The Painted Hills are considered one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon. I had seen so many pictures I finally decided to pack my family in the car and check it out. Now these are not easily accessible and are they are pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, but we made our way there regardless.
The best route to get there from Portland would be to go over Mt. Hood. We were at the Sara Bareilles concert at the Edgefield in Troutdale, so we left the concert that night and made our way to The Dalles to spend the night. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn and Suites. Since this is so close to home, normally there is no reason to even look for a place to stay in The Dalles, so I was surprised that we found a hotel that was so nice. Service was really good, they got us everything we needed to make our stay perfect. I loved the modern look of the place too, and it was just as clean in the rooms as it was in the lobby. Even breakfast was good. Great selection including make your own waffles. It was also nice that we were just a little over 2 hours away from The Painted Hills outside of Mitchell, Oregon.
The next morning with our whole day ahead of us we started off to beat the heat. We made our way to Fossil when we decided we needed a coffee break. We found a great little coffee shop and some very eager locals who grabbed a map and showed us the shortest route to the Painted Hills. We did take off quite a bit of time (from how our GPS was telling us to go), but we also made our way through small winding roads with lots of cattle crossing and cows along the roads. It was very clear that we were in Eastern Oregon.
We finally came to the park and stopped first at the rest area to grab a quick bite at the picnic area and use the restroom. I love that in this very desolate area they have provided a nice place to stop. Also you will find an information board here with a map of the “hikes” that can be done at the Painted Hills. I say “hikes” because the longest one is 1/2 mile.
We drove to the first lookout and saw the first of the painted hills. From there we drove to 4 other trails. Each trail was either 1/4 mile or 1/2 mile. One had a boardwalk on it, which I liked because you could really see up close what these looked like. Just hard, colored clay. The trail heads were not super close to each other. I suppose if you wanted to really get in some walking you could walk to those, but you will be dealing with cars driving on dusty gravel roads, so I would not not recommend that. Plus remember, this is rattlesnake country so keep your eyes open.
What we Discovered:
- Most pictures you see on the internet and Pinterest of the Painted Hills are very edited. As we looked out we realized that they weren’t as vibrant as the pics we had seen. I have read that if you go, make sure you go later in the day as more colors present themselves with the setting sun. Maybe we just went at the wrong time of day. I don’t want to tell you not to go, I just want you to know what exactly you will find when you get there because it’s not easily accessible.
- Like I said previously all the trails were very short. I did love that one was wheel chair accessible with the boardwalk.
- There really is nothing else to do here in the area. The little towns nearby do have some quaintness to them, and it’s fun to see them.
- The Painted Hills are 1 of 3 units of the John Day Fossil Beds. We did not go on to the Sheep Rock Unit, which we heard had a visitor center and was highly suggested by our eager local (it was an hour away from the Painted Hills) and we also did not go to the Clarno Unit.
- Many people that drive through just love the area and love the drive and can’t get enough of it. I grew up in Eastern Oregon and saw dirt roads, cows on the roads, cattle crossings and hills covered with nothing but sagebrush often. If you are from the city and you like to get out and not be around crowds, this is the place for you.
Has anyone else ever been? What are you thoughts?