If you’re in/around the Pacific Northwest, or maybe Idaho, and you need one last adventure before the weather really starts changing, then might I present: The Painted Hills. It’s one of three “units” in the John Day Fossil Beds, and completely worth the trip!
Am I right?? You can watch the video of our trek HERE!
I’ll be honest, as we were driving to the “Hills” from our cabin rental in the Redmond area, I was confused as to where in the world these magical hills could be?! We (Ben) drove for over an hour before we even made the turn into the monument and there still weren’t any colorful hills to be seen. And. Then.
We rounded a bend like any other and BOOM! We passed the picnic area and bathrooms and headed straight for the trails. First stop: Carroll Rim Trail.
It was a .75 mile trip UP. And the view was stunning! We only saw a handful of folks on the trail at 10am on a Saturday, and I don’t imagine it gets much more crowded. If visitors want an up close and personal view of the hills, they could take the “Painted Hills Overlook Trail” (a half mile–round trip–gravel path). We also took that trail, and got some great shots of the striations. Beautiful.
We didn’t want to waste the fact that it took SO LONG to get out to the Painted Hills, so we kept going! Another short trail was the “Leaf Hill Trail.” This one had a few interpretive signs and gave me an extra appreciation for paleontologists. My big takeaway though was the thought that our Park Service should really be capitalizing on all of the juniper trees in the area and make National Park Service gin. I may have also had this thought in Yellowstone. It seems to be a trend.
Our last stop on the trails was the “Painted Cove,” where some of the trail is actually a boardwalk. Seeing the contrasting colors so close was impressive. On this trail signs will tell you the story of why the hills are different colors. Spoiler alert: they’re rusting!!
Post hikes–yes, plural!–we had lunch in the aforementioned picnic area, where there were plenty of tables and shade. Kudos to this NPS team for also keeping some of the BEST public bathrooms I’ve been to in a while!
Happy Hiking, friends!