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Exploring southern Colorado: Add some color to your hikes at the Paint Mines

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Posted at 10:09 AM, Jan 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-28 11:23:19-05

The Paint Mines Interpretive Park is one of southern Colorado's most unique and colorful open spaces.

Story behind the Paint Mines:

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The park is named for colorful clays that were collected by American Indians to make paint. Brightly colored bands, caused by oxidized iron compounds, are found in varying amounts throughout the many different layers of clay.

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Archaeological evidence, such as arrow heads and stone dart tips, proves early occupation by Native Americans. In fact, evidence of human life goes back as far as 9,000 years ago!

Exploring the Park:

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Hoodoos, a spire of rock with a boulder on top against the night sky

One of the more unique things about the park are the hoodoos. Hoodoos are a spire of rock with a large boulder sitting on the top.

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Hoodoos, a spire of rock with a boulder on top, with a dry creek bed running through the colored walls of the Paint Mines.

The Paint Mines Interpretive Park is one of only three locations in the country to have hoodoo rock formations, the most famous being at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

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The park is 750 acres in size with 4 miles of trails, and an on site restroom facility. Hiking is generally considered easy through the park.

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Since the Paint Mines Interpretive Park is designated as a protected park, there are rules about not climbing on the fragile rocks. You'll also have to leave your pets at home.

Weather to watch for:
While the paint mines are perfect in any weather, we would advise planning ahead depending on the season.

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You'll want to bring plenty of water and sunscreen on very hot days, since the bare ground will heat up quickly and there isn't always a lot of air flow through the park.

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Be careful during monsoon season (usually July through August) as you're very exposed to lightning in the paint mines and heavy rains will make the trails slick and muddy.

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One thing we highly recommend is visiting the park after a fresh snow, that way you'll get even more color against the fresh white powder.

Stunning nighttime photography (with a permit)!
The Paint Mines are open from dawn till dusk, but with a permit from the El Paso County Parks Office, you can explore at night!

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The Milky Way Galaxy captured over the Paint Mines

Thanks to the paint mines being so far away from Colorado Springs, light pollution is fairly low over the park.

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The Milky Way Galaxy captured over the Paint Mines

On a clear night with no moon, you'll easily be able to see the stars and even a few satellites as they streak across the sky.

Special night time permits for photography or astronomy can be obtained by contacting El Paso County Parks Office at 719-520-7529.

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The Milky Way Galaxy captured over the Paint Mines

Several local photographers in the area, such as Mike Pach, offer night sky photography workshops. Click here for more information and to sign up for his workshop.

How to get there:
The park is located in northeast El Paso County, 30 minutes outside of Colorado Springs.

Take Hwy 24 east from Colorado Springs to Calhan, turn south onto Calhan Highway, turn east on Paint Mines Road and look for the designated parking area.

More information and rules on the park can be found here.

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Be sure to share the details and photos of your trip with us here at KOAA by posting to our Facebook Page.