When I lost my job last year my travels were slightly hindered. I still ventured out, but locally. By the end of September, I became gainfully employed again and decided to celebrate this occasion by taking one last mad dash trip before returning to adult responsibilities.
I had the bare bones of this trip planned for a few years so it was easy to pull it together quickly. I had been dreaming about visiting the Painted Hills in Oregon, taking in the out of the ordinary landscape and learn about the area.
Another bonus to the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument was that the park and all the trails were dog-friendly. So, of course, we loved that!
According to the people in the know, the best time to visit the Painted Hills is just after a rain. The water helps saturate the already vivid colors that make you question whether you have taken a side trip to the planet Mars.
As we drove along the many back road highways we were treated to occasional bursts of colors, found on the hillsides, foreshadowing what we were about to see at the national monument.
Once we arrived at the turnoff for the Painted Hills, we followed the road and stopped at the first of many pullouts. The colors were vivid thanks to the recent rainfall. Although the dogs could not see all the rich colors that I could, they still sniffed around and enjoyed their time running around on the sandy ground. The area reminded me a lot of Boomer’s and my visit to Southern Utah when we visited Grand Staircase Escalate as the landscape was similar and the colors were just as rich and vibrant.
We carried on to the Painted Hills entrance, entering the fee-free area where we were greeted by sweeping hills of color. There is no visitor center at this unit but the park is well outfitted with interruptive signs explaining the area as well as the history.
For the most part, the park is an auto tour with short trail stops along the way. The road forks shortly after entering the park.
Taking the road to the right leads to probably one of the most recognizable spots in the park, Painted Cove Nature Trail. The wooden boardwalk leads you through a deep red sandy dune that loops around the mound. I recommend taking the side trail about halfway through the loop. It leads to the top of the hillside which affords a dynamite overlooking view of the cove as well as a teal blue lake in the distance.
Returning back to the main road and following to the end will drop you off at Red Knob Trail. Once you round the corner of the trailhead you will see where the trail gets its name. It is probably one of the more colorful spots of the park aside from the painted cove area.
The trail leads up to the knob giving an up-close view of the sandy hillside and on the day of our visit, afforded some dramatic cloud photos.
For the most part, the trails at each of the stops are short and easy to navigate. The next stop on the tour was the Painted Hills Overlook spot. Here you will also find a moderate hiking trail, Carroll Rim Trail, that I chose not to partake in. Instead, I opted for the hike to viewpoints of the overlook spot.
I also spent some time taking photos of the dogs in front of the overlook
Jovi is easily motivated with treats. Whereas her friend, Boomer, has spent too many years with me and believes it is best to always look away from the camera.
Although I did finally capture a photo of them looking slightly dorky but still adorable.
Spoken like a true “mother” I guess.
We wrapped up our visit to the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day National Monument with a quick stop at the entrance where there were restrooms, picnic tables, and more interruptive signs.
The Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is located near Mitchell Oregon. Head West on Oregon Highway 26 from Mitchell and turn right (north) onto Burnt Ranch Road. Follow for 6 miles until you reach the entrance on the left.