The Painted Hills are one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon and this was one of the stops we were most excited for. From the photographs we had seen, we were sure it would be impressive, and it sure was. Standing there, it really felt like Mother Nature had outdone itself with what looked like an airbrushed painting, but was completely natural from years of various minerals weathering over the ‘hills’. Entombed in the natural hills are well-preserved plant and animal fossil records which span more than 40 of the 65 million years of the Cenozoic Era.
We wish we had more time to explore — there are hiking trails around the Painted Hills that would get you up even closer and give views from different vantage points. The hills are just splashed with gorgeous, gorgeous colours — red, pink, tan, yellowish, near-black — all in what look like “stripes”. The colours are created by the erosion over time.
An interesting stop was the Painted Cove Trail. It features a boardwalk before an easy hike (about 1/4 mile total) and the boardwalk allows you to get up close to some colourful mounds.
Initially we drove past the Painted Hills Unit, and we ended up at the Thomas Condon Palaeontology Centre. We didn’t have high hopes for the free visit, but we walked in anyway and were quite impressed. Huge murals depicted all kinds of extinct animals and had hundreds of items of remains of the ancient flora and fauna on display. There’s also the option to watch a short movie. Outside the Centre there are gorgeous dramatic rock formations and the John Day river winds through the area.
Before this trip, we had never ventured outside of Portland. And after seeing all we did on this trip, we wonder why. Portland is full of adventure and we can’t wait to go back and see more. There’s more to Oregon than Portland’s food scene, Voodoo Donuts and Powell’s Books. Get out there and see for yourself.
Have you ever been to the Painted Hills? What were your thoughts? What are your favourite Oregon sights?