Paint Mines

Photo by Frank Morgan
"Paint Mines" Photo by Frank Morgan, a Sangre de Cristo Electric Association member

A Quiet and Colorful Place – One of Colorado’s best kept secrets 

It is a beautiful park, full of color and history. At first, it feels like you’re driving to the middle of nowhere. All you see is open grassland and prairie. Then suddenly, there it is: Paint Mines Interpretive Park. The park is a hidden gem in Colorado and a must-see destination. 

Located near Calhan, about 40 miles east of Colorado Springs, the park is easy to access. You will find a hiking trail loop, spectacular views, and a few back roads to explore. But let’s not forget about the colorful rock, amazing formations, and rich history. 

Hint: If you plan to go hiking, keep in mind most of trails are old creek beds, so they may be a bit muddy. Be sure to start early and bring lots of water since there is no shade. 


Paint Mines Interpretive Park shows evidence of human life as far back as 9,000 years ago. The name “Paint Mines” comes from how the land was used by Native Americans who would make paints from the different soils around the area to decorate their pottery and nature. 


The park is made up of a collection of hoodoos — the unique rock formations where the rock comes up into a single column with a boulder that sits on top of it. This is one of three locations in the country where this unique formation can be found. A lot of the rock formations are caused by erosion from the wind and rain. The brilliant colors are created by the iron oxides in the soils. When you visit, expect to see a lot of pink, white, green, and orange hues in the formations. 

Since 2005, the Paint Mines Interpretive Park has been open to the public. It is primarily a wildlife preservation park and is on the National Register of Historic Places as an archaeological district. As a result, there has not been a lot of development in the area, and it has limited amenities. On occasion, the park will offer nature tours and hikes, so be sure to check the nature center for more information. 


The park is open all year long. To get the best colors and extreme shadows, the best time of day to visit is either in the morning or at sunset. 

Tip: Try to time your visit for just after the first snowfall. The dusting of snow and the rock colors is truly an amazing sight. Don’t forget your camera. 

Whether you are a hiker, sightseer, travel photographer, picnicker, paleontologist, or an outdoor enthusiast, Paint Mines Interpretive Park is a colorful and quiet place worth exploring.