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Geological Wonder: The Painted Hills

Hike through one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon

by The Bulletin Special Projects

Getting There

From Redmond take OR-126 east to Prineville; from Bend you can reach Prineville by turning onto Powell Butte Road off of US-20 on the east side of town. In Prineville merge onto US-26 and follow toward Mitchell. Watch for Bridge Creek Road/Burnt Ranch Road on your left — this is the winding country road that will take you to your destination. The Painted HIlls is one of three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The John Day River itself can be accessed about 10 miles beyond the Painted Hills, with additional hiking options along its banks.

One of the most beautiful and unusual sites in Central Oregon is the Painted Hills, located near Mitchell, about 75 miles east of Bend. One of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, these hills are spectacular in the wide range of colors they project, and will appeal to both the scenic- and scientific-minded. The hills display layers of different colors — greens, yellows, golds and reds with streaks of grey and black. The area of clay-rich mounds was shaped many millennia ago by various volcanic eruptions and changing climate patterns.

In the early mornings and late afternoons the view will take your breath away. April and May are typically the best months to visit, when the wildflowers are in bloom and add even more contrast and color to the scene. Rainstorms intensify the color patterns, which also shift as the lighting changes throughout the day.

Various trails lead through a range of short hikes where the view changes depending on the route. Some hikes lead deeper into the hills for a close-up and personal vantage point while others lead to ridgetops where you will capture a sweeping panoramic view.

The site also features outdoor exhibits and a picnic area, making it perfect for a full-day adventure.

This story originally appeared in the spring 2017 edition of Ageless Magazine. For the complete edition click here.

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