Paint Mines Interpretive Park – Calhan, Colorado - Atlas Obscura
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Calhan, Colorado

Paint Mines Interpretive Park

The colorful clay that once provided pigment for American Indian pottery still looks like natural psychedelia. 

Fantastical sandstone hoodoos, and other weird geological formations made of sand and colorful clay, brought ancient Native Americans to this spot as far back as 9,000 years ago to collect clay for colorful pottery and today the Paint Mines Interpretive Park remains a geological wonder hidden on the eastern plains in El Paso County.

No doubt this was also a place where these ancient people collected clay to be used as war paint on their bodies, and on their horses. The weird stone shapes formed by water, wind, and erosion seem to shift size, position, and “expression” with the shifting light. The spires come in shades from creamy white, to orange, purple, gray, rust, and chocolate brown. The area is a protected site since the beautiful formations are fragile, as is the natural animal ecosystem that lives there. To preserve this delicate natural balance, dogs and other domesticated animals are not permitted on the land, nor are motorized vehicles, and no camping is allowed. Nothing in the park is to be disturbed, removed, or defaced.

The park also asks visitors to stay off the sandstone formations, and stick strictly to the trail, which winds in and around the park in a three-mile loop. There is no visitor center or shops (however there are bathrooms), simply strange colors and shapes rising from the land all around. 

Know Before You Go

A mile south of the town of Calhan, in El Paso County, Colorado