The Paint Mines are like a little slice of Utah’s southern landscape in Colorado’s eastern plains. The stunning rock formations create a mini-labyrinth that you can walk through and explore.
The unique landscape and beautiful tones provide the perfect place for photo ops. There’s a reason it’s a favorite among landscape and portrait photographers alike. So don’t forget your camera — you’ll certainly need it!
In this post, we’ll cover the following:
• The things to know before you visit
• My honest review of the park
• Trails in the park, and
• How to see the Paint Mines.
By the end, you’ll have a great idea of if this trip is for you, what to expect, and how to see the highlights of the park.
Know Before You Go
DOGS AREN’T ALLOWED
Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed. I’m only putting it in caps because sooo many reviews describe driving all the way out to Calhan before realizing this. Then, they typically have to drive all the way home or find a dog-friendly activity.
Don’t walk on the rocks. Stay on the sand.
The rock formations are quite delicate. Walking on the formations will damage them. This can happen either by chipping off pieces of the rock or causing them to slowly erode over time. So, please stay on the sandy trails, and let’s preserve Colorado’s natural wonders!
The Paint Mines are in Colorado’s eastern plains. So yes, the drive looks like you’re heading into Kansas.
And so does the trailhead and parking area. But don’t worry, it gets much better!
Frequently Asked Questions
How long is the drive from Denver?
The Paint Mines are an hour and a half from downtown Denver. Of course, this will depend on where you’re coming from in the greater Denver area (since it’s huge!). The best bet would be to check Google Maps for a more exact measurement.
How long is the drive from Colorado Springs?
The Paint Mines are only a 45-minute drive from Downtown Colorado Springs. Like Denver, the exact drive time will depend on your exact location around the city. The northeastern suburbs will be even closer!
What kind of rocks make up the Paint Mines?
The rock formations found at the Paint Mines consist of shale and clay layers. These layers are also mixed with selenite (gypsum) and jasper.
Is there a map of the Paint Mines Interpretive Site?
Yes! You can find it here on the El Paso County website.
When is the Paint Paines Interpretive Site open?
The Paint Mines Interpretive Site is open from dawn to dusk all throughout the year.
My Honest Review
When my fiance and I first arrived at the Paint Mines Interpretive Park, we were confused. From the parking lot, it looks nearly identical to the barren plains of Kansas and northern Oklahoma (where a good portion of my family lives).
However, don’t let this discourage you! It gets MUCH better. I wish someone would have told me this before going. It takes about a half a mile walk before you even get a glimpse of the rock formations. And they start small. They get prettier the further you go!
Still, it’s worth going! When you get there, keep in mind that it does not look like something like the Paint Mines could exist in the area. But it does! You just have to keep walking towards ’em.
Once you get to the rock formations, it gets SUPER cool. Wander through maze-like corridors on the off-shoots of the main trail. The rocks are taller than the average person and get bigger the further you go.
The colors of the rocks are spectacular, too, making it incredible for photo ops. Towards the front, you’ll find more light + neutral tones. Perfect for more minimalist photography tones. However, the further back you go, the more vibrant the colors! Expect vibrant hues of orange, pink, and red. Absolutely gorgeous!
They’re worth checking out, at least once. Especially if you live in Colorado’s front range or eastern plains. If you’re visiting Colorado on a shorter trip to see the mountains, I’d honestly skip it. UNLESS you’re either a geology enthusiast or would like photos of or with the rock formations.
Trails in the Paint Mines Interpretive Park
The Paint Mines Interpretive Park has two trail loops plus a short overlook area.
Paint Mines Interpretive Trail Loop
Length: 2.2 miles
Elevation gain: 272 ft
Average time to complete: 1 hour. It could be longer if you want to spend time exploring, taking photos, etc.
This trail is mandatory if you want to see the Paint Mines. It takes you from the parking lot to the rock formations. You can take lots of little off-shoots from the trail to better explore the formations.
In addition to going through the rock formations, it takes you to a hill right above them. This is great because it’ll provide you with multiple vantage points of the Paint Mines!
Paint Mines Trail
Length: 3.4 miles
Elevation gain: 334 ft
Average time to complete: 1 hour & 20 minutes. It could be longer if you want to spend time exploring, taking photos, etc.
The Paint Mines Trail takes you through the rock formations and more! You’ll see the same things as the Paint Mines Interpretive Trail Loop. However, you’ll also get an extra mile of walking through the plains.
It’s perfect for those wanting to take in more of the views of the plains landscape or to extend your walking time. The trail forms a large loop that will take you back to the parking lot.
Paint Mine Overlook
Length: 0.2 miles
Elevation gain: 16 ft
Average time to complete: 5 minutes
The Paint Mine Overlook is a tiny trail above the Paint Mines. It’s not so much a hike, but it does provide an incredible and unique view of the Paint Mines! You can easily drive to the parking lot and then take the short walk to the overlook. It’s a great little add-on to your trip!