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For More Information

  • Address for John Day Fossil Beds National Monument: 32651 Highway 19, Kimberly, OR 97848
  • Phone: 541-987-2333
  • Website:
  • This is one of over 390 parks in the National Park System. Visit to learn more


We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessibility to all. For more information, ask a ranger, check at the visitor center, or visit the park website.

Painted Hills Unit

Painted Hills Unit, 9 miles west of Mitchell, Oregon off U.S. 26, has restrooms, shaded picnic tables, exhibits, and trails. Roads in the unit are dirt and gravel.

  • Painted Hills Overlook and Trail: Best seen at sunset—take in spectacular views of color-splashed hummocks and hills, part of the lower John Day formations period. The short trail is one of the park’s most picturesque.
  • Carroll Rim Trail: A moderate climb, this 1.5-mile trail leads to an outstanding overview of the Painted Hills landscape and Sutton Mountain to the east.
  • Leaf Hill Trail: [This trail] is a 0.25-mile loop around a hill where thousands of fossils have been excavated, giving us our first glimpse of the Bridge Creek Flora. Hiking and collecting fossils on Leaf Hill itself are strictly prohibited.
  • Painted Cove Trail: This short trail winds through the yellow, crimson and lavender hills, giving you a close view of the popcorn-textured claystones that distinguish the Painted Hills. Part of the trail is accessible by boardwalk.
  • Red Scar Knoll Trail: This short, 0.25-nile trail ends at a strikingly bisected hill of tan and red claystone.

Description: Painted Hills Unit Map

The shape of this unit is like an irregular triangle that flattens out at the top instead of coming to a point. North is pointing up. Text in the southwest section of the map notes that the “Road ends at [a] locked gate one mile west of the park boundary." The Red Scar Knoll Trail is also in the southwest corner of the unit. Traveling north is the Leaf Hill Trail. Continuing north at the top of the unit is the Painted Cove Trail, which is wheelchair accessible. The road turns at this point going south and traveling in easterly direction. About midway, a trail intersects the road. On the north side is the Carroll Rim Trail. On the south side is the Painted Hills Overlook. Continuing east and on the eastern border of the unit is a picnic area, ranger station, and restrooms. It is wheelchair accessible and drinking water is available from May through September.

Paralleling the eastern border is Bridge Creek Road. To the south are Route 26 and Mitchell. To the north are Burnt Ranch Road, Twickenham Cutoff Road, River access, Priest Hole, and Lower Burnt Ranch Campground (BLM).

The map legend indicates that about one and one-quarter of an inch equals one mile and about three-quarters of an inch equals 1 kilometer.

Description: Painted Hills Photo

Looking down and across an expansive landscape are two distinct sections of a mountainous area.

Across the foreground is a sliver of the ground covered with sage colored, scrub brush dotted with yellow flowering, low growing shrubs. Behind is the first and lower section of the mountain. It is a vibrant beige color. Somewhat evenly-spaced red circles are interspersed around the mountain as it rises. At the top, the red area is like a small cap covering its gently rounded head. The mountain’s second section rises higher and at a steeper angle behind the first section. It switches back to the left. Its underlying color has a green tint. The red sections look like horizontal stripes with some thicker and thinner bands. In the far distance is a mountain range.

While there are some creases and crevices, the mountain has a smooth quality. While steeper in the back, the front section has a gentler upward slope. The circles and stripes look like they were painted on the mountain and have soft edges.

Sheep Rock Unit

Sheep Rock Unit is at the intersection of state route 19 and U.S. 26. The trails and overlook listed below offer interpretive exhibits and restrooms.

Within the Sheep Rock Unit are the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center and the James Cant Ranch, which are covered under their own sections.

  • Foree Area: A picnic site and two short trails, each under 0.5 mile, offer views of sculpted green claystone capped by volcanic flows.
  • Cathedral Rock: This roadside stop highlights a colorful greenish outcrop of the John Day Formation, capped with reddish ignimbrite.
  • Blue Basin: The Island InTime Trail, an easy 1.3-mile walk, leads you into colorful banded badlands layers deposited 28 to 31 million years ago. The 3.25-mile Overlook Trail climbs high to the rim of the basin and rewards you with valley vistas. Off-trail hiking in Blue Basin is strictly prohibited.
  • Goose Rock: These cliffs are made up of material that flowed into the ocean about 90 million years ago.
  • Picture Gorge: These imposing lava layers are part of the Picture Gorge Basalt, a subgroup of the Columbia River flood basalt group spread over the Pacific Northwest.
  • Mascall Formation Overlook: The view from this point takes in the upper John Day Valley, Strawberry Mountain Range, Picture Gorge, and the Mascall and Rattlesnake formations.

Description: Sheep Rock Unit Map

The Sheep Rock Unit has two distinct areas. In the northern area is the Foree area which is a small irregular rectangle. Connected by Route 19, which runs north-south and south of the Foree Area is the James Cant Historic District. This area is also an irregular rectangle, but is larger and longer. To the right of this area on the map is an inset map that provides close-up details of the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center and Visitor Center. The map is orientated with north pointing up.

In the Foree Area, there is a picnic area in between two trail options: 1) the Flood of Fire trail slightly north; and, 2) The Story Stone Trail slightly south.

Route 19 is on the western border of this section of the unit. Route 19, which travels north-south, also parallels the John Day River. Traveling south past the Foree Area is Cathedral Rock. Continuing south is the James Cant Ranch Historic District. The Thomas Condon Paleontology Center and Visitor Center is in this area. At the top northern portion of this section is the Blue Basin area where the Island in Time and Blue Basin Overlook trails are located. Midway between the Blue Basin Area and the visitor center is Goose Rock. Traveling south past the visitor center is Picture Gorge, and closeby is the Mascall Formation Overlook.

The inset map provides close-up details of the paleontology and visitor center area. Slightly north of the visitor center off of Route 19 is the James Cant Ranch. A barn and corrals are in this area along with the Orchard Picnic Area and parking. From the parking lot, the Sheep Rock Trail runs north-south, paralleling Route 19. Further east and closer to the John Day River is the River Trail. From the barn and corrals and/or the parking area, this trail meanders south and east to the river.

The map legend indicates that about one and one-quarter of an inch equals one mile and about three-quarters of an inch equals 1 kilometer.

Description: Sheep Rock Unit Photo

A steep mountain with a point at its uppermost center tip rises underneath a bright blue sky dotted with white clouds in the center of the photo. The mountain’s colors are a mixture of light and medium browns and faded green groundcover and light grey and beige stone.

The groundcover and exposed rock are interspersed through the mountain’s face. Portions of the exposed rock are jagged with deep-cut crevices. Behind it and to the left on the photo is another mountain area. The groundcover covers its rounded top. It also has exposed grey and beige areas of rock. In front of the pointed mountain are foothills covered with variations of brown and faded green groundcover. In front of that in the left foreground is a road which meanders to the right across the photo. On either side of the road are clumps of brighter green grasses interspersed with the other groundcover.

Last updated: June 30, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

32651 Highway 19
Kimberly, OR 97848


(541) 987-2333

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