Road Trip: Paint Mines Interpretive Park

After over two weeks of traveling and visiting family, I’m finally back home with lots of photos and stories about my vacation!

Earlier this month, I set out on a road trip with my mom… our first in years. When I was younger, my parents and I would spent a few weeks each summer traveling from our home in Illinois to stay with my mom’s side of the family in Arizona. We’d always stop at parks and landmarks along the way, and over the years we explored some pretty cool places across the country. Unfortunately, when I started college, I lost my summers to schoolwork, and what was once a yearly family tradition became a trip that my parents would make by themselves. After college, I had more opportunities to fly out for family visits (especially after my parents bought their house in Arizona and began the slow and lengthy process of packing and moving), but it had been years since I’d been on a proper road trip, so I was eager to travel again!

Picking what to do and where to go was, as usual, a tough choice, but after finding out about the Paint Mines Interpretive Park through Atlas Obscura, Mom and I decided to make it the first stop on our trek.


Drive about forty-five minutes east of Colorado Springs on US 24 and you’ll pass signs for the often overlooked Paint Mines, a geological landmark reminiscent of the badlands of South Dakota. These vibrant hills, spires, and hoodoos have been visited by people for thousands of years, as the colorful clays found here were initially used by the indigenous population to color their pottery and paint their bodies.

While looking down on the strange formations from the overlook points would be enough to impress anybody, hiking through the valley and seeing everything up close was really a breathtaking experience.

The wind that had threatened to sweep my hat from my head as I’d stood at the overlook was nonexistent down in the mines. Following the winding trails around the colorful rock formations was like walking through an eerily quiet alien world… the only sounds were those of my footsteps and the mechanical clicks of my camera (and the slight rustle of the occasional rabbit).

Hiking the trail back out of the silent Paint Mines was like leaving the sacred stillness and beauty of an empty cathedral. It felt like I’d just visited another world.

Even spending over an hour exploring the biggest site in the park didn’t let me see everything that the Paint Mines had to offer… there are four miles of trails through the mines, and several smaller sites to the north of where I was taking photos. I could’ve easily taken another hour just to walk around and admire the scenery, though this would have meant less time to spend at the Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs (our next destination).

More photos of Colorado – and the rest of my trip – coming soon!


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