This picture gallery brings to life the extraordinary geological phenomena tucked into a quiet bastion of ranch land at the base of the Ochoco National Forest in Central Oregon. My recent day-trip from Redmond, Oregon provided near-perfect weather conditions that inspired the following collection of Painted Hills Oregon photos.
If you’re interested in more details about how to plan an amazing day-trip here, read my article Painted Hills Oregon — everything you need to know to explore. Featured at the bottom of this photo gallery, I’ve provided a detailed map complete with all the locations of these photos as well as key places in and around the three Units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
By the way, if you have a bit more time, the entire driving loop of all three Units of the John Day Fossil Beds makes for a scenic geological experience. Check out my article, John Day Fossil Beds — the best 3-day itinerary, for all the helpful details, including an interactive map and downloadable checklists.
Red Scar Knoll / Red Hill Trail
At the end of the three-mile gravel road is a giant anthill-looking formation bursting with shades of red — swirls of yellow spiraling into the cone. An easy hike takes us to a viewpoint overlooking a landscape more apt to be on Mars.
Leaf Hill Trail
This more understated loop has a lot of historical significance — 30,000 fossils from over 30 million years ago were discovered here. Although most of them are no longer distributed amongst the white pieces of shale, the scenery inspired an Indiana Jones feeling of geological exploration.
Painted Cove Trail
Most Painted Hills Oregon photos include some form of photo taken here — on an iconic boardwalk. The crevices of bright red material offer voluptuous rolling folds of earth that feels like giant hunks of coral, shining beneath the sun.
Carroll Rim Trail — Painted Hills, Oregon photos
The work climbing up the 400 feet of elevation was worth it for panoramic views of the entire valley. The perspective really helped get a better feel for the scale of this geological wonder amongst farmland, a canyon ridge and the foothills of the Ochoco National Forest.
Painted Hills Overlook Trail — inspiring sunset photos
The grand finale of this inspiring afternoon involved the final moments of a beautiful April day from a viewpoint glancing through the striking Painted Hills Ridge. Sunset is a popular time for visitors to roll in on the gravel road, and for good reason. The light hit the reds, yellows and blacks in a way that felt like spirits of millions of years of history dancing through the canyon.
Want to visit the Painted Hills? Check out my article with all the details for a great day-trip itinerary and more.
Map of the Painted Hills, Oregon
The map below covers the entire region of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument — including the Painted Hills. Food and beverage locations, including stores, are shown in red. Blue refers to lodging options. Purple markers highlight museums, shopping or other indoor points of interest. The green markers guide you to trailheads and outdoor things to do.