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John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, OR: Painted Cove

Explore John Day Fossil Beds’ Painted Hills unit on four short hikes, offering both up-close and panoramic views of otherworldly prehistoric volcanic landscapes.

Rating

From the small town of Mitchell, OR, follow signs west, then north, for 9 miles to the John Day Fossil Beds Painted Hills. The many points of interest are found along gravel roads through the area. All four hikes total about three miles; walking the road from point to point instead of driving would add another eight miles. Watch out for rattlesnakes, and consider the temperature – this place gets hot!
Start with the Overlook Trail, a 0.6 mile out-and-back that offers a spectacular view over the colorfully contoured Painted Hills unit. Later day light really illuminates the colors. Near the turnoff for the Overlook Trail, find the Carroll Rim trailhead that hikes 0.8 mile (one-way) up 400′ to a plateau of resistant caprock that rewards with 360º panoramic views over the entire Painted Hills area and John Day River.
Next, follow signs to the Painted Cove and Leaf Hill trails, each 0.25 mile loops. The Painted Cove trail winds around several brilliant red claystone hills, partially on protective boardwalk, then alongside a colorful volcanic ridge. The Leaf Hill trail loops a small hill covered with rock scree displaying a variety of small flora fossils – look closely! A mile from Leaf Hill is an overlook of Red Hill, another brilFrom the small town of Mitchell, OR, follow signs west, then north, for 9 miles to the John Day Fossil Beds Painted Hills. The many points of interest are found along gravel roads through the area. All four hikes total about three miles; walking the road from point to point instead of driving would add another eight miles. Watch out for rattlesnakes, and consider the temperature – this place gets hot!
Start with the Overlook Trail, a 0.6 mile out-and-back that offers a spectacular view over the colorfully contoured Painted Hills unit. Later day light really illuminates the colors. Near the turnoff for the Overlook Trail, find the Carroll Rim trailhead that hikes 0.8 mile (one-way) up 400′ to a plateau of resistant caprock that rewards with 360-degree panoramic views over the entire Painted Hills area and John Day River.
Next, follow signs to the Painted Cove and Leaf Hill trails, each 0.25 mile loops. The Painted Cove trail winds around several brilliant red claystone hills, partially on protective boardwalk, then alongside a colorful volcanic ridge. The Leaf Hill trail loops a small hill covered with rock scree displaying a variety of small flora fossils – look closely! A mile from Leaf Hill is an overlook of Red Hill, another brilliant red claystone hill (no access).
MORE INFO: www.nps.gov/joda/

-Mapped by Eli Boschetto, Bosco Mountain Photo

To Trailhead

From Mitchell, OR: US 26 W 3 miles to Burnt Ranch Rd. N for 5 mi; left at Painted Hills/Bear Creek Rd. Follow signs to points of interest.

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