Visit the Painted Hills & John Day Fossil Beds
Explore one of the most geologically diverse and scenic places in Oregon, known for its vibrant colors, otherworldly landscapes and beautiful blue skies. The area offers something for everyone to do including hiking, photography, bird watching, cycling, digging for fossils or just disconnecting for a while. Comprised of three units: The Painted Hills, Sheep Rock and Clarno, plus the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center and the beautiful surrounding area.
The Painted Hills
One of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, the Painted Hills are the most visited unit of the Fossil Beds and are famous for their stunning colors created by different geological eras. The most vibrant and saturated colors are seen after a rainfall, and the late afternoon sun makes the rolling hills look golden. In the morning, the light highlights different areas and makes for a unique experience, particularly for photography images.
The Sheep Rock Unit
The Sheep Rock Unit has several stops (Blue Basin, Cathedral Rock, Foree & the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center) all marked by diverse features and beautiful hikes. You can also continue driving on Highway 19, part of the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway, and stop and pick fresh, seasonal fruit in at Thomas Orchards in Kimberly.
The Clarno Unit
The Clarno Unit is about an hour and a half northwest of Mitchell, Oregon past the town of Fossil. It is marked by jagged peaks and unique rock formations. While visiting, you can dig for fossils in of Fossil and stop at an old, ghost town, Shaniko.
Where should I stay when visiting the John Day Fossil Beds?
Mitchell, the Gateway to the Painted Hills, is the perfect place to stay when exploring the the area as it is the most central location for lodging to easily visit all three units of the Fossil Beds, and is the closest city to the Painted Hills. It is surrounded by beautiful landscapes with unique and varied scenery and is also central to the Ochoco National Forest and John Day River.