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Paint Mines Interpretive Park

High Great Plains, Colorado

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Paint Mines Interpretive Park

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  • Main trailhead with wind turbines in the distance.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Tansyaster flower on the side of the trail.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Aerial view of the southwest end of the site.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Rabbitbush in flower in the mines.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Life finds a way.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • The sun shines through the clay formations.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Hiking through the white Pikes Peak granite layer (but not climbing over them).- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Multiple layers, representing millions of years of geological history.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Hiking along the Paint Mines Interpretive Park.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Hiking along the Paint Mines Interpretive Park.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Life finds a way.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • A rabbit running through multicolored layers.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Top view of multicolored layers with wind turbines in the distance.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Hikers on the trail leading above the hoodoos.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Panoramic view of the hoodoos at the Paint Mines Interpretive Park.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Sun shining through hoodoos.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Flowering rabbitbrush is abundant from August through September.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Sun shining behind hoodoos.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Bee coming out of a burrow.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Top view of multicolored layers at the Paint Mines Interpretive Park.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • This part of the site makes it easier to appreciate the multiple layers, not only different colors, but different materials altogether.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Sun going down between hoodoos.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • There are many little spots to appreciate the variety of the formations.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • Aerial view of the Paint Mines Interpretive Park.- Paint Mines Interpretive Park
  • - Paint Mines Interpretive Park
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Beautiful and unusual formations.
Cons: 
No shade or shelter.
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Region:
High Great Plains, CO
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
No
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Sponsored Contributor

Walking in the Eastern Colorado plains, it is hard to visualize the geological history under our feet. But at the Paint Mines Interpretive Park, millions of years of erosion have exposed many layers, with the deeper ones dating to 55 million years ago. This site offers wonderful views of clay and rock formations that capture that geological history, and they are accessible through a gentle 4-mile hike.

You can start the hike from the north parking lot, where there is a pit toilet, and the trail connects to the south parking lot. The west parking lot is a short walk away from a panoramic view of the site. The hike around the park is an easy 4 miles and mostly flat (some 600 feet of total elevation gain). It is possible to walk just short portions of the trail and admire the beautiful clay and rock formations. Do not climb them, however, as they are fragile and can also be dangerous. While the hike is easy, there is no shade or protection from the elements, so make sure to dress appropriately for the weather and bring sufficient water in the summer.

This area was a hardwood tropical forest 55 million years ago. That layer was later covered in white sandstone and several other layers over millennia. Wind and rain have eroded the stone and clay, resulting in beautiful formations showing shades of purple, orange, yellow, brown and white. Hoodoos –clay and rock towers- offer particularly interesting photo opportunities. Aside from its geological significance, the site is important for human history (and pre-history). Native Americans visited or inhabited this area for the last 9,000 years, and used colored clay and rocks to make pottery and tools, such as arrow heads.

Wildlife and vegetation are typical of the plains. Mammals include mule deer, pronghorn, coyotes, foxes, rabbits and rodents. There are many species of birds, including bald and golden eagles, owls, falcons and hawks (red-tailed being the most common, though Swainson’s hawks are present in the summer, and rough-legged and ferruginous hawks are more often seen in the winter). In August through September, rabbitbrush is in (yellow) flower, and is abundant in the site. Purple tansyaster is also common in late summer to early fall.

All in all, this makes a great day trip for the whole family, and it offers excellent photo opportunities as well as the chance to learn about the geological and archeological history of the Colorado Plains. Please refrain from climbing the formations so that future generations can also enjoy this wonderful location.

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