Painted Hills – Mitchell, Oregon - Atlas Obscura

Painted Hills

Oregon's unexpected high desert, displaying layers of time in a colorful show.  


An unusual partnering of a brutal high-desert climate and a gentler lowland environment creates the setting for one of the most scenic landscapes in Oregon.

What was once an ancient floodplain is now a colorful, multi-layered landscape that reveals details of past geological eras and mirrors the textbook drawings of scored hillsides. Bands of black, grey, and red flow across mounds of land that look even more striking when wet with rains. The 3,132 acres are part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. With an abundance of early rhino, horse, and camel fossils, it’s a treasure trove for paleontologists, an inspiration to artists in search of a natural subject, and a wonder for naturalists seeking an unusual display of beauty.

Know Before You Go

Turn north to Burnt Ranch Road from Route 26 in Oregon, and it is impossible to miss the Painted Hills.

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