cigarettes and paraphernalia.
- Skygazing. At nearly 8,000 feet (2400 meters) Crestone is situated in a climate that some have compared to the Tibetan plateau. The veil is thinner in this high desert valley, and many consider it a power place. Also, the rarified air at this elevation plus the almost complete lack of city lights in the valley make for fantastic star-gazing.
- Aliens! It might be due to our proximity to the NORAD military facility just over the mountains in Colorado Springs, but we’ve got all sorts of Unidentified Flying Objects overhead. Believe what you will, but it is not uncommon to see unexplained phenomena falling from (or flying in) the sky.
- Soak your bones. Three natural hot springs grace the valley where you can spend a day, evening or night relaxing and replenishing all those minerals you sweated out during your pilgrimage. And of course…
- Silent Meditation Retreat. Several of the Buddhist centers offer private accommodation to do your own self-guided meditation retreat. And really, this is one of the best things to do in Crestone, because above all, this a sublime location to practice settling into the natural state.
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