Directions: Take Highway 26 East through Prineville. Take a left on Burnt Ranch Road (there will be signs here marking John Day Fossil Bed- Painted Hills). Follow Burnt Ranch Road for about 6 miles, then take another left onto Bear Creek Rd and follow the road into the park.
When you first enter the Painted Hills area you can go left and get to a picnic area with a gift shop and bathrooms. Keep going straight to enter the Painted Hills Unit.
You’re first hike options are Carroll Rim and Painted Hills Overlook. Carroll Rim is a 1.5 mile out-and-back trail that gives you great views of all the Painted Hills. It’s a moderate climb on a well maintained trail. The Overlook trail takes you past an information area and ends at an overlook of the hills. There are benches on both trails and you can’t beat the views!
Continue driving and you will come to Painted Cove. The trail here is a boardwalk that takes you in a loop around smaller, very red hills. There are informational signs all around the trail and you get really good close up views of the colors.
A little farther down the road you will come to Leaf Hill and Red Scar Knoll, these are the last areas that area open to the public. Leaf hill is a short loop that takes you to views of golden hills off in the distance. Red Scar Knoll is an out-and-back trail that takes you up close to the knoll that’s a deep red with burnt orange and yellow. Watch for cacti near the knoll!
There are lots of vocal birds throughout the area and we saw plenty of deer tracks. You could spend hours here, this place is packed full of great things to see. So make sure to plan plenty of time for exploring!
Distance: 3.5 miles
Elevation gain: Overlook Trail: 150 feet, Carroll Rim Trail: 450 feet, all other trails minimal elevation gain.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate depends on which trail.
Pet friendly: Yes and they really enforce the leash requirement.
Good For: All ages
Bathrooms: Yes at the picnic area.
Parking Fee: None
Overall: We love this place- it’s so unique!