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Oregon’s Painted Hills

If you find yourself driving between Central Oregon or Eastern Oregon, perhaps between Boise and Bend, and looking for something to do, make sure you hit the Painted Hills Oregon. They are one of three parts (referred to as units) of the John Day Fossil National Monument.

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument consists of three units: Clarno, Painted Hills, and Sheep Rock units.

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You can do the Painted Hills in a half-day and it's worth the detour. We stayed for five days in Mitchell Oregon in the area and explored all three units of the park.

The red-orange, or red-and-yellow hills and panoramic views are mesmerizing!

oregon painted hills
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

We preferred the Painted Hills unit and went back to them several times so Mr. Misadventures could capture them in a different light. The best time was right after a storm, something you can't plan for, we just got lucky!

oregon painted hills
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

It's one of the seven wonders of Oregon. You can see why from the photos. They get their name from the colorful layers that represent various geological eras.

They are also extremely fragile and require protection from careless visitors. Footsteps and tracks scar these beautiful mounds, the effects of which last for years. For that reason, there are paved hiking trails including Painted Cove Trail (0.25 miles), Leaf Hill Trail (0.25 miles), the Painted Hills Overlook Trail (0.5 mile loop), Red Scar Knoll Trail (0.5 miles), Carroll Rim Trail (1.6 miles),

oregon painted hills footsteps
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

These footsteps will take a long time to disappear which ruins it for others.

Oregon's Painted Hills are beautiful. Worth a visit. If you have time, you should hike the Carroll Rim Trail, it is supposed to give you a fantastic overlook of all the hills. I had a hurt foot so was unable to do the climb.

Because of their size, the best photos are panoramic and Mr. Misadventures took some real beauties which are on his website.

How about you? Have you visited these Painted Hills? How about other Painted Hills in the U.S. (or beyond)?

Like it? PIN it!

Things to Do Central Oregon - USA - Painted Hills John Day Fossil Beds National MonumentThings to Do Central Oregon - USA - Painted Hills John Day Fossil Beds National MonumentThings to Do Central Oregon - USA - Painted Hills John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

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  1. Lisa Coomer Queen says:

    Oh wow. This is so pretty. I hope I have the chance to see those hills one day. Thank you!

  2. This place is a lifesize artwork. thank you for sharing!

  3. Murissa Shalapata says:

    I’ve been meaning to take a road trip down to Oregon. I really want to go to Feast Portland and this would be a lovely detour to take!

  4. Lisa Ogle says:

    I am planning on visiting my daughter who lives in Oregon maybe I will visit here as well.

  5. cassandra m says:

    wow this is breathtaking! i am going to be sure to stop here when i plan my trip to oregon.

  6. Stephanie says:

    I’ve always wanted to see these in person. They look so beautiful in pictures.

  7. Danial (Dan On The Road) says:

    The Painted Hills are simply stunning. I bet my geologist friend would go crazy here!

  8. Joe, Salem, OR says:

    I would definitely recommend the drive through the Gorge in summertime, especially at sundown. It’s one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen. And there are lots of interesting places to see between Biggs Junction, OR and Portland, OR. One must see place a short drive East of Portland is McMenamins Edgefield located in Troutdale, OR. You won’t be disappointed. There you will find lodging, dining, craft brews and wines, art, live music, and a very colorful history to the property that I won’t spoil by revealing here. When I say it’s a must see I mean it.

  9. Beautiful photos! I am visiting Oregon mid-April of this year – would this be a good time to visit the Painted Hills? Will there be snow or road closures?

    1. @Anj, hello there! It is really hard to say whether the roads will be closed as that depends on how much snow fall the area is having. We went through the area another time at the end of February and hit snow, but April is much later. I would think your chances of hitting snow are limited, but there could be a random freak snowstorm or something!