Looking over the main section of the Painted Hills from the viewpoint.

Seven Wonders: Painted Hills

Painted Hills is the fourth in a series of posts on Cascadian Abroad focusing on the Seven Wonders of Oregon.

When most people picture Oregon, they see green fir trees, maybe snow-capped mountains or the Pacific Ocean. But 45 percent of the state is classified as desert and it is here where some of the most unique terrain in the state can be found.

More than 200 miles east of Portland, the Painted Hills may be the most unique of all. Millions of years ago, the desert was covered by an ancient river that left a geological fairy tale behind in the rock and soil. Vibrant black, gray, red and gold soil layer the hills, colored by the prehistoric vegetation sediment from a time when the area was a hot and humid rainforest.

Located in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, the site is also important to archeologists. A bounty of fossils, the remains of early horses, camels and rhinoceroses, can still be found in the area.

Click any photo in the gallery to see a larger version and start a slideshow view

If You Go…

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
From Portland, take US-26 east Mitchell (approximately 225 miles).


  • Reply Amy September 5, 2016 at 12:06 am

    Beautiful spot. I’m, um, wondering why every place has exactly 7 wonders. Oregon, the world, the ancient world.

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