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    Painted Hills: how to visit the seventh wonder of the state of Oregon

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    Martí Micolau

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    Embarking on an itinerary in the Pacific North West of the United States can reveal many unexpected surprises as in the case in question. The Painted Hills are in fact defined as one of the seven wonders of the state of Oregon. They are located inside the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and, as you can guess from the name, the main peculiarity of these mountains are the different layers of red and green that follow one on top of the other. So let's find out how to visit them and what this park can reserve for us, a little off the classic tourist routes, but no less fascinating.


    • Where it is, how to get there and useful information
    • Painted Hills
    • Sheep Rock
    • Clarno
    • Where to sleep in the area

    Where it is, how to get there and useful information

    The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is characterized by being a park whose aegis extends to three separate areas. These are:

    • Sheep Rock Unit: is located between the city of Kimberly and Dayville.
    • Painted Hills Unit: approximately 16 km northwest of the city of Mitchell
    • Clarno Unit: is located along Highway 218 between the town of Fossil and Antelope.

    It is quite difficult for you to be able to see all three sections in a single day, this is because you would have to undertake several trips by car which, although not excessively long, would still take too much time from your visit. For example, to move from the Painted Hills to the Sheep Rock section you will have to consider at least an hour by car. While to move from Sheep rock to Clarno Unit at least an hour and a half.

    Therefore, if you intend to visit all three areas in their entirety, you can consider taking accommodation in the area and complete the visit the next day. Otherwise you just have to choose only one (maximum two according to your itinerary) of the three.

    You can access these areas, and all the routes they include, from sunrise to sunset every day of the year. The Thomas Condon Paleontology and Visitor Center is open according to the season at the following times (however, check the official website for any changes):

    • Summer period (from Memorial Day to Labor Day): from 9:00 to 17:00 every day
    • The months of March, May and September: from 10:00 to 17:00 every day
    • November to February: 10am to 00pm Tuesday to Saturday, closed on Sundays and Mondays and federal holidays

    The entrance to the three sections of the park under the auspices of the National Park Service is totally free.

    Painted Hills

    This is certainly the most spectacular section of the entire park. Hilly reliefs stand out on the surrounding plain with the peculiar characteristic of developing in various colors ranging from green to red forming an almost alien landscape. To reach it you will have to take the panoramic road Bridge Creek Road which runs near the course of the homonymous river. As with the remaining sections of the park, the main activity you can undertake is to walk the trails. In this case the choice is between five but, if you have little time, I recommend that you consider at least these:

    • Carroll Rim Trail: this is perhaps the most beautiful panoramic route because it will allow you to have an overall view of these particular mountains. The round trip is about 2 and a half kilometers, so consider at least 40 minutes to get to the end of the route and return to the starting point, without counting the classic stops for photos and to rest. You can leave your car at theOverlook Trail, which is not far away and which, if you wish, you can undertake (just under a kilometer round trip) to observe the usual mountains from a different point of view.
    • Painted Cove Trail: a very short (about 500 meters round trip) and easy path which, however, will manage to be particularly spectacular. Thanks to this trail you can skirt and cross a part of the Painted Hills. If you have the opportunity to choose a time, I recommend that you enjoy this walk at sunset when the particular light of this time of day will help to create deeper colors.

    Sheep Rock

    In this area of ​​the park, it is not the gaudy colors like those of the Painted Hills that dominate, but rocks of volcanic origin that have taken on a characteristic color between gray and blue with shades tending to green. As you get closer to observe them they will almost seem like huge sand castles, not only for the shape and composition, but also because no type of vegetation grows there. Here you will also find the Thomas Condon Paleontology and Visitor Center that you can visit not only to find maps and more information about the park, but also to visit a permanent exhibition with the fossils recovered in this area.

    During the weekends of the summer months a stone's throw from the visitor center you can also visit the Cant Ranch Historic Home & Museum, a large area created around a farm dating back to the early 900s with old agricultural tools exposed. A real open-air museum with rock formations in the background. From here you can undertake the The River Trail that will take you to the banks of the river, and it Sheep Rock Overlook Trail thanks to which you will reach a raised area from which to admire the entire area below.

    If you want to do a trail more "in theme" with the park, the advice may be to opt for theIsland in Time. It is a 2 km round trip route that goes into the canyon. You will then be surrounded by high rocks of a mixed color between gray, green and blue. Some fossil finds are exhibited in display cases to protect them from atmospheric agents and at the same time allow you to observe them. If you are particularly interested you can also undertake it Story in Stone shorter and, in part, also asphalted.


    This is perhaps the least interesting area compared to the other two (as well as being the smallest). Here the main attraction are the so-called Palisades of the lava stone pinnacles that formed millions of years ago. There are three trails that can be covered, even if they are basically subdivisions of the same path. The Trail of Fossils and Clarno Arch Trail they start along Highway 218, where there is a small parking area at the start of the walks. If you don't find a place to park your car, just head to the picnic area just beyond and take the Geologic Time Trail which will lead you to the beginning of the other two paths.

    Where to sleep in the area

    A good base for visiting these areas could be the city of Redmond about an hour and a half by car from the section of Painted Hills.

    WorldMark Eagle Crest
    • Best Western Plus Rama Inn (2630 SW 17th Place): A relatively new property that makes the Best Western brand its strong point. The rooms are quite spacious and the hotel also offers its guests a large indoor swimming pool and a smaller one with whirlpool.
    • Sleep Inn & Suites Redmond (1847 North Highway 97): this structure is also part of a large hotel chain like the previous one, so it could be a bit impersonal, but those who first of all want to have excellent value for money can rely on it. . Also in this case there is an indoor swimming pool (albeit smaller in size) and the rooms are more spacious than the average of American hotels.
    • WorldMark Eagle Crest (1590 Mountail Quail Drive): This might be an option to consider if you plan to treat yourself and pamper yourself a little. More than the rooms you will have at your disposal real apartments with balcony, obtained in a prestigious structure surrounded by greenery where you can enjoy a relaxing walk or a dip in the (outdoor) swimming pool.
    Best Western Plus Rama Inn
    Sleep Inn & Suites Redmond

    In case these structures are not for you, or you want to have a general idea not only of what the city of Redmond can offer you but also its surroundings, you can click on the link below.

    Look for accommodation in Redmond

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