Every once in a while, Mother Nature creates a place so unique and awe-inspiring it qualifies for designation as a National Park or Monument. In Oregon, Crater Lake will immediately come to mind for most people. However, Oregon has another lesser-known, yet equally impressive, member of the National Park Service.
10 miles northwest of Mitchell, Oregon sits a magnificent wonder of geology known as the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument – Painted Hills unit.
The John Day Fossil Beds received official designation as a National Monument in 1975. It is comprised of three units: Clarno, Painted Hills, and Sheep Rock. The Clarno and Sheep Rock units are equally impressive and I highly encourage you to visit them as well. However, today’s post will focus on the Painted Hills.
After turning off of US Highway 26, before reaching the entrance to the monument, a beautiful preview awaits to capture your curiosity and validate the worthiness of your effort getting here.
The monument has a visitor center with information, a picnic area, drinking water, and restrooms. The view at the visitor center is impressive as well.
After ensuring our water bottles were full and sunscreen was applied, it was time to explore! The first destination was the Painted Hills Overlook, which is a short drive away along a good gravel road.
Several options are available at the Painted Hills Overlook. You can hike on the Carroll Rim Trail and Painted Hills Overlook Trail, or you can simply enjoy the view from the nice, shaded gazebo.
Continuing on, our next stop was the Painted Cove Trail. While only a 1/4 mile loop, the trail brings you intimately close to this amazing landscape. This is a must-do as part of your visit here. The trail starts on a nice boardwalk with informational signs along the way.
After the boardwalk ends, the trail continues up to an overlook point, then descends down the backside of the red hills, returning you to the parking area.
Along the way, we encountered this little guy. He sized us up, which was just enough time to get this picture, then decided the drainage pipe was a better place to be.
The views from the Painted Cove Trail parking area are worthy of their own recognition. So colorful!
The final stop on our exploration was the Red Scar Knoll Trail, also known as the Red Hill Trail. As the names imply, this trail brings you up close and personal with the aptly-named Red Scar Knoll.
The vistas throughout this area never cease to amaze me. They are so vibrant and full of color.
The Painted Hills is truly a one-of-a-kind experience and a photographer’s dream. It is definitely a bucket list destination!
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