The Painted Hills are one of three units comprising John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. They are the biggest of all the immediate area attractions. To describe them as scenic would be a major understatement. The hilly region northwest of the town of Mitchell, and more than seventy miles east of the recreational haven of Bend, the Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Beds are simply exquisite. The name stems from the vibrantly colored hills, created by layer upon layer of matter throughout an array of geological periods. Black, yellow, red, and gold colored soil is illuminated best in the afternoon when the sun shines in ideal intensity. The colors change from day to day under differing moisture levels and distinct light patterns.
Renowned for fascinating, ancient wildlife fossils and rich, diverse plant matter, the Painted Hills offer a look back into a time roughly 50 million years. Fossils of ancient mammals such as horses, bear-dogs, and rhinoceros have been found throughout the park during many excavation events that have determined the park’s bounty. Severe climate change has been evidenced through the fossils and it’s these changes that has dramatically chiseled the landscape in and around the Painted Hills in John Day Fossil Beds National Monument over an incredibly long period of time.
The Painted Hills in Oregon are open throughout the year, but the hottest time to visit is mid-summer, when temperatures can rise over ninety degrees Fahrenheit. The vast, arid expanse gets downright steamy in the summer so prepare well with hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, and plenty of water. The spring is one of the best times to head to the Painted Hills in John Day Fossil Beds Park. The wildflowers, in full bloom during spring, present a complementary scene alongside the kaleidoscopic hills. Spring is also a great time to enjoy the vast network of hiking trails that abound in the immediate area. Visiting the picnic area and several outdoor geological exhibits are additional things to do.