While many people think that you have to travel deep into the Rocky Mountains to experience the greatest sights of Colorado, right in El Paso County are the Calhan Paint Mines, a must-see area for Coloradans and tourists alike. This beautiful place tells the story of Native Americans and offers a glimpse of Colorado wildlife. Oxidized iron compounds create brightly colored bands throughout layers of clay in a canyon-like setting resulting in breathtaking views that resemble an artist’s spilled canvas on the surface of the earth.
Located near the town of Calhan, the Paint Mines Interpretive Park encompasses about 750 acres and contains evidence of human life dating back 9,000 years. The park offers incredible geological formations including spires, hoodoos and exposed layers of selenite clay and jasper.
Native American tribes that inhabited the area include Apache, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, and Ute. Tribes would gather clay from the area to make paints for a variety of ceramics – hence the name paint mines.
Pronghorn antelope, mule deer, coyote, small wildlife and a wide variety of birds can be found in the area as well.
Don’t miss the Dawson Formation, which formed 55 million years ago during the Tertiary Age. The formation contains petrified tropical hardwoods from a time with a very different climate. The hardwood was used as materials for stone tools by natives.
Be Responsible, Be Respectful, Leave No Trace
While areas like the Paint Mines are great to explore, they must be enjoyed responsibly. Colorado contains many fragile ecosystems and this is one of them. The historical significance of the area is sacred to those who inhabited the land natively and should be respected.
Colorado has enough nature vandals so please preserve the historical and beautiful places our state has to offer. El Paso County has significant rules in place to protect the Paint Mines, and it is your responsibility to recreate here responsibly.
Staying on designated trails is highly important in areas like this. Climbing on the Paint Mine formations is strictly prohibited and shows disrespect for the land and people who inhabited the area. Everything in the park including plants, wildlife, rocks, minerals and historic artifacts are protected by law and should not be removed or tampered with in any way.