• Amy Hindman

John Day Fossil Beds Painted Hills Hiking

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 1/4 mile- 1.5 mile depending on the hike

Season: All Year

Location: John Day Fossil Beds

Notes: Vault toilets are available. Bring your own drinking water.


*Thank you to Claire Conklin of Baker City for contributing the information for this post.


The Painted Hills Unit in the John Day Fossil Beds is the most visited and features stunning views of the striped hills and fossils from 30 million years ago.


Choose from 5 family-friendly trails in the area ranging form .25-1.6 miles.

A brief summary of the available trails is below. Read more at the National Park Service website.

The Carroll Rim Trail is 1.6 miles / 2.6 km roundtrip. The trail climbs over 400 feet (120 m) of elevation to a panorama view of the Painted Hills. Overflow parking is available at the Painted Hills Overlook.


The Painted Hills Overlook Trail is 0.5 mile / 0.8 km roundtrip. This fairly level trail follows an old road and offers further distinctive views of the Painted Hills.


The Painted Cove Trail is 0.25 mile / 0.4 km roundtrip. The Painted Cove is an amazing color palette of vibrant rocks. A portion of this trail features a level boardwalk to cross over sensitive soils.


The Leaf Hill Trail is 0.25 mile / 0.4 km roundtrip. Leaf Hill has been extensively excavated and studied by paleontologists. Interpretive signs along the trail explain more of its history.


The Red Scar Knoll Trail is 0.25 mile / 0.4 km roundtrip. This mostly level trail leads to a hill of bright yellow and red clays. This trailhead is called Red Hill on the road signs.



Getting There: The Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds is 9 miles NW of Mitchell, Oregon approximately 3 hours from Baker City.

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