|Elevation Gain||374 ft|
|My Time||1 hr 39 min|
Paint Mines Interpretive Park
The Paint Mines Interpretive Park near Calhan, Colorado is a wonderful and popular spot in Colorado. The mines feel like a slice of the Utah desert has been transported to the Colorado plains. The walk to the Paint Mines is easy and most skill levels should be able to enjoy the wonder.
The Paint Mines Interpretive Park is kind of in the middle nowhere. At least I did not expect to see what I saw when I drove up. When I arrived I decided to do the long loop of the area but most people head directly to the main feature so I will start with that here and then circle back to the longer loop.
The Paint Mines
While the entire area has a scattering of painted rock, the main show is about a half mile south of the main parking area. The painted rock looks like it is cut into the side of the hill and can be enjoyed from above from the overlook or down below from a series of trails that lead through the rock.
From the main trail I was able to explore five veins of rock. Each was connected from the main path from a smaller trail. The trails in this area flat and easy to follow. Make sure to avoid stepping on the rocks or getting off trail as the rock can deteriorate with excessive abuse like that.
Above and Below the Paint Mines
The rocks alternate between brown, pink, red, and white in color. From Higher up on the hill above the trail you can really see what the wall of color looks like as you approach the rock gallery.
From the lower levels the rocks take on a life of their own. There are gravity defying feats of balance. Small caves and narrow passes are scattered around the large area. It is really spectacular to see what nature can do in both the creating and sculpting these rocks.
I did like the further out views of the rocks but nothing compared to walking amongst the hoodoos of clay and sandstone. I was lucky enough to go to Bryce Canyon earlier this year and the Paint Mines reminded me of a slightly smaller version of that.
If you only have a short time I would suggest heading directly to the rocks. The views are worth the 30 mile drive east of Colorado Springs. If you have some more time and are able to explore the rest of the park there are some hidden gems as well!
While the Paint Mines are the highlight of the trip, the rest of the loop was just as nice and pretty easy as well. The loop is formed as a near figure eight style hike. The trail for most of the hike is wide and flat and easy to follow. There are some areas on the outer rings of the figure eight that are getting a little overgrown but should be easy to follow. Keep an eye out for critters in the taller grasses though!
I started with the northwestern section of the trail. This leads you away from the painted rocks and more towards a prairie section. There are informational signs that discuss some of the animals that live in this area and the trail. The trail lasts for a mile and never has an incline of over 5% grade so it is pretty easy. It does get into the above mentioned overgrown areas a bit but following the trail and markers make it pretty easy to follow. At the end of this section you will be back into the middle section of the park with a distant view of the rocks.
From the intersection at the center of the park I took the loop to the northeast and started to move away from the main rock section. The trail for this section was a lot more defined than the northwestern section. The northeastern loop is the most “challenging” section as well. It stretches 1.8 miles and even has some grades of up 6%. So not too bad but as tough as this park gets.
Almost immediately on this section from the center before circling the hill the terrain begins to change. You will start to see some smaller patches of open rocks.
While these rocks don’t have the grandeur as the main section they give a brief preview of what is to come. This trail continues to meander up and around a hill. Sporadic sections of exposed rock helps to keep the focus up.
The Backside of the hill
When you get to the backside of the big hill the view goes back from rocks to prairie. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. For one thing there are some lovely wildflowers on this back section of the park depending on the time of year.
There is also a formation of a different kind. A large windfarm is visible in the distance from the backside of the hill. I know people have mixed views on the windfarms but I think from a sheer size perspective they are pretty impressive.
The back of the hill loops around to a secondary parking area before heading back towards the rocks. The trail from this secondary parking lot towards the rocks is a narrow and overgrown trail as well so watch your step.
The View from Above
The best part of taking this longer loop is the first time you come upon the main rock section is from above. The trail leads back down the hill towards the rock which slowly reveal themselves and give an impressive view of the entire complex.
As you get closer you will get some more views from different perspectives and it really is impressive to see it from this angle instead of down in the rocks themselves.
Next up is time to get down and walk within the living art! Make sure to check the gallery below for more pictures from the hike!
Video from Paint Mines Interpretive Park
I put together a couple of videos from the Paint Mines Interpretive Park. This first one is more of a narrative version of the hike:
This second video is a raw time lapse video of the hike I like to call my Hikers Edit. If you like either of these videos I would love it if you would subscribe to my YouTube channel. It is free to subscribe and you will get updates whenever I post new content.
This is a really nice and easy walk on a very well defined trail. The longer portion of the loop is not necessary to see the painted rocks but will add some distance and a bit of elevation if you are looking for a bit more of a workout.
The trail at the Paint Mines is very well maintained and defined. It is easy to follow and navigate. The only time it might get a little challenging is when it is a little sandy around the painted rocks but if you have decent shoes you shouldn’t slip to much.
There are a couple of parking locations to access the Paint Mines Interpretative Park but I will focus on the main location. The main location is at 29950 Paint Mine Road in Calhan, Colorado. There are a couple of well maintained dirt roads that you will need to take to get to the mines but most cars shouldn’t have a problem. Parking is available for about 20 cars at the mines and there are pit toilet facilities.
Wrapping up Paint Mines Interpretive Park
The Paint Mines Interpretive Park outside of Colorado Springs is a pretty impressive place to enjoy the wonders of nature. While the whole park is great to get some exercise the real draw is the section of painted rocks.
The rocks of the Paint Mines look like a miniature version of the national parks in southern Utah without the crowds. It was easy to get lost in the amazing shapes and sizes and colors of the rocks. It is something so out of place in Colorado yet it fits in perfectly.
I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!
Colorado surely does have a lot of variety in its hiking trails. I think you called it when you said it looked like a slice of Utah was transported.
So much to see in Colorado. Everytime I go somewhere new I am pleasantly surprised by the variety.
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