June 29, 2019 by Deborah W. Trotter
In all of my many visits to Oregon as a child and as an adult, I had never visited John Day Fossil Beds National Monument until last week. The three units of the monument are separated by quite a few driving miles, and all of them are pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. Traveling from west of Sisters, OR, which is west of Redmond, OR, we chose to see the closest unit, The Painted Hills, near the tiny community of Mitchell on Highway 26.
We were not disappointed with our decision. The colors of the rocks were intense, with an obvious permanence that somehow felt spontaneous at the same time. Unexpectedly, there were also plentiful wildflowers still blooming throughout the monument, adding soft, transitory color to the enduring landscape.
A dusty, gravel road winds around the Painted Hills, so you can see the sights from the comfort of your car. There are also several short trails that take you to higher viewpoints or into the hills a short distance. We chose the Painted Hills Overlook Trail, an easy half mile round trip, despite the warm day. The views were spectacular, the sky a heavy blue ceiling, the overall feeling one of occupying an artist’s giant paint palette.