EL PASO COUNTY — In our exclusive new series Adventures with Alan, we'll travel across Southern Colorado week-by-week to show you thrills and chills, hidden gems and well-known spots.
This week, our adventures take us near Calhan in eastern El Paso County to check out the Paint Mines Interpretive Park.
Located just 45 minutes east of Colorado Springs, the park encompasses 750 acres of prairie land in the Plains of Colorado, and is free to the public.
Our visit to the Paint Mines
We visit the Paint Mines on a cold and breezy winter day.
From the overlook parking lot, it's a short hike down to the Paint Mines. On your way, you'll catch a glimpse of colorful layers of clay and rare geological formations.
In addition to the clay, layers of sandstone and centuries of erosion have also played a role in creating these beautiful formations.
Walking around, it feels as if you've been transported to a different planet, like a scene shot on the planet Tatooine from the "Star Wars" universe.
Adam Baker, the East District Maintenance Supervisor for El Paso County Parks, is quick to point out what makes the colors pop.
"It's the oxidized iron particles in the clays in the soil itself that causes the purple and oranges. The Native Americans used the clay for their pottery and things like that to decorate," said Baker.
We'll learn more about the history of the Paint Mines in just a moment, but first, let's talk about the eye-catching hoodoo formations.
Easy to spot throughout the park, they're considered a unique and rare geological find. Just look for the spires made of clay that will be topped with large boulders found balanced on top.
Hoodoos can be found sprinkled about the Colorado Plateau, but in only a handful of places.
The ones here are one of maybe three places in the country to see them, according to Baker. Bryce Canyon in Utah is said to have the most.
The Park also has a steep archaeological history.
A recent study has shown evidence that Native Americans may have lived on these same grounds more than 9,000 years ago.
Prior to my visit, I didn't know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised by the park. My favorite thing was getting the chance to see the hoodoos in person.
When asked his favorite thing about the Paint Mines, Baker said, "Personally, I'd say that it's the uniqueness of it. You don't see this everywhere, especially out here in eastern El Paso Couny. It's really cool that it's a half-hour drive from the Springs and then you're in this totally different world."
Guided Hikes and Photography Workshops
El Paso County Parks will be offering a naturalist-led hike on Saturday, February 6th, and spaces are still available.
Expanded programming will also be offered at the park this spring and summer, including guided hikes and photography workshops.
More information can be found on their website - El Paso County Nature Centers