A Complete Guide on Colorado Paint Mines Weddings & Elopements in 2023

The rules at the Paint Mines have changed recently, so make sure you check out this guide with everything you need to know about Paint Mines Elopements and Weddings in 2023!

Bride and groom kissing after their Paint Mines wedding elopement in Colorado on a sunny day

How to get to the Paint Mines

The Paint Mines Interpretive Park is located in Calhan, Colorado, which is northeast of Colorado Springs. This location is fairly remote, and the last section of the road to get here can be a little bumpy. However, 2WD vehicles are fine and no high clearance is needed.

Where to park

When you arrive, you’ll see there are two main parking areas. I recommend passing the first parking area and going to the second parking lot. It’s a much quicker walk to the main area from the second parking lot compared to the first.

Follow the location in the map below to get to this location.

Why I love the Paint Mines

  1. Of course one of the reasons why I love this location is for how unique it is! Here in Colorado, we LOVE our mountains, but sometimes it is nice to change things up. You won’t find a more unique gem than this in the state.
Man and woman walking through the Paint Mines in Colorado before getting married

  1. One of the things that makes this location so unique is the vibrant orange and pink colors in the rock formations here! It seriously feels like you’re on a whole other planet when you’re walking around.
  1. One of the lesser known features about the Paint Mines is that is actually a dark sky location, which means that there is very little light pollution. I love this spot as a dark sky site because it is a lot less cold at night here than at many of the other dark sky spots I have been to (since it is at lower elevation). Having your photographer take some photos with you here at night (assuming they have the experience to do this, as it is definitely not a novice level skill) would be such a cool addition to your elopement or wedding! 
  1. Another thing that many people don’t realize about the Paint Mines Interpretive Park is that there is actually quite a bit of variety in the terrain. The park is much larger than most people realize, with several trails that you can hike. On the opposite side of the park are rolling fields of tall grasses that have wildflowers in the summertime. If you’re planning to take photos here, you might want to plan for enough time to visit the other side of the park to get some variety in your photos.

The importance of Leave No Trace at this location

What is Leave No Trace?

Leave No Trace is a set of ethical principles that guide us in how we should act when we are outdoors in nature. These guiding principles are important because they help us to preserve our limited natural resources for everyone to enjoy in the future.

You can read more about Leave No Trace principles and why this is so important on the Leave No Trace website.

Bride and groom walking through the colored rock formations at their Paint Mines wedding elopement

Leave No Trace ethics at The Paint Mines

The Paint Mines are a great example of why Leave No Trace ethics are important!

Although the rock formations at this location seem very sturdy and stable, the clay from which they are made is actually extremely fragile and susceptible to erosion and damage from human touch. 

Although there are many signs that remind visitors not to climb on the rocks, these warnings have been ignored by too many individuals, causing irreversible damage in the park.

Unfortunately there are also several spots in the park where you can find carved graffiti from irresponsible visitors. 

All this leads me to an important point—that if we don’t improve our treatment of this location, we may lose access. There are many public parks and locations where ropes were put up, permit systems were put in place, or public access was cut off entirely in order to protect the location.

If you visit the Paint Mines, I implore you to help protect this Colorado treasure by staying on the trails and not climbing on the rock formations! 

Bride and groom embracing each other at the Paint Mines in Colorado

The legalities of your Paint Mines wedding or elopement

As I mentioned in the above section, this Colorado gem has unfortunately been the victim of a lot of individuals who have not respected the location. This has resulted in irreversible damage to many areas in the park and caused the El Paso County parks and recreation department to reevaluate how this space can be used.

In the last couple years (2021) there have been some changes to the rules in the park. 

Per the El Paso County Parks and Recreation website (in the PDF for the Commercial Photography Permit), you can see that you actually cannot have your wedding in the Paint Mines. Don’t be discouraged by this though! Instead, you can have your actual ceremony at a different location and then take your wedding photos at the Paint Mines instead.

If you see photographers with blog posts showing photos of ceremonies here at the park, keep in mind that this was likely before the rules changed. (It’s also possible that they were not aware of these rules–hopefully there are no photographers out there that are knowingly breaking the rules!) 

