Gardner, Colorado is situated in the Huerfano River Valley, about halfway between the Wet Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo's. Historically, it's hard to separate Gardner from the original settlements in the Upper Huerfano Valley.
This area was criss-crossed for years by Ute, Comanche and Apache hunting parties. Then came the Spanish Conquistadors and the French trappers. A few groups of Americans came and went but there were no real settlers until the late 1850's.
The Upper Huerfano really began to grow when Tom Sharp arrived in 1868 and built his Trading Post at Buzzard's Roost Ranch in Malachite. At that time, Malachite was a logical place for a settlement: next to the Huerfano River and directly astride the Trapper's Trail, which a lot of folks were using to access the San Luis Valley via the Sangre de Cristo and Mosca Passes.
Gardner was founded along the route of the stage line from Westcliffe/Silver Cliff to Walsenburg, just beneath the Gardner Butte at the confluence of Muddy Creek and the Huerfano River.
Over the years, the settlements in the Upper Huerfano faded away and most of the area's business and population shifted to Gardner. The establishment of State Highway 69, along the old stage route from Walsenburg to Westcliffe, and closure of the other routes to the San Luis Valley ensured Gardner’s prominence.
In the late 1960's, the Gardner area was an epicenter of counter cultural activity. One of the early communes, Libre, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. The Gardner Region is home to some of the County’s best outdoor recreation destinations and the Mission Wolf Sanctuary.