DIRECTIONS: From Colorado Springs, take Hwy 24 east from Colorado Springs to Calhan, turn south on Yoder Road/Calhan Highway, turn east on Paint Mines Road and look for the designated parking area.
The Paint Mines Interpretive Park is an oddity. Surrounded by farmland, wind turbines, hills, and prairie, this deep gash in the earth reveals a geologic wonderland. Eroded by wind and rain over centuries, nature has formed an elaborate playground of hoodoos, spires, towers, crevices, and caves. These features are made all the more exciting by the exuberant pallet of colors that paint the landscape.
The park is relatively small, with about 4 miles of hiking trails and a network of social trails that climb over and through the formations. There are two parking areas and trailheads and both offer trails that wind through the prairie and down to the formations.
From the "lower" parking area, on the west side of the park, the trail heads east on a level grade and turns south at a trail sign to climb up the ridge and down into the heart of the park, a natural amphitheater surrounded by cliffs and rock formations. At the first trail sign marking the way to "formations," head west and walk along a narrow trail with high grasses on either side. From here on out it's really a choose your own adventure type of hike. Trails lead to all the formations and even though there are plenty of "no climbing" signs, social trails lead you through the rock mazes and up on top of ridges providing views of the entire formation.
On the eastern edge of the amphitheater, in one of the most colorful sections of the park, there is a wonderful cave to explore. The cool shade of this cave offers a welcome break from the intense sun. From anywhere in the park, get a birds-eye view and look to the east for the colorful rock towers, the cave is among these towers.
The park is small enough to explore in just a few hours. The trails are short and the scenery is unique and wonderful. Kids will have the time of their lives climbing along the social trails pretending they are on another planet. The park gets busy but far less busy then you would think, considering the geologic and scenic wonder that is presented here. With only a 30 minute drive from Colorado Springs, or 1 1/2 hours from Denver, this park is definitely worth multiple visits.
HIKES BY REGION
NATIONAL PARK HIKES
- BENT'S OLD FORT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
- COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT
- CURECANTI NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
- DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT
- FLORISSANT FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
- MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
- ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
- GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
- HOVENWEEP NATIONAL MONUMENT
- SAND CREEK MASSACRE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- YUCCA HOUSE NATIONAL MONUMENT
- HIKES BY CATEGORY
- $UPPORT GHC
- INTERACTIVE MAP
Paint Mines Interpretive Park
Lower Trailhead to Formations
Date Hiked: June 17, 2018
Distance: 2 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 400 ft
Elevation Min/Max: 6,607 to 6,722 ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 39º 01' 14" N; 104º 16' 26" W
Managing Agency: El Paso County Parks & Recreation