: Named for the delicate layers of reds, yellows, golds and blacks in its soil, the Painted Hills is one of the three units that make up the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. (Photo credit: Chantal Anderson)

7 Wonders of Oregon: Painted Hills

February 24, 2015 (Updated July 22, 2016)

When you travel to the Painted Hills, you can see millions of years of history revealed in the layers of mountains of earth, one color at a time. A journey to the hills is a journey through ancient and recent history; here’s how to see this wonder for yourself:

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Painted Hills: Named for the delicate layers of reds, yellows, golds and blacks in its soil, the Painted Hills is one of the three units that make up the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Seeing the hills makes you feel a bit like you’ve stepped onto another planet, though you’re actually taking a peek into our own earth’s history. The sunset hues of the hills are ever-changing with moisture and light levels, making each visit to them different.

Thomas Condon Paleontology Center: Scientists study 50 million years of plant and animal evolution and a collection of 40,000 fossils here, and you can learn how early cousins of elephants and sabertooth tigers roamed Eastern Oregon.

Journey Through Time Scenic Byway: Take a journey through history on this scenic byway, which meanders through ghost towns, past farms and along the beautiful John Day River. Plan a stop at the Sherman County Museum in Moro and to take a peek into Oregon pioneer life at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

Kam Wah Chung Museum: If you’re interested in Oregon history, plan to stop at the site of this mid-1800s general store and herbal medicine shop that operated when Chinese laborers worked in the region. Chinese businessman Lung On and herbal doctor Ing Hay worked out of this building, and the museum contains well-preserved artifacts of this time period.

Little Pine Cafe: Fuel up for a day of exploring at this café in nearby Mitchell, where they make their pancake batter with ice cream and boast some of the best burgers you’ll find anywhere in Oregon.

About The
Author

Emily Forsha
Emily Forsha is Travel Oregon’s Content & Community Manager. When she’s not road tripping around the state with her husband and two young boys, this proud native Oregonian is cooking up new recipes in her kitchen, sampling the latest craft brews and cheering on her beloved Oregon Ducks.

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Painted Hills
Thomas Condon Paleontology Center – Sheep Rock Unit
Little Pine Cafe