Visiting the vibrant Painted Hills in central Oregon

Painted Hills, OregonPainted Hills is one of the three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, located in Wheeler County in central Oregon. The area totals 3132 acres and is located 9 mi northwest of historic pioneer town of Mitchell, Oregon and 75 mi east of the mountain town of Bend. You might think that beautiful scenery like this only exists in the Southwest. It is reminiscent of the Painted Desert in Arizona.

Getting to the Painted Hills
Mitchell, Oregon is located at mile post 66 on Highway 26, 47 miles east of Prineville, 80 miles east of Bend, 68 miles west of John Day. It makes for a nice day trip from Bend. Mitchell is a good place to stop before going into the National Monument. There are a couple of restaurants and stores there.

Mitchell, Oregon

Mitchell, Oregon

The Painted Hills Unit is located 9 miles northwest of of the town of Mitchell, just off Highway 26. There is no visitor center at this unit.

Enjoying the Painted Hills
Painted Hills is a marvelous place to explore. The colorful layers of rock were formed when the area was an ancient floodplain. You can visit the Painted Hills year-round. The Painted Hills at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument are made of heavily eroded volcanic ash layers.

Painted Hills, Oregon

Painted Hills, Oregon

I enjoyed hiking and walking through the area. There is a rather short hike to an overlook which will give you a great view of the colorful hills. lists additional short trails: If you want more of an adventure, trek 1.5 miles to the top of Carroll Rim, where you’ll have a sweeping view of the painted hills and surrounding high-desert country. If you want to see one of these hills up close, stroll the quarter-mile Painted Cove Trail. To view fossils of plants that dominated this area thirty-three million years ago, walk the Leaf Hill Trail. It’s possible to complete all four of the established trails in just a day.

The colors are amazing and so a camera is a necessity!

Entrance to the National Monument is free.

More Information:
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Visiting Bend, Oregon
Mitchell, Oregon

Photo Credit: Elizabeth R. Rose