Also keep in mind that your photographer will need a photography permit to take your photos here—this is another rule that changed in 2021 for the Paint Mines. Currently the cost of this permit is $100. Personally, I include the cost of photography permits in my elopement packages, but not all photographers do.

Finally, if you need some ideas for where to have your actual ceremony, here are a couple of posts that you might find helpful:

Garden of the Gods Elopement & Micro wedding Guide

Colorado Springs Elopement & Micro wedding Guide

Colorado Small Wedding Venues Guide

Also know that location assistance and research (plus lots more planning help) is included with all of my elopement and micro wedding packages, so if you want more personalized help, feel free to reach out!

Man and woman embracing in the rock formations at the Paint Mines in Colorado

How to get your marriage license in Colorado

With all of the above said, you’ll of course still need to know how to get your marriage license here in Colorado to make your wedding legal!

The process for getting your marriage license in Colorado is very simple. 

You will need to go to a County Clerk and Recorder’s office. You can go to any county’s office in the state, regardless of where you are getting married.

Although some counties allow you to start the application online, you must complete the process in person.

There is no waiting period to get married in Colorado, so you can use it the same day you get it. However, keep in mind that these offices follow typical government office hours and holidays. Most offices are open Monday through Friday from 8 A.M. to 4:30/5 P.M.

The process is very quick! It will usually only take about 20 to 30 minutes and you should not need an appointment.

You must use the license within 35 days of applying for it. Then it must be completed and filed back with the County Clerk and Recorder’s office within 63 days from the date of the wedding. You can either mail it back in, or return it physically to the same location.

Bride and groom kissing after their Paint Mines wedding elopement in Colorado on a sunny day

What do I need to bring?

  • $30 (most counties accept cash, check, or credit card)
  • Valid form of identification (e.g., passport, driver’s license, military I.D.), including proof of age
  • Social security numbers

If I live elsewhere, should I get my marriage license in Colorado?

If you are getting married in Colorado, you should obtain your marriage license in Colorado rather than your home state if you live elsewhere. This is because very few states allow you to apply for a marriage license, have your ceremony in another state, and then return home to file the license. 

The reverse is also true. If you live in Colorado, but want to have your ceremony in another state, you should apply for your marriage license in the state where you’re having your ceremony. Colorado requires you to sign your marriage license within the state.

Top photo tips for your Paint Mines elopement or wedding

Here are a few of my top photo tips to consider if you’re planning a wedding or elopement at the Paint Mines:

  1. Make sure you choose a photographer that matches your preferred editing style. Of course this is important at any location, but it is especially important at The Paint Mines. If you chose this location, it’s probably for the beautiful vibrant colors in the rock formations. 

I have seen many, many photos from this location where I can tell that the photographer edits were either very light and airy or desaturated so that the colors are very muted, or even totally white! Most photographers have a certain editing style and don’t want to change that (it may even be in your contract with the photographer that they will not edit differently). 

I know that I would personally be very disheartened to choose this location for its colors and end up with photos that don’t even show this feature. If you feel this way too, make sure to hire a photographer with a more colorful editing style or that you have addressed this with your photographer before hiring them.

  1. Along the same lines as the point above, I strongly recommend visiting this location during golden hour (which is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset). Every photographer will tell you that midday lighting is harsh, but it’s even more important at this location because the harsh lighting actually results in the colors in the rock formations looking more muted. The softer lighting of golden hour really brings out the colors, so this is what I typically recommend! 
  1. Finally, as I mentioned earlier, if you are a photographer, make sure to get your photo permit! This is a new rule as of 2021, so I know that some photographers are still not aware of this. 

Best time of year for a Paint Mines wedding or elopement

The Paint Mines is located in Calhan, which is at approximately 6,500 feet elevation. This is a lower elevation than many locations in Colorado so it is warmer overall than higher elevation locations. 

But it is also located on the eastern part of the state, where the land is flat and without much around it (think like the plains of the midwest). This means that there is a lot of wind in the area since there are not many geological or natural features around to block the wind. 

What this generally means is that the summers can be quite hot at this location, as it gets full sun during the day. There are no trees to provide shade. Afternoon thunderstorms can be incredibly intense in this part of Colorado, so lightning risk and hail are important to watch out for. I encourage my couples to have backup plans in place.

