Paint Mines Interpretive Park CO is found in the town of Calhan, Colorado, an hour east of Colorado Springs. The 750 acre park is managed by El Paso County and is free to enter.
The colorful hoodoos found in the Paint Mines were used by Native Americans to make paint. Brightly colored bands of purple, pink, and yellow are caused by oxidized iron compounds and found in varying amounts in different layers of clay. Within these mines are evidence of human life dating back 9,000 years.
This is yet another installment of America’s vast collection of hoodoo parks, albeit one with a purple twist. This beautiful place tells the story of Native Americans and offers a glimpse of Colorado wildlife.
Our intent with this article is to give some clarity as to what the Paint Mines Interpretive Park CO has to offer, which hikes are worthwhile, and explain the layout of the park. In our research we found a dearth of pertinent directions on the internet. We hope you enjoy!
Address: 29950 Paint Mine Rd, Calhan, CO 80808 (MAP)
Entrance Fee: Nothing
Restrooms: One, in the main parking lot
Hiking in the Park: Interpretive Loop (2.2 miles); Paint Mines Trail (4 miles). Both Easy-to-Moderate with slight uphill gains.
Are Dogs Allowed: No
Here is the Official Park Map. At the bottom of the article we will “Mark-Up” the map to illustrate trail instructions found throughout this article. While the official park map is comprehensive, it isn’t very helpful in directing visitors to the highlights of the park.
The primary attraction is the Interpretive Loop that walks you through the paint mines. This is a two-mile, mostly flat trail. It would take approx. 1-2 hours to walk to the mines, check out the half-dozen alcoves, and walk back.
If you want to see the paint mines from an elevated angle, there is a longer trail that enters the mines from the hillside above. We will go into better detail below.
The Interpretive Loop is the star of the show at Paint Mines Interpretive Park CO. We believe you would be satisfied with your experience to simply walk to the mines and walk back.
There is some confusion as to which trail to take from the parking lot because there are two. It does not matter which you choose — they meet up just around the corner. We took the main trailhead from the center of the parking lot.
Whichever path you take, be sure to head to the right when you come upon the first split in the trail. It will come shortly after leaving the parking lot. See the map above for reference. If you head to the left you will add a scenery bereft mile to your hike (IMO). It’s up to you.
The first mile curves around a hillside then becomes a couple switchbacks downhill to the level of the mines. As you are walking downhill you will pass a trail to your right — this leads to another parking lot. T he next trail on your right is the one that leads to the mines. It looks like this (see photo below):
You will see the white/yellow hoodoos on the right. Walk past them on the left see the Paint Mines.
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The Paint Mines begin subtle with more white than purple. However, you will see splashes of color in places like the above photo.
As you stroll down the Interpretive Loop trail you will see smaller tributary paths on your left and right. These small trails will give you closer looks at the hoodoos. As the signs say, please do not climb on them.
Each tributary ends in a dead end, so you will always return to the main Interpretive Loop trail.
We recommend indulging every single ancillary trail. There’s no telling what you’ll find.
The below photo is the small tributary path that leads to the largest, most colorful display of the painted mines. You do not want to miss this incredible corridor — it is the highlight of Painted Mines Interpretive Park CO. The trail can be found on the right hand side while headed into the mines.
It is a wonderland, vibrant, unusual, and purple beyond belief. We can imagine the native peoples did a fair amount of their paint mining in this particular alcove.
There is opportunity for additional views and exercise if you take the Paint Mines Trail. This longer trail will eventually meet up with the Interpretive Loop.
Both trails start and end at the parking lot. When the Interpretive Loop trail breaks off to the right, you can either, A. Keep going straight, or B. Head into the Paint Mines first, then exit the mines on the uphill side. Either way will create a loop trail.
If you choose to bypass the Paint Mines Interpretive Loop initially (and end your hike in the mines, saving the best for last), keep going straight for about a quarter mile until you see the small trail from the photograph below.
There will be a sign posted at the intersection, yet no instructions will be made to follow this pencil-wide trail up the hill. At the top of this trail you will be overlooking the Paint Mines Interpretive Park CO. We recommend taking this trail to the top.
If you choose to continue past this trail you will eventually make it to the top of the hill in the photo, but you will add a mile or so of uneventful scenery. It just depends on how much exercise, or sense of completion, you desire.
The top of the hill lends views of all the surrounding area. It is a can’t-miss view in our opinion.
From there you can wind your way down into the Paint Mines and join up with the Interpretive Loop. Along the serpentine trail you will catch the mines from an abundance of photogenic angles.
The Paint Mines Interpretive Park is one of the more unique installments in America’s collection of hoodoos. We found the mines to be a peaceful place to wander and feel connected to nature.
We arrived shortly after sunrise and only encountered one other hiker before 10:00. As we were leaving a couple of additional groups were entering the park.
If you are in the Colorado Springs area we give a solid recommendation to drive an hour east and spend a few hours in this unique environment.
And if you would like to read about other things to do in the Colorado Springs area, feel free to check out our 15 Best Things to do in Colorado Springs article.
Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!
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