• Scott Carnahan

Colorful Colorado: Exploring Paint Mines Interpretive Park


A brilliant sunset stains the clouds overhead the alien rock formations of Paint Mines in Colorado

Paint Mines: Calhan, CO - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan



In the rolling plains east of Colorado Springs exists a little-known treasure trove of beauty. The Paint Mines Interpretive Park is a wildlife preservation area on the National Register for Historic Places, which showcases exquisite geologic formations of sandstone hoodoos and pinnacles, a wide variety of plains animals, and an awe-striking grouping of Front Range wildflowers.


The park was named by the indigenous Native Americans, who used the colorful variety of natural rock as a base for their paints, pottery, and brick. Evidence has been found of prehistoric people living here dating back 9,000 years. Upon seeing the view from the ridgeline it is easy to understand why - the Rocky Mountains can be seen in the distance juxtaposing with the vibrant rock: colorful Colorado in its full glory.


The sun shines down on grassy plains filled with wildflowers at Paint Mines Interpretive Park in Calhan, Colorado

Paint Mines: Calhan, CO - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan



My visit was in the summer, and the small region of ‘badlands’ that seemed to randomly appear out of the plains was buzzing with life. Thriving wildflowers kept the trail’s edge as colorful as the pink, orange, and white rock in the gullies between spires and caves. Prairie falcons, red-tailed hawk, rabbits, rattlesnakes, and coyotes call this 750-acre geologic wonder home.


The best time to explore this rich landscape is either in the early morning or late evening, when the heat of the day fades and the sky matches the vivid earth, making the whole world full of color. This hidden fortune of natural beauty is a fantastic place for hikers of all skill levels, A 3.4 mile easy-rated trail winds its way through the rock and prairie. This is a must-see for any lover of the outdoors, from the top of the rise above all the hoodoos, down through the inspiring rock garden.


A brilliant sunset stains the clouds overhead the alien rock formations of Paint Mines Interpretive Park in Calhan, Colorado

Paint Mines: Calhan, CO - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan



These unique sandstone formations are fragile, meaning hiking, climbing, and pets are not allowed - keep this wealth of beauty safe for others to explore!


The Paint Mines are near the town of Calhan, Colorado- only 45 minutes from Colorado Springs and 1:30 from Denver. There are minimal amenities, just a restroom near the park entrance - which makes the park feel even more wild and remote. If you are interested in a more informative experience, nature hikes are available via the El Paso County Parks and Leisure service.


Alien sandstone rock formations in Paint Mines Interpretive Park in Calhan Colorado

Paint Mines: Calhan, CO - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan



This natural gem is simply unforgettable - its otherworldly look provides for a special feeling, especially when compared to the surrounding landscape. It is a charming experience to top the rise and see the vibrant natural rock sentinels standing mightily in the canyon. Down the trail and into the canyons, awe will fill the heart of any visitor navigating the winding washes between hoodoos and pinnacles.


It is a common belief that Colorado is made up purely of mountains, but the state is spit in two by the Rockies. The famed snow covered peaks are found in the West; but to the east the High Plains stretch all the way to Nebraska. Where the mountains meet the plains is known as the Front Range. This unique environment has an elevation over 5200 feet, and hosts fantastic sunsets extended by the sun fading below the mountains. These sunsets reflect off of the sandstone relics of the park and bring those colors to life with such vivid tones it’s enough to question reality, lost in the striking beauty that is the Front Range. With the setting of the sun - Colorful Colorado is in full bloom at the Paint Mines.


A brilliant sunset stains the clouds overhead the alien rock formations of Paint Mines in Colorado

Paint Mines: Calhan, CO - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan


Check out more of Scott Carnahan's work on his website, or next week on the Pathloom blog!

Check out these other articles by Pathloom which you may enjoy:

Striking Gold in the Beaver State: 5 must-experience Oregon Adventures

Gems of the South: From the Blue Ridge to the Bayou

Van Life Guide: Building Your Home On Wheels

Van Life Guide: Boondocking

Van Life Guide: Not All Motor Oil and Roses

Where the West Begins

Dakota: Legend Country (Part 2)

Dakota: Legend Country (Part 1)


Sign up on our website for exclusive early access to the Pathloom BETA app, and let us help you plan your next outdoor trip! As an early user, you will receive exclusive access to our BETA app, outdoor guides, and information - created solely for you by Pathloom!

Sign up today and we will send you a list of our favorite dispersed camping places in California!

Pathloom is a Bay Area-based technology startup on a mission to get more people outdoors, more often by reimagining the way people discover the outdoors.






p