Paint Mines Park is a 750 acre park located in the high plains near Calhan, Colorado. It is full of beautiful geological formations including spires, hoodoos, chasms, overhangs, and carved walls that were formed through erosion. This erosion created gullies that exposed layers of clay and jasper.
The oxidization of iron deposits created the colorful clay which is what makes the park most well known.
The west side of the park is where most of the distinct rock formations will be. There are plenty of side trails taking you up close to these rock formations and into dead end gullies so the trail may be longer than advertised if these trails are followed. However, the canyons here range in an extraordinary array of colors well worth checking out.
There is distinct archaeological evidence that this area has been used for over nine thousands. It was a great vantage point for the surrounding lands. The clay was used to make paint, for ceremonial decorations and pottery, and the gullies were used to trap bison and other animals making them easy prey. Beyond that, Paint Mines Park has everything from badlands to wetlands.
It is also host to a variety of fauna including mule deer, coyotes, falcons, and hawks among other animals native to the Colorado high plains.
Where It Is and How To Find It
From there, go through town and take a right onto Yonder Street. After you take that right, make a left onto Paint Mine Road, and Paint Mines Park will be right there.
It is well marked and easy to find from signs along the road if need be.
Google map to trailhead here.
Distance From Colorado Springs
Paint Mines is just northeast from Colorado Springs. It would take around 50 minutes to drive there from downtown Colorado Springs.
Distance From Denver
From Denver, Paint Mines is nearly directly south, and slightly east. It takes about 2 hours to drive from Denver to Paint Mines.
Parking at Paint Mines Park is completely free. There is three parking lots there, one further north on Paint Mine Road as you drive towards the park, one slightly south of that, and then a parking lot on Paint Mine Road East.
Each one is great to use but on busy days can fill up quickly. If you want to be able to park in a lot, make sure to get there earlier.
There is only parking from dawn to dusk. The park is not accessible at night.
Permits and Reservations
You do not need any kind of permits or reservations to enjoy Paint Mine Park, it is completely free. I will say though, on busy days, the parking lots can fill up quite quickly. If you want to ensure you are able to enjoy the park all day, make sure to arrive there earlier rather than later.
How Far/Difficult Is The Hike?
The hike at Paint Mines Park is about 3.5 miles and could be considered easy for those that hike a lot. There is only about 400 feet of elevation gain throughout all the trails. The park is configured in a figure-eight loop making it easy to see everything that the park has to offer.
The hike can be elongated to around 4 miles if other side trails are followed to various points around the interpretive park. Most of the trails at Paint Mines Park are interconnected so no matter which way you go there are plenty of cool things to see.
Although, as stated earlier, most of the interesting rock formations are located on the west side of the park.
Alternate Approaches / Other Trailheads: There is only three parking lots to access Paint Mines Park. Thus there is not really any other alternate approaches or trailheads to access Paint Mines Park.
Best Times Of Year To Visit
The best time of year to visit is during the early summer or fall. During the middle of summer it is very hot and there is little to no shade in the park. During early summer and fall, there will be less visitors on the trails and also more temperate weather. Beyond that, typically during these two seasons is when wildlife will be most active and out to be seen in their natural environment.
Spring is also a good time to visit however there will be a lot of mud during this season as most of the trails are clay and washout from rain fairly easily. During winter, there will be a lot of snow and the wind chill will make it very cold. The park is still open during winter however make sure you bundle up to stay warm.
No matter what season you visit Paint Mines Park, make sure that you bring plenty of water and snacks. It is in a very remote area so bringing your own provisions for the hike you plan on making is essential.
Are Dogs Allowed At Paint Mines?
Dogs are not allowed at Paint Mines Park. Nor are any other pets, horses, bicycles, or motorized vehicles of any kind allowed within the grounds of Paint Mines Park. Be sure to leave your pets at home or you could be fined and asked to leave if seen by a park ranger. There are plenty of signs noting what is and is not allowed in the park.
The Interpretive Park
An interpretive park is a park or designated site that is used to educate visitors about the area they are in. At Paint Mines Interpretive Park there is plenty of signage at different points to show visitors what they are looking at.
This includes everything from cultural sites and potential usage of the resources in the park, to the geological formations that you might be looking at which were formed thousands of years ago. Make sure not to climb on or damage these formations in any way so that they can be enjoyed by future visitors as well.
Other Popular Hikes Nearby
There is only two other hikes that are directly nearby to Paint Mines Park. These hikes are called Homestead Ranch Outer Loop, and Rock Island Trail. If you are truly looking for other hikes in this area, I would suggest going to the areas west of Colorado Springs. There, you will find hundreds of hikes in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains ranging from easy to extremely difficult.
Other Notable Things To Do Near Paint Mines
There are plenty of other notable things to do near Calhan, Colorado and Paint Mines Park. The El Paso County Fair is held near there every year at the fairgrounds and hosts a variety of events throughout the year including rodeo’s and races on the racetrack. There is also plenty of other parks in and around town to enjoy that offer great views of Pikes Peak and the nearby Rocky Mountains.
A little further away, Colorado Springs is a bigger city that offers plenty of places to stay, a good night life, incredible hikes, and is towered over by the 14’er Pikes Peak.
Final Thoughts – Paint Mines Interpretive Park is an amazing place that seeks to preserve long lost culture and educate visitors on the distinct geological formations that are preserved there since long before the United States was founded. It is well worth the drive from Colorado Springs or Denver to visit and hike around for the day.
If you are in the area, I would highly recommend going there to see all it has to offer. This includes not only a great hike, but also a way to learn about the area, and read about many things just outside the city that you might not otherwise realize are right there, preserved at Paint Mines Park.
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Cameron is a freelance writer with a focus on hiking, fishing and photography. He studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Colorado Boulder and now calls Chicago, Illinois home.