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Author Topic: Painted Hills, Oregon  (Read 4414 times)
2jbourret
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« on: March 18, 2011, 02:41:18 PM »
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Can anyone provide any suggestions for a visit to Painted Hills, central Oregon? I'll be driving from Portland to Boise around April 1-2 and would make the detour if it's a good time to go.

Time of day?
Places to stay?
Condition of roads?
Other worthwhile spots to look at?

Thanks,
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jdemott
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« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2011, 04:57:02 PM »
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It sounds like your best route is to take US 26 all the way from Portland to the Idaho border and skip the freeway.  That is all good road and generally well maintained, and it is very scenic.  (Of course parts of the freeway drive are also quite scenic and very different from US 26.)

I'd say late afternoon, early evening is a good time to see the Painted Hills.  As with any landscape location, weather is a big variable.

Prineville or John Day are the best places to find a motel--there are a couple decent choices in each town.  The Painted Hills area is one unit of the John Day Fossil Beds Nat'l Monument--on their website there are links for lodging.

There is lots to see along US 26 and/or within a very short drive away from the highway.  Mount Hood is right along the way and you could drive up to Timberline Lodge for a close look.  A short drive down US 97 to Terrebonne will take you to Smith Rock State Park which is definitely worth a visit.  North of Mitchell is the town of Condon with open wheat fields and dramatic views of wind turbines (which I think are pretty cool photo subjects).  To the south is Juniper Hills, a conservation area owned by the Nature Conservancy which is very similar to Painted Hills in appearance.  As you go further east, a detour through the old gold mining country west of Baker City can be interesting but this is probably not the best time of year for that.
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John DeMott
2jbourret
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« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2011, 05:38:06 PM »
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Thanks John. Looks like Mitchell would be our best bet for an overnight stay.  Are there any restrictions on entry hours at the site?
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jdemott
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« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2011, 06:25:11 PM »
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The website for the Nat'l Monument says it is open during daylight.  The last time I was there (several years ago), I know I stayed until well after dark because I was waiting for moonrise, and there were other visitors there also without any problem.  I don't recall any sort of gate or barrier at the entrance.  Have a good trip!
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John DeMott
riwong
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« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2011, 06:26:53 AM »
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You can visit the park at any hour.  we were there before sunrise and left around midnight the last time I visted.
depending how long winter last this year you might catch the wildflowers blooming on the hills which last for only a week or so.
I was there in May and caught them right as the were peaking. http://riwong.smugmug.com/Travel-Journal/Painted-Hills/12299384_mbxGx#876906151_6kSwo
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2jbourret
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« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2011, 01:46:14 PM »
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Thanks to you both for the info, much appreciated. Beautiful image, BTW.
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bobtowery
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« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2011, 10:34:43 AM »
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It's really worth a trip. I went there one evening. Was setting up to be a great sunset but clouds moved in and it fizzled. Still, a great place to appreciate forms, textures and colors. It was raining slightly while I was there so I was treated to nature's own saturation!

The Oregon Hotel is the only place to stay in Mitchell. It's small. Really just an old house converted to a "rooming house." Reserve early! Eastern Oregon is really a pleasure to drive and view.
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alanb
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« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2011, 12:01:36 PM »
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There is a B & B  much closer to the Painted hills than the towns.  It is Land's End 5 miles from Hwy. 19, North of the visitors center.  Phone is 541.934.2333.  It would save lots of driving.  I have never stayed there so I can't recommend it except it's close proximity.  The Painted Hills are fantastic and you must not miss Blue Basin trail near the visitor center.  (
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Sheldon N
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« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2011, 12:35:14 PM »
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A couple other thoughts...

You can go down into the area below the hills, which is fenced off. I've had a ranger give permission before, with the caveats to stay completely off any of the features and to be considerate of others photographing from above. You might double check with the ranger when you're there to make sure, but consider that as an option. Secondly, the hills are much more colorful and saturated when wet, but the clay in the basin turns into absolute gluey muck. Be prepared with a second set of shoes or boots.

Here's a couple more pics for you.










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2jbourret
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« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2011, 09:54:52 PM »
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Thanks to all for the great suggestions and images. I'm looking forward to this trip!
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