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Hinsdale County

Hinsdale Images

*Images courtesy of, from left to right: Benjamin Birdwell, Edna Mason, DeeDee Hutchison, Michael Underwood and Hannah Hodges Harriston

Hinsdale County is one of the most remote counties in Colorado and the United States. With the continental divide crossing the county twice, the mountainous area includes six fourteeners and hundreds of miles of multi-use public trails. Hinsdale County was identified as the most remote county in the lower 48 states by the USGS in a study of roadless areas conducted in May 2007, and public lands of the county span the Rio Grande and Gunnison National Forests, four wilderness areas (Weminuche, Uncompahgre, Powderhorn, and La Garita), and two wilderness study areas (Redcloud Peak and Handies Peak).

In February 1874, when portions of Conejos and Summit counties were combined to form a new county, the Legislature named it Hinsdale County in honor of George Hinsdale, the first Lt. Governor elected to the Territory of Colorado after the adoption of the State Constitution in 1865. In August of 1875, the Hinsdale County Commissioners formally incorporated the town of Lake City. Lake City’s industry once consisted of shingle- and sawmills, brick yards, the Saguache & San Juan and Antelope Park & Lake City Toll Roads, and gold mining.

While many old mining towns once existed in Hinsdale County, today Lake City is the only incorporated town in the county and is also the county seat. Hinsdale County is the least densely-populated of the 64 counties of the state of Colorado, with a population of 790 at the census of 2000. Three other parts of the county recognized today have historical significance - the Upper Piedra; the Cathedral area; and the Rio Grande area, which is the source of the Rio Grande River.


At the 2000 census, there were 790 people, 359 households, and 246 families residing in the county. The population density was 0.7 people per square mile, qualifying Hinsdale County as a “frontier county.”  There were 1,304 housing units at an average density of 1.2 per square mile. The racial makeup of the county was 97.34% White, 1.52% Native American, 0.25% Asian, 0.38% from other races, and 0.51% from two or more races. 1.52% of the population was Hispanic/Latino.

There were 359 households, of which 23.4% had children under the age of 18, 61.0% were married couples living together, 4.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.20% were non-families. 24.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 3.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older.

The age range of Hinsdale County in 2000 ranged from 19.5% under the age of 18, 4.7% from 18 to 24, 29.5% from 25 to 44, 34.7% from 45 to 64, and 11.6% 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years.


The median income for a household in Hinsdale County in 2000 was $37,279, and the median income for a family was $42,159; per capita income for the county was $22,360. About 4.5% of families and 7.2% of the population were below the poverty line, not including those under age 18, as was 2.2% of ages 65 or over. The retired population and second homeowner statistics affect the median income for households. Challenges faced by service-providing families in the community include lack of affordable housing and year-round employment.

The two primary industries of Hinsdale County are tourism and construction. Additional employers include the government, school district, and local Miners & Merchants Bank. 

Health & Emergency Services

Hinsdale is served by a volunteer fire department and County Public Health, providing services including:

  • Children's Health
  • Commodities/ Food Assistance
  • Communicable Disease
  • Emergency Planning
  • Family Planning
  • Health Promotion
  • Human Services
  • Nurse Family-Partnership
  • Senior Services
  • Tobacco Prevention
  • Youth Leadership

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