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Venturing into the Vibrant Landscapes of Painted Hills, Oregon: Tips for Trails, Campsites, and More

Venturing into the Vibrant Landscapes of Painted Hills, Oregon: Tips for Trails, Campsites, and More

by | Jun 7, 2024

With their unique colorful layers, the Painted Hills of Oregon is a truly awe-inspiring landscape that almost seems out of this world. So if you are looking for one of Oregon’s most unique landscapes, Painted Hills should be at the top of your list.

Located in a rather remote part of eastern Oregon, these vibrantly colored slopes are well worth the visit. Explore the extraordinary hues painted among the hills, and it will take your breath away when you set your eyes on them.

The Painted Hills are located in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument just north of Mitchell, Oregon. They are the most visited of the three units within the park and can be crowded on weekends. The hills get their name from the striped hues of red, orange, yellow, green, black, and tan running across their slopes.

This alienesque landscape formed around 35 million years ago when various climate patterns created stratified soil layers of various colors. The color of each soil layer depends on the climate pattern during that period. For example, the red colors were formed during a warm and wet climate period. As one of the 7 wonders of Oregon, the Painted Hills truly do appear to be painted by Mother Nature.

Hiking the five trails in the Painted Hills is the best way to take in the excellent views of this truly unusual landscape. However, if hiking isn’t on your agenda, you can still get awesome views of the painted hills just from your car when driving through the park.

The trails are well-marked and easy to find as they all start from the parking areas located along the park’s main road. Although all of the hikes within the park are short, they offer incredible views of the painted hills and are highly recommended.

The Painted Hills Overlook Trail: A gateway to mesmerizing views.
The Painted Hills Overlook Trail: A gateway to mesmerizing views.  Source: bendexplored.com

Camping around the Painted Hills is an excellent option if you plan to spend more than one day or want to relax and take in the surrounding scenery. There is plenty to explore in the area, from a handful of interesting small Oregon towns to ancient fossil beds.

Here is a list of some campgrounds near Painted Hills, Oregon:

Map of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, highlighting the location of Painted Hills.
Map of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, highlighting the location of Painted Hills.  Source: bendexplored.com

The Painted Hills are located 9 miles north of Mitchell, Oregon. From Bend, drive to Prineville, then turn onto Highway 26 towards Mitchell. Drive one hour until you are 3 miles away from Mitchell. Turn left and follow the signs to the Painted Hills. The journey offers a great scenic drive with an opportunity to experience Eastern Oregon’s ancient landscapes.

The Painted Hills offer a truly bizarre landscape that is worth visiting. Not only are the sights breathtaking, but the area also offers activities like hiking, biking, and exploring nearby towns and fossil beds. Restrictions are in place to preserve the delicate landscape, such as the prohibition of walking on the hills themselves, but there’s still plenty to see and do

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