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    Paint Mines Interpretive Park: the colorful rocky pinnacles of Colorado

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    Lovers of hardened road trips are well aware that the United States is an authentic mine of natural wonders unknown to most, the so-called hidden pearls, well today we meet another one, Paint Mines Interpretive Park, a park characterized by spiers and other bizarre geological conformations of the most varied colors, which bear traces of a past dating back to 9000 years ago. So let's see how to visit this "artistic work" created directly by Mother Nature.

    Please note:: the park is currently undergoing renovations which, according to forecasts, should be completed by April 2021. Some information provided here may be subject to change as a result.


    • What is Paint Mines Interpretive Park?
    • Where it is
    • Park map
    • How to get there: parking and access
    • What to do: trails and viewpoints
    • Photo gallery
    • Video
    • Attractions in the surroundings
    • Where to eat nearby
    • Where to sleep nearby

    What Paint Mines Interpretive Park?

    Paint Mines Interpretive Park is a natural area of ​​330 hectares in Colorado, whose peculiarity are particular rocky conformations similar to pinnacles (hoodoos, also called fairy chimneys) of various colors so as to seem hand painted. Here in past centuries the native tribes came to collect red, orange, yellow, purple and gray clay powders which they used as paint.

    Although in the United States there are other parks where you can admire the so-called hoodoos, above all Bryce Canyon but also Cedar Breaks, Toadstools and Goblin Valley, it is really rare to meet such a chromatic variety. This spectrum of colors seems to be due to compounds of oxidized iron, present in variable quantities in the different layers of clay.

    The geological outcrops are part of the Dawson Arkose, a 55-million-year-old rock formation, part of the Denver Basin, a large geological basin that extends to Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas. The site, in addition to being a real mine of geological treasures, is also of considerable importance from a historical point of view, as it attests traces of human activity that sink up to the Paleoindian era (7000 BC).

    Where it is

    Paint Mines Interpretive Park is located in Colorado, in the Count on El Paso, within the confines of the small town of Calhan (of which a population of less than 1000 is estimated). The site is located southeast of Denver ea north east di Colorado Springs, the other town of reference to visit this attraction.

    Park map

    How to get there: parking and access

    This small but charming park is a input free (at least at present), it is open from morning to evening and is 1:40 circa from Denver e 45 minuti da Colorado Springs. Once in Calhan, following Highway 24, you will need to turn right onto Yoder Street / North Calhan Highway and then take Paint Mine Road, a dirt road that will lead you to the 3 parkings of the park:

    • North parking: it is the first you will meet, after having traveled the Paint Mine Road for just over 2 km; it is the largest of the 3 parking spaces available. Virtually all paths start from here.
    • West parking: you will find it on your left 700 meters ahead of the north parking lot. From here you can easily reach the viewpoint Paint Mine Overlook.
    • South parking: past the west parking lot you will need to turn left onto Paint Mine Road East. The South Parking is located 1 km from the West one. From here you can take the Green Trail.

    Although each of the 3 car parks may be more suitable for a specific path or panoramic point, in fact, since the various paths are all connected to each other, every point of the park can be reached from any parking lot.

    What to do: trails and viewpoints

    As mentioned, all the paths are connected and can also be seen as one big path. For now (pending the renovation of the park) there are not many signs that indicate them well, so I have also included links to interactive maps so that you can easily follow the path:

    • Paint Mines Trail (length 5,5 km, difference in altitude 100 meters, map): this is the complete circular path, which crosses the entire park. You will have the advantage of an exhaustive overview, if you have enough time available (approximately 1:30 depending on your walking pace). The route begins and ends at the North Parking.
    • Paint Mines Interpretive Trail Loop (length 3,7 km, difference in altitude 80 meters, map): this path is undoubtedly an excellent compromise as, although it is shorter, it allows you to enter the most interesting area of ​​the park, the southwestern one, rich in particular geological conformations multicolored. Furthermore, unlike the previous one, it will give you the opportunity to wedge yourself between the rocky pinnacles, for a closer view of these natural wonders. This circular path also starts from the North Parking, but shortly after taking it remember to turn right, instead of continuing straight on as in the previous path.
    • Paint Mine Overlook: if you don't want to do trails and prefer to be satisfied with seeing the park from a panoramic point, then head to the West parking lot, walk for 300 meters and start taking your photos. From here you can still join the main path, and then take a short walk admiring the most evocative rock "sculptures" of the park.
    • Green Trail (length 2 km, map): it is the only path that starts from the South car park, connecting to all the other paths. The complete route ends at the North Parking, covering large portions of the paths already listed.

    Photo gallery

    Paint Mines Interpretive Park


    Attractions in the surroundings

    Garden of the Gods

    This little hidden gem is surrounded by a number of places of interest that can greatly enrich your Colorado road trip. Here are some ideas:

    • Colorado Springs, the town of the suggestive Garden of the Gods.
    • Manitou Springs, a town with some interesting out of the ordinary attractions (for example the Manitou Cliff Dwellings or the Manitou Springs Penny Arcade).
    • Rainbow Falls at Cascade: a beautiful waterfall with a series of graffiti adorning the surrounding rock faces, one of the most controversial attractions in the state.

    We have also included these attractions in our ebook itinerary: Real America: 17 Days Traveling in the Great American West.

    Where to eat nearby

    Here are 3 Colorado Springs restaurants that can turn out to be interesting experiences:

    • Sandy’s Restaurant (6940 Space Village Ave): if you are looking for a typical place of American cuisine with a familiar atmosphere, here you will not be disappointed. Sandy's have been serving tasty burgers, breakfast dishes, salads and soups since the 70s and very few have been disappointed.
    • The Airplane Restaurant (1665 Newport Rd): this is a restaurant inserted inside a real airplane, fans of American kitsch cannot miss it.
    • Pepper Tree Restaurant (888 W Moreno Ave): if you happen to be in the area for dinner and want to treat yourself, you can opt for this classy restaurant with a panoramic view of the city.

    Where to sleep nearby

    Colorado Springs

    Paint Mines Interpretive Park is located, as already mentioned, in Calhan, where, however, the hotels do not subscribe, so it is better to look in the neighboring towns of Colorado Springs e Limon, among which the park is located equidistant (about 45 minutes). The first in particular is the best solution both for the attractions it offers and for the geographical position (Limon is a little more decentralized). Even the same Denver (1:40 am) can be a good overnight option to visit the park and surrounding area. Here are the accommodations available in all the towns mentioned:

    • All Denver Accommodations (1:40)
    • All Colorado Springs Accommodations (45 minutes)
    • All of Calhan's lodgings
    • All Limon's Accommodations (45 minutes)
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