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Cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to do in beautiful places

Painted Hills

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  • Named one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon
  • A separate unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
  • The incredible colors represent various layers of the earth

When To Visit: Year-round

Climate: Dry and hot in summer, dry and warm in spring & fall, cool with some snow in winter

Location: Central Oregon 2 hours northeast of Bend

Located in a remote area of Oregon, the Painted Hills are one of those natural wonders that would be flooded without tourists if it was closer to a major city – luckily, it’s not! These unique hills are a rare demonstration of geologic history that you should definitely add to your bucket list.

Photo: Painted Hills Overlook Trail

What To See & Do in in the Painted Hills

The Painted Hills Unit is a very compact area that only takes a few hours to explore.

Painted Hills Walks

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Painted Cove Trail
  1. Painted Hills Overlook Trail
    • 0.5 miles round trip, out & back, 100 foot elevation gain, 15-30 minutes, easy
    • The most close-up views of the hills
    • You can’t leave the park without doing this walk
  2. Painted Cove Trail
    • 0.2 mile loop, no elevation gain, 15-20 minutes, easy
    • A pleasant stroll through some very colorful rocks and ground
  3. Red Scar Knoll Trail
    • 0.2 miles round trip, out & back, no elevation gain, 15-20 minutes, easy
    • See a different corner of the park with striking red and yellow clay hills
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Red Scar Knoll Trail

Painted Hills Hikes

There is only one hike of significant length in the park.

  • Carroll Rim Trail

    • 1.6 miles round trip, out & back, 400 foot elevation gain, 30 minutes- 1 hour, moderately strenuous
    • A great panoramic view of the entire Painted Hills and vicinity, including majestic mountains and peaceful farmland
    • See the Painted Hills from another perspective
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Painted Hills from Carroll Rim Trail

Where To Stay & Eat in the Painted Hills

There are picnic areas in the park and the town of Mitchell just outside of it has simple grocery stores and restaurants.

There is no camping permitted in the park, but there are five nearby campgrounds. Click here and search for Mitchell, Oregon, to reserve a campsite.

There are two hotels (The Oregon Hotel and Skyhook Motel) with private rooms and hostel-style shared rooms just outside the park in the town of Mitchell. There are many more hotel options in the city of Prineville a little over an hour away or you can just stay in Bend 2 hours southeast.

Nearby Side Trips from the Painted Hills

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Crater Lake National Park

Bend: 2 hours southeast, Oregon’s most popular resort city (with endless winter sports, golfing, hiking, and more), Bend is situated in high desert on the beautiful Deschutes River below the Cascade Mountains. Read more.

Smith Rock State Park: This dramatic state park 2 hours away has sharply carved river canyons and rock formations. Read more.

Cascade Lakes: The Cascade Lakes Highway begins in Bend (2 hours from Painted Hills) and takes you by 14 beautiful lakes which feature scenic mountain views and plenty of opportunities for boating and hiking. Read more.

Crater Lake National Park: The deepest lake in the U.S., Crater Lake (3.5 hours southeast of Painted Hills) was formed when a volcano exploded and left a giant crater. There are plenty of hikes with great perspectives of the lake and you can even take a boat to its iconic Wizard Island. Read more.

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