Gardner is a small community halfway between the Wet Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in upper Huerfano County. Historically, the area was crisscrossed by Ute, Comanche, and Apache hunting parties, Spanish conquistadors, and French trappers. While a few groups of early Americans came and went in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, no real settlers arrived until the late 1850s.

Settlers founded Gardner at the base of Gardner Butte and the confluence of Muddy Creek and along the Westcliffe/SilverCliff and Walsenburg stage line. Decades later, Highway 69 solidified the route, inviting a new population to settle in Gardner’s lush surroundings.

Cool fact: The old stage route through Gardner grew in popularity after a large mud and rock slide on Sangre de Cristo Pass closed it to traffic.

Gardner began attracting hippies in the late 1960s and was soon overrun by several communes made up of city-folk with glorious ideals but no concept of daily life in a rural, semi-arid area. Soon defeated by the lifestyle, most of the hippies left. However, the community of Libre still exists, although its lifestyle is radically different from what was first envisioned during the hippie era.

Today, the unincorporated town of Gardner is slowly growing. It also operates its own schools that serve the northern and western areas of Huerfano County.