Just on the imaginary border between Central and Eastern Oregon are the Painted Hills. They are vivid colored rolling hills that pop up randomly amongst the desert landscape that is typically found in this part of the State. If you are looking for a nice Sunday drive with some light hiking, this is a great choice.
There are several trailheads featuring different sections of the Painted Hills. Leaf Hill, Red Hill, Painted Cove, Overlook Trail, and the Carrol Rim Trail. The hardest of the trails is the Carrol Rim. It climbs 400 feet to give you views of the best section, in my opinion, of the Painted Hills.
We decided to skip the first turnout that leads to the Overlook Trail and hit the smaller trails first. They are very short trail that feature neat little locations in the Park. I enjoyed Leaf Hill. There is a display with some vegetation fossils, and when I saw it t I realized that this place has some funky stuff happening. There is more to it than just colored hills. I am not one to read signs, there are many around about the trails giving their explanation of how it all came to exist. I prefer to walk around and enjoy them as they are in the moment and not worry about what did or didn’t happen thirty million years ago.
Once we had visited the smaller sections, we made our way to the overlook trail. This is my favorite spot. The red and gold is very cool. I like how the black creates a nice contrast. Standing there looking at them, I realized I was looking at tye dye in its natural state. If those hills could talk, they would be all about the peace and love and would probably really like my Subaru.
If you are looking for a nice road trip from Central Oregon, give the Painted Hills a try. I would suggest avoiding them in the heat of summer. You would cook on those trails. Make this a Spring or Fall expedition so you can take your time and enjoy the place instead of having your brain bake like cake inside your skull. If you have a small brain, it would be more like a tater tot up inside there. How do you know if you have a tater tot brain? If you ever find yourself on one of the Painted Hills trails in the middle of a heat wave and it’s so unbearable that all you want to do is get back into the air-conditioned car, chances are you got the tater brain. If you do go in the summer time, make sure it is early morning or later in the evening.
The closest amenities to the Painted Hills is a small town, Mitchell Oregon. It’s a nice little spot with a small market. There are a few gift shops to check out. The best part about them are the stories you will hear from the owners.
My favorite moment on this trip was when we were at the Overlook Trail, about 50 feet from the line of Porta-pottys. A dust devil hit them and almost knocked one over and it was headed right for us. Scotty yelled, “We are about to get rocked!”
Instead of running for it, we braced for the impact. Sadly the devil veered right and missed us. It would’ve been a nice contrast to the ‘chill’ feeling of the place, to get rag-dolled by a dust devil. Alas, it was not meant to be.
If you find yourself traveling through Oregon and would like to see a unique place, the Painted Hills will fit the bill. The trails are very short and take just long enough to stretch your legs before you pile in to see the next location.
The Overlook Trail views.
Another Overlook Trail picture
We hiked up above Leaf Hill. You can see it in the bottom right side of this photo.
Overlooking The Cove
The flowers growing in the valley of this hill was a nice Spring treat.
We give the Painted Hills a thumbs up and recommend it as a place to visit in Eastern Oregon.