What Is It?
Rainbow stripes ripple across the landscape at the Painted Hills in Eastern Oregon, showcasing eons of geologic history.
The stripes in the Painted Hills are caused by a variety of minerals, mixed in different amounts as the landscape formed. The hills are best lit by the late afternoon sun. Moreover, moisture levels in the air can change the hills’ hues, and spring flowers or winter snow can add additional contrast.
Three Parks, One Trip
The Painted Hills are just one part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, along with Clarno and Sheep Rock. The Clarno Unit is home to tall pillars formed by ancient volcanic mudslides, and visitors can see fossils embedded within the columns from the trail. Sheep Rock is home to the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, where visitors can see a collection of fossils.
Byway or the Highway
When visiting the John Day Fossil Beds, consider making it a road trip along Oregon’s Journey Through Time Scenic Byway. The byway is nearly 290 miles long, beginning along the Columbia River in Biggs. It travels south, taking you through the fossil bed, eventually turning east and driving through the Blue Mountains before reaching Baker City.
The John Day Fossil Beds do not require a pass, unlike many National Parks Service sites. To start planning your trip, call 541-987-2333 or visit www.nps.gov/joda.