Beautiful sunset clouds overhang couple at the Paint Mines in Colorado

The fall and spring times can vary in what weather you will get. You will likely see some warmer temperatures during the day and with chilly temperatures at night.

Finally, in the winter time, expect more colder days and snow sometimes, although snow likely will melt quickly in the days following.

Weekend vs. Weekday

The Paint Mines has become a very popular place to visit, so I always recommend a weekday if at all possible. It will offer you significantly less crowds and more privacy than a weekend.

Time of day

Equally as important is choosing a time of day that will offer you the best chance of privacy. 

Early mornings are by far the best time if seclusion is important to you. If you can’t make the morning work for you two, evenings are generally the next best time. 

Paint Mines elopement & microwedding packages

I’m more than just a photographer…I’m here to help you have the best day ever!

Based on my experience, especially with elopements and microweddings, couples need more than just a photographer.

Unlike with a traditional wedding, you may not have a venue coordinator or wedding planner helping you think through logistics, locations, or all the little details that really add up!

But here are just a few of the ways I can help you, all included with my custom elopements:

  • Elopement & Micro wedding VIP Planning Guide exclusively for Wild and Found couples
  • Questionnaires to help you through the planning process
  • Personalized location assistance
  • Local vendor recommendations
  • Logistics help and a custom timeline
  • Gear and day-of checklists customized for your day
  • More one-on-one planning help

I don’t just show up and take photos on your day. I’ll be here for you every step of the way. 

I know you have a lot of choices when it comes to picking a photographer. What makes me different is that my number one goal is to be here for YOU–not just as your elopement photographer… but as your elopement partner to help you create the epic day your love story deserves!

Shadows of bride and groom holding hands at the Paint Mines in Colorado

The 2-Day Paint Mines Elopement Package

Can’t decide between a “just us” celebration, or a day with friends and family? Have both!

Includes 12 hours of photo coverage, split over 2 days.

Personalized assistance with locations, local vendor recommendations, custom planning tools, checklists, and more. I’ll be there to help you every step of the way.

You get an entire gallery of edited, high-resolution images great for printing, PLUS websize images ideal for posting to social media.

Includes the rights to print, share, and download all of your images.

Half Day Paint Mines Elopement Package

Our most popular package–for capturing memories of your entire elopement day.

Includes 8 hours of photo coverage.

Personalized assistance with locations, local vendor recommendations, custom planning tools, checklists, and more. I’ll be there to help you every step of the way.

You get an entire gallery of edited, high-resolution images great for printing, PLUS websize images ideal for posting to social media.

Includes the rights to print, share, and download all of your images.

4 Hour Paint Mines Elopement Package

A great choice for simple elopements at accessible locations.

Includes 4 hours of photo coverage.

Personalized assistance with locations, local vendor recommendations, custom planning tools, checklists, and more. I’ll be there to help you every step of the way.

You get an entire gallery of edited, high-resolution images great for printing, PLUS websize images ideal for posting to social media.

Includes the rights to print, share, and download all of your images.

Paint Mines elopement & wedding inspiration 

Looking for more inspiration and photos from an actual Paint Mines elopement? Check out these photos from K+D’s elopement day. Although they had their ceremony at the Garden of the Gods resort, they had a fun adventure afterwards hiking through the Paint Mines park!

Are you planning a Paint Mines elopement or microwedding?

I’m more than just a photographer. Helping couples create their dream day is what I do best!

Get in touch and let’s chat about your vision!

Get more elopement and microwedding info here!

Or check out more elopement planning resources…

Elopement Photographer Kim from Wild and Found Photography

Hi I’m Kim, a Denver, Colorado based photographer specializing in Adventure Elopements in Colorado and worldwide! Photographing couples on the most special day of their lives is a true honor for me. But I’ve made it my mission to take it one step further than that. When you work with me, you’re getting more than just a photographer. I’m here to help you with all of the planning resources you need to have the most amazing elopement day ever! That includes everything from assistance with location ideas, timeline planning, and lots more free resources. So you can forget the work, and focus on having fun!

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