A painted view in the Painted Hills in John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon. Rainfall from a passing storm brought out the colors of this natural wonder.
After the rain in the Painted Hills of eastern Oregon, the colors stand out in bold contrast. I live an hour and a half away from these strange geological features and patiently wait for the storms of fall to arrive.
The first image shows the view from the road to the Overlook parking area. The hills are located within the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
Though I’ve been here several times, I’d never hiked the 1/2 mile Painted Hills Overlook Trail. The easy trail leads you past this dramatic scene. Wow!
Here’s a closer view.
These hills are on the south side of the trail.
There are four short, easy trails and a more moderate longer trail a short distance away.
This photo shows part of the Painted Cove Trail after the rain.
Here’s another part of that trail. It’s an Instagram-worthy view, but my dog didn’t feel like smiling for the camera that day. 😉
Here’s a view from Red Scar Knoll/Red Hill Trail. The colors are wonderful!
I talk more about the origin of the hills on Painted Hills – An Oregon natural wonder.
Visiting the Painted Hills Unit
Here’s a map of the area that shows the hiking trails. Leaf Hill, Painted Cove, and Red Scar/Red Hill are all 0.25 miles long. Painted Hills Overlook is 0.50 miles and Carroll Rim is 1.6 miles long.
Here are a couple additional points about visiting the Painted Hills.
- This landscape radiates heat so I would not recommend the longer hike on hot summer days.
- Bring plenty of water with you on all hikes.
- Use the restroom in the picnic area. There are no restrooms at the Overlook or at trailheads.
- Cell phone coverage can be spotty.
- Please stay on the trails and leash your dogs. Your tracks will remain for months in this fragile environment.
One more thing to consider…
- If you visit after the rain, you may run into gumbo mud. When it rains here, it’s like the ground turns into a mixture of Superglue and soil. The mud collects on your tires and shoes. See how it stuck to my boots? I scraped some off before getting in the car. At home, I sprayed my boots full blast with a hose and still had to use a stiff brush to get it all off. However, getting pictures of the hills after stormy weather was well worth it!
Steep knife-edged mountains arose from the plains centuries ago. Over time, torrential rains wore them down into rounded hills. Though plants tried to take root on their soil, none survived.
The Wise One summoned the artists of her tribe. She asked them to paint the hills in sacred colors. Pale green colors, from crushed sagebrush leaves and golden rabbitbrush blossoms, and black and red, from sumac trees, filled their brushes. The artisans painted the hills with broad brushstrokes and veiled the skies with delicate dabs of white.
It is easy to see why the Painted Hills are designated as one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders. The Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument , located nine miles northwest of Mitchell, Oregon, is 3,132 acres in size.
If you visit the Painted Hills after rainstorms move through the area, the colors will look more intense from the recent moisture. The colors are striking no matter what season it is. It is like looking at a parfait of luscious layers spread out before you. The deep crimson and black layers at the base of the hills contrast with the sandy browns and golds of upper layers.Continue reading