Paint Mines Park is located on the eastern plains near Calhan, Colorado. The 750 acre park features geological formations including spires, chasms, overhangs, and carved walls. These formations were created through erosion, creating gullies and exposed layers of clay and jasper. Oxidization of iron deposits created the colorful clays, which range from light yellow to deep red.
Another interesting geological site on the eastern plains is the Picket Wire Canyonlands Tracksite. Further south on the eastern plains, it is home to the largest dinosaur track site in North America.
- Trailhead: Paint Mines
- Round trip: 5 miles / 8km
- Elevation: 6,657′-6,791′ (+134′) / 2,029m-2070m (+41m)
From either trailhead the best approach is to head for the west side of the park as this is where 90% of the rock formations are located that make this park distinct.
Taking the loop from Paint Mines Rd trailhead, the trail initially heads east and curves to the south. Once heading south you’ll have views into the valley and a bench to soak it all in. The trail then descends into valley with white carved walls and spires immediately to the west.
Shortly after the white spires you’ll approach a trail junction. Take the trail to the right (south), which leads deeper into the gully area. There are many beautiful dead-end spurs that take you closer to the formations. This is a great place to take your time and explore all of these side trails. The canyons here range in color from deep reds, to yellows, to white.
The main trail continues east and gradually climbs out of the gully. There are more formations to the north before leveling out on grasslands. From here the trail continues east to a junction with a second trailhead. Take the left trail northwest over vast rolling grasslands to continue the loop. The trail widens here and provides views of Pikes Peak far off to the west along with a bench on top of a slight rise.
There are a couple of smaller formations to the south as you continue to the southwest. Eventually you’ll come back to the original trail junction. Head straight (west) to get back to the trailhead.