Painted Hills Oregon – The Best Hiking Trails in 2021

Painted Hills is a spectacular view located in the city known for its breath-taking, beautiful parks, hills, and valleys. Painted hills actually give you a vibe of hills painted as a landscape drawing. With the beautiful colors, with layers under layers of unique, aesthetic shades, painted hills are a great tourist attraction and totally worth seeing!

This landscape of painted hills was formed on its own, nearly thirty-five million years ago. The soil of this region keeps changing its patterns and colors in accordance with the climate changes, emerging unrealistic views as a result.

In case you’re wondering “What causes the Painted Hills in Oregon?”, here’s the answer. These unique colors in the painted hills are the result of ancient eruptions that formed volcanic ash layers, that once covered the area as a river flat. As a result of this process, the layers of different mineral ash compacted over time and solidified to form the color bands visible today.

Painted Hills Oregon Camping

A fun fact about the painted hills is that you can also camp there. There are several parks around the region where you can camp for free. Also, there are proper campgrounds nearby, with restrooms, which are a great option for a great camping experience in painted hills.

Painted Hills Oregon Camping

Red Hill Dispersed Camping

This area within the painted hills offers free camping to visitors. This area is an amazing one for camping, with the beautiful views of the John Day River. Many people enjoy camping near the bank of this river for very pleasant weather and beautiful sight.

Clyde Holiday Park

Clyde Holiday park is also located near the John Day River in painted hills. This is a campground with beautiful greenery, restrooms, and views of flowing water. This site, however, is not free of cost. You’ll have to pay for camping in Clyde Holiday Park.

Other than the Red Hill and Clyde Holiday Park, there are other options too; such as Mitchel City Park and Ochoco Divide.

How do I get to the Painted Hills?

An easy way to reach the Painted Hills is, follow these steps:

  • Take Highway 97 North.
  • Drive East on Highway 26 in the direction of Mitchell.
  • Take about an hour’s drive through Ochoco National Forest and then seek out signs for Painted Hills & Burnt Ranch Road.
  • Then on the Burnt Ranch Road, turn left.
  • Colorful hills would be seen only a few miles down further.

Hiking in Painted Hills, Oregon

If it’s about one thing that the Painted Hills are known for, that would be the hiking trails. There are a number of spots at Painted Hills where the tourists love to hike. Although the tourists are not allowed to hike all over the painted hills, there are many trails specified for hiking for the hikers.

Are Painted Hills worth it?

Definitely yes! The spectacular landscape views of the painted hills are worth seeing. The amazing hiking trails, the unique color combos of the hill soil, John Day River alongside the hills, and several camping areas make the Painted Hills a must-visit whenever you’re in Oregon.

Further in this article, we’re going to discover the best hiking spots in Painted Hills, Oregon.

Painted Hills – The Best Hiking Trails

Painted Hills – The Best Hiking Trails

Painted Hills, for their amazingly artistic views, are known to be “One of the Seven Wonders of Oregon”. The hiking trails in Painted Hills are not exceptionally challenging. These trails are mostly short and easy to hike as compared to the many other famous hiking trails in the world. But surely, these trails show you an insight into the beauty of painted hills.

Here are the twelve hiking trails in Painted Hills.

  1. Carroll Rim Trail
  2. Painted Cove Trail
  3. Leaf Hill Trail
  4. Sutton Mountain/ Sutton Mountain Summit
  5. James Cantt Ranch
  6. Black Canyon
  7. Painted Hills Overlook Trail
  8. Red Scar Knoll Trail
  9. Sheep Rock Unit
  10. Sheep Rock Overlook Trail
  11. Blue Basin

1. Carroll Rim Trail

The hike of Carroll Rim Trail is 1.6 miles round trip. This is the longest hiking trail of the Painted Hills Unit but isn’t a difficult one to hike. The top point of this trail is at a height of 400 feet and shows the spectacular views of Painted hills once you reach the top.

2. Painted Cove Trail

It is a shorter hiking trail of about 0.25 miles. You can easily hike there as the road is not difficult. From its beginning, the trail traverses several red hills on a boardwalk, which are definitely a treat to look at. This area offers the best views of Painted Hill that are possible up close.

3. Leaf Hill Trail

The Leaf Hull Trail is also a comparatively shorter trail, 0.25 miles long with an easy walk along. This area, long ago, was a forest that somehow, no longer remained and the fossil fuels of leaves were found. Hence, the trail was named “Leaf Hill”.

4. Sutton Mountain/ Sutton Mountain Summit

Located east of the Painted Hills, Sutton Mountain is part of a 28,872-acre wilderness study area. The hike begins at the trailhead and winds its way up the mountain along an old road through juniper and sagebrush woodlands. Since this trail doesn’t offer much shade (or water sources), it’s best to avoid it during hot summer days.

Sutton Mountain Sutton Mountain Summit

5. James Cantt Ranch

James Cantt Ranch is a 0.5 miles hike area nearby the Paleontology center. It is a great picnic spot and a historic home and museum as well. This ranch has its history extended back to 1910 when a couple of Scottish immigrants settled here and got their own ranch established.

6. Black Canyon

It is a moderately trafficked 6.1-kilometer loop trail near Dayville, Oregon. You can find waterfalls, streams, and steep grassy hills leading right to Sutton Peak as well as offshoots of the main canyon. This trail, however, is a moderately difficult one.

7. Painted Hills Overlook Trail

A trail offering expansive views of the Painted Hills extends 0.5 miles along the Painted Hills Overlook Trail. Wide and relatively level, the trail is the perfect place for hikers of any level and all ages. There can be a lot of traffic on this trail during peak seasons and weekends, as it is the most popular within the park.

8. Red Scar Knoll Trail

Red Scar Trail is also known as the Red Hills Trail. A distinctive feature of the Red Scar Knoll trail is its isolation in a sea of ordinary and plain hills. There is literally no other hill of this type in its immediate surroundings. There are very few people visiting this Painted Hills Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument since it lies at the farthest end.

9. Sheep Rock Unit

Sheep Rock Unit features seven hiking trails ranging in length from 0.25 miles to 3.25 miles. In addition to its headquarters (the Cantt Ranch home), the Sheep Rock Unit also has a visitor center near the peak bearing the same name. Aside from the visitor’s center, Sheep Rock is home to multiple excellent hikes and a museum.

Painted Hills – Sheep Rock Unit

10. Sheep Rock Overlook Trail

The trail begins at the front gate of the historic Cantt home and ends in an overlook with views of the river valley with Sheep Rock tall above. The trail is about 0.5 miles round-trip.

11. Blue Basin

Blue Basin is basically the main hiking trail in the Sheep Rock Unit. It is a 0.8 miles long trail and shows some of the best views of the painted hills.

There are two trails at the trailhead: the more challenging Blue Basin Overlook Trail which is 4 miles round-trip, with a height of 800 feet, and the easier Island in Time Trail which is 1.3 miles in length and 220 feet in height.

Conclusion

Oregon, Portland is definitely known for some of the most famous tourist attractions and amazing parks. Painted Hills are definitely a view to be seen. If you’re planning on a trip to Oregon, Painted Hills is a must-visit. Or, if you live in Oregon and haven’t visited the place yet, you’re missing out on something worth seeing.

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