Painted Hills – Mitchell, Oregon - Atlas Obscura
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Mitchell, Oregon

Painted Hills

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

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

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