Plan Your Visit

A woman holds up a paper map of Oregon to orient her location.
Since it is difficult to visit all three units in one day, it is best to plan out a route and overnight accommodations ahead of your trip. Visit our Maps page for more information.

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One Park, Three Units

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument consists of three units: Sheep Rock, Painted Hills, and Clarno. These three locations are dispersed through east-central Oregon. Because of the winding roads, visiting all three units is difficult to do in a single day, but is possible with an early start. The amount of time available and your route of travel taken are often the determining factors on which units you're able to visit.

Distances & Drive Time Between Units

Sheep Rock to Painted Hills - 45 miles (1 hour)
Painted Hills Unit to Clarno Unit - 75 miles (1.5 hours)
Clarno Unit to Sheep Rock Unit - 81 miles (2 hours)
 

Plan Your Visit to John Day Fossil Beds

Duration of Visit Recommended for Everyone Low-Energy Activities High-Energy Activities Additional Information
Half a day or less (Just passing through, not staying overnight)
  • Clarno Unit: Enjoy the Clarno Palisades and hike the Trail of Fossils to see fossils in their original locations
  • Walk the Trail of Fossils
  • Walk the Arch Trail
  • If you're unable to watch our 20-minute park film, it's viewable here.
  • Painted Hills Unit: Stop at the Painted Hills Overlook trails for some photogenic scenery
  • Walk all or part of the Painted Hills Overlook Trail and the Painted Cove Trail
  • Walk the Carroll Rim Trail
  • Drive up to Mascall Formation Overlook
  • Walk the Thomas Condon Overlook Trail or Sheep Rock Overlook Trail
  • Hike the Story in Stone and/or Flood of Fire Trails in Foree
  • Hike part or all of the Island in Time Trail in Blue Basin
Full day, or part of second day (Staying one night)
  • For visitors traveling East/West on HWY 26 to/from Bend, OR or Boise, ID: Sheep Rock Unit and Painted Hills Unit
  • For visitors traveling North/South from I-84 to/from Portland, OR and HWY 395 to/from Burns, OR: Sheep Rock Unit and Clarno Unit
  • For visitors traveling to/from Bend, OR or Portland, OR along I-84 and HWY 19 and HWY 207: Clarno Unit and Painted Hills Unit
  • Hike the Geologic Time Trail and Trail of Fossils
  • Hike all three trails: Geologic Time Trail, Trail of Fossils, and Arch Trail
  • Drives between units are between 1-2 hours long, depending on which two you visit. Your travel route can help determine which two are best for your visit. This also goes for camping and lodging.
  • Hike the Painted Cove Trail, Leaf Hill Trail, and/or Red Hill Trail
  • Hike most/all of the trails
  • Have a picnic at the picnic area near the unit entrance
  • Hike the trails in Foree and Blue Basin
  • Become a Junior Ranger or Junior Paleontologist
Two or more full days (Staying at least one or two nights)
  • This is the ideal amount of time to visit all three units! You'll have the chance to take your time hiking the trails, enjoy some picnicking spots at various shady spots in each unit, and even take some photos in designated pull-out spots along the scenic highways between units.
 
Clarno is the best place for fossils in situ.

Clarno Unit

The Clarno Unit has the oldest exposed layers of the park, and the only unit with fossils along the trail. Remember, no collecting fossils.

Painted Hills Unit consists of fossilized soils from wet forests no longer found in eastern Oregon.

Painted Hills Unit

The colorful stripes and gentle ripples of the Painted Hills makes it one of the most popular destinations in the park.

Eroded claystone reveals the past with blue, tan, pink, and brown rock layers.

Sheep Rock Unit

Home to the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center and the Cant Ranch Museum, the Sheep Rock Unit also has many trails and scenic views.

 
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    Last updated: July 29, 2022

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    32651 Highway 19
    Kimberly , OR 97848

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    541 987-2333

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