Almost everyone on the trails with Ruth and me wanted to chat. The Paint Mines Interpretive Park in Colorado is that kind of place. People consider themselves lucky to find it and really enjoy the sights as they hike around. One girl who was visiting Colorado Springs, the closest populated area to it, was glad she came here to see some unusual geological formations in gullies. Another hiker told us that the 2nd parking area was much closer to the colorful hoodoos and spires that both surprised and fascinated us. This 2nd hiker was clearly tired from walking around this park’s 750 acres. She told us that there were 8 miles of trails instead of the actual 4. We were also told there were 2 parking areas but found a third.
Native Americans began coming to this area around 9,000 years ago to collect clay and hunt buffalo. The pioneers who followed them used this clay to make bricks. With this gathered material from bright colored bands of oxidized iron and selenite clay, the tribal people made war paint to decorate themselves and their horses and create pottery. These reachable deposits are one mile south of Calhan, CO, in a free dawn to dusk park administered by the National Park Service and the El Paso County Parks Department.
Expect no amenities. There is a busy toilet at the 1st of 3 relatively small parking areas. That’s about it for creature comforts. There is no visitor center, no gift shop. The formations are fragile and the trails to them are easy but often lengthy, which delighted dedicated hikers. Visitors are told not to bring pets into the park and not to climb on the formations, but there was no one around to prevent climbing.
This is a wide-open-spaces kind of place surrounded by mixed-grass prairie with very few trees. I really enjoyed finding many seasonal wild flowers hidden behind the buffalo grass. Calhan is a small town with one motel called the Calhan Inn. As I passed it, I thought it would be the ideal spot for someone planing an early morning Paint Mines Interpretive Park hike. It looked fine, but then when I got home and checked it out I found it rated only 2½ out of 5 circles. Colorado Springs is only 25 miles west of Calhan.