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Weird place Wednesday: The Paint Mines.

Welcome to the Paint Mines. Entrance to the Paint Mines parking lot near Calhan, CO.

Welcome to the Paint Mines. Entrance to the Paint Mines parking lot near Calhan, CO.

This week’s Weird place Wednesday lies out on the plains east of Colorado Springs and may be one of the most popular places you’ve never heard of.  The “Paint Mines” or “Paint Mines Interpretive Park” is a little gem of unique geologic features away from the mountains on the flat lands roughly 35 miles northeast of Colorado Springs.  Unlike many Weird place Wednesday locations, the Paint Mines are not very remote and are accessible via a short hike on a wide, well maintained trail.  Its accessibility does not diminish the rewarding views of vividly colored hoodoos and layered rock, normally reserved for places like Bisti Wilderness of New Mexico or the Badlands of South Dakota.

The name “Paint Mines” comes from different pigments of color provided by the varying layers of clays and iron oxides found throughout the geologic features of the park.  Historians tell us that Native Americans and later settlers used this area and its clays as a source of color.  This area is now protected and administrated by El Paso County and is listed as a historic place on the national register.

The area offers over four miles of hiking with two main loops meeting at the primary “bowl” of geologic features, or if you care to skip the outlying areas, the main collection of hoodoos are only about a half mile hike from the parking lot.  Throughout different points in the park, along the trails are signs with historical and geological information about specific areas of park land.

Paint Mines overlook. An overlook of some of the main features of the Paint Mines. It is a great place to explore.

Paint Mines overlook. An overlook of some of the main features of the Paint Mines. It is a great place to explore.

While the hoodoos and geologic features of the Paint Mines don’t exactly rival those of Bryce Canyon, they are fascinating none-the-less.  The evidence of significant erosion is front and center in the sharp gullies and bizarre formations left standing.  The range of colors is impressive, from vibrant white to yellows, reds, pinks and layers of black coal.  It is important to note the textures and cracks in the rock and formations showing how fragile it all is.  Much like the Chalk Pyramids in Kansas, the Paint Mines are soft and erode quickly, so climbing off the trails just wears things down more quickly.

Surprisingly, even though the Paint Mines are not far from the growing metropolis of Colorado Springs, it is rarely that busy.  The parking lot is small and I have never seen it full, so make sure to visit and enjoy a wonderfully accessible, yet somewhat private park.  Have fun out there and if you have any questions, make sure to email or comment below.

 

 

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