Photograph the Painted Hills

John Day Fossil Beds - Painted Hills Unit - Search Nearby - Added by Lorene Voskinarian

Otherworld landscape of the Painted Hills, dramatic panoramic views, easy access from Rt 26

The Painted HIlls is the most dramatic of the three units that make up John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Any trip to Eastern Oregon via Rt 26 requires a stop at the Painted HIlls to take in the unique landscape.

John Day Fossil Beds are fee-free and as you enter you will see an area with bathrooms, picnic tables, and water fountains. This is the only place to find them, so stop there first if you need to make use of the facilities. Otherwise proceed along Bear Creek Road until you see a parking area on your left. This is the Painted Hills Overlook. A pathway runs from the parking area up the hill, giving you different vantages to admire the scenery. Keep to the paths as there is tender vegetation and footprints can damage the Painted HIlls.

The best time to photograph the Painted Hills is after it's rained or at sunset, which brings out the colors. Sunset,the more predictable option, can be crowded but worthwhile. Take time to photograph the Painted Hills from different areas along the Overlook Trail as well as the hillside behind you. A wide angle lens comes in handy when trying to capture the hills.

Lodging: After a sunset shoot, you'll probably be looking for a place to stay that night. Camping and lodging in this area can be pretty limited, and you are not allowed to camp anywhere within John Day Fossil Bed Monument. The closest town, Mitchell, allows campers in it's town park for a small fee. Another close option with more privacy is Ochoco Divide Campground in the Ochoco National Forest. This campground has no running water so be sure to bring your own.

Activities

Photography

Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Picnic Area
Scenic
Wildflowers

Nearby Lodging

Redmond / Central Oregon KOA

2435 Southwest Jericho Lane

From $120/night

LOGE Bend

Bend, Oregon

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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Go on a sunny day!

The hills are beautiful, but I couldn't help but think how stunning they'd be beneath the sun. We went on a cloudy day, it was the only chance we had while in Oregon and I had to really edit my photographs to bring out the color.

Go in winter

If you're looking to capture the Painted Hills a bit differently, try going in winter. The low-angle light and colder temperatures provide a slightly different effect, and very occasionally the hills will actually get a soft covering of snow. Also, there's less people around in winter (although it is still a popular destination).

This area was much smaller than I expected, but it's still a beautiful spot. Due to its limited size, there are not a lot of options for original compositions but it's definitely still worth photographing; a long lens usually rewards the best compositions.

Tours

  • Starting at $2,450/person

    Cascadian Journeys

    Tour Oregon's Canyons, Fossil Beds, Mountains, Desert, and Hot Springs

    Oregon, United States - 4 days

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