Day Hike - John Day Fossil Beds National Monument


Day Hike - John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Painted Hills - leisurely hikes, photography. nature enjoyment, and geologic wonders at one of "Oregon's Seven Wonders"

  • Easy/Moderate
  • Moderate
  • Mileage: 5.0 mi

7:00am Painted Hills Overlook (near Mitchell, OR), Saturday & Sunday.   Meet times at Painted Hills Overlook for optional early/late light photography (dawn/sunrise and sunset/dusk): Saturday 6:00am and 4:45pm; Sunday 6:00am.

Directions to Painted Hills Overlook from Mitchell (drive time 20-30 minutes):  Highway 26 west 4 miles, then turn right heading north (between mileposts 62 and 63)  on Bridge Creek Road at a sign for the Painted Hills.   After 5.5 miles, turn left on Bear Creek Road for 1.1 mile, mostly on gravel, and then turn left .2 mile to the Painted Hills Overlook parking area.    Paved road travel from Mitchell to Bear Creek Road. 

NOTE:  AWD or mid-clearance vehicle recommended for travel on Painted Hills gravel/dirt roads in winter - carpooling should be available from Mitchell to Painted Hills.

Short to medium length hikes at Painted Hills viewpoints and trails.  Hoping for light dusting of snow to accent the hills.   Cameras encouraged (lenses from wide angle to med/longer tele) for landscapes, abstract design, and possible wildlife.  

If adverse weather or road conditions at Painted Hills, trip will be rescheduled to March 11-12.  Chance of brief, very light rain or snow precip will not cancel trip.

Recommend  travel map (Pacific NW Rec Map Series) is Lower Deschutes and John Day Rivers, if you have extra time to explore backroads and BLM lands in John Day River country. 

Extended forecast 2/23-26 for Mitchell/Painted Hills area (watch for updates):   partly sunny/partly cloudy, 35-43F day temps (nights mid-20s) with slight chance of  light snow (1" or less/day) evenings and Sunday daytime slight change of light snow or rain .  Snow may accent or dust colorful Painted Hills/gulleys/flats; melting snow or rain will intensify colors. 

Weather forecast link: 

Arrange own camp, hostel or motel accommodations in Mitchell area.   Spoke'n Hostel 541-462-3333.  See Mitchell area info, accommodations and Painted  Hills photos:

Hiking trails for the weekend (up to 5 miles/day):  Overlook Trail, Carrol Rim, Painted Cove, Leaf Hill, and Red Scar Knoll.    If time and interest, we may hike a lower portion of Sutton Mountain trails.  See links below for Painted Hills and Sutton Mountain trail descriptions.

link to trails brochure -

photo links:  ;  ; ;

newspaper article -

sutton mtn trail info follows--                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Sunrise 6:45am; sunset 5:45pm.

SPECIAL NOTE:  Watch for special spring trip featuring the beautiful landscapes, seasonal wildflowers and wildlife of Painted Hills and Sutton Mountain.


John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials

  1. Navigation
  2. Sun protection
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination
  5. First aid supplies
  6. Fire
  7. Repair kit and tools, including knife
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter
Trip Reports