9 Suggestions for Visiting the Painted Hills With Your Dog – PETSHORT


Painted Hills is a component of the the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and dogs are allowed.

There are 3 land units that make up the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and the Painted Hills Unit is one in all them (Clarno and Sheep Rock are the others).

It’s probably the most notable of the three and possibly probably the most visited… for good reason! Landscape could be very unique and exquisite.

Before you hop within the automobile and head to those colourful hills though, there are a couple of things you must know.

About Painted Hills Oregon

Where is Painted Hills Positioned?

Painted Hills, a part of the John Day National Monument, is positioned in North Central Oregon, USA, within the high desert.

It’s roughly 4 hours east-southest of Portland Oregon.

The closest towns to Painted Hills are:

  • Mitchel – 11 miles east; only a few services
  • Fossil – 52 miles north; small town
  • Prineville – 51 miles south west (over a mountain pass); larger town
  • John Day – 80 miles east; largest town

How Are Dogs Allowed At Painted Hills Oregon?

Many individuals are confused about dogs being welcome because Painted Hills is inside a National monument.

While dogs are allowed to enter National Parks, they are usually not allowed on trails as a general rule. So how can they be allowed on trails at Painted Hills?

Note: simply because they’re restricted to roadways and developed areas like parking lots doesn’t mean you possibly can’t enjoy a National Park along with your dog though.

The John Day Fossil Beds are designated as a National MONUMENT, not a National PARK, so the foundations are different.

The foundations vary amongst National Monuments – with some allowing dogs and a few not – but they ARE allowed on the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (which the Painted Hills is part of).

How Were the Painted Hills Created?

For Geology nerds like me who’re curious, you possibly can dig deeper into how the Painted Hills were formed here.

For most individuals though, this explanation with suffice:

The Painted Hills are made up of banded clays from a series of volcanic ash eruptions that formed the Cascades (mountain range) through the Oligocene epoch roughly 32 to 35 million years ago.

9 Tricks to Make Visiting Painted Hills With Your Dog More Enjoyable

When you realize what to anticipate and might plan ahead, your visit to anywhere might be more enjoyable.

Listed below are my best suggestions for visiting the Painted Hills.

1) The Famous Instagram Photo Location

In the event you’re like a number of people as of late, you discover your travel inspiration on Instagram.

If it’s the photos of cute dogs on a boardwalk with rolling red hills within the back that first grabbed your attention, and you wish to head out to Painted Hills to duplicate this, you will have to know something vital.

Almost the entire Instagram photos of dogs I see are taken on the seame place (the one described above) and are tagged because the “Painted Hills Overlook”.

BUT you won’t find that scenery on the overlook.

While the overlook is photo-worthy in it’s own right, you wish to head down the road a but further to see the famed boardwalk.

The boardwalk with the red mounds within the background is along the Painted Cove trail.

2) When is the Best Time to Visit the Painted Hills?

For my part, the most effective time to go to the Painted Hills is within the spring or fall. Specifically, early spring and late fall.

I hear that the wildflowers come out in April and May so which will persuade me to return later within the spring though.

In the event you visit in the summertime, the temperatures may to be too hot on your dog (it might reach 100F/43C) to get out of the automobile.

Summer can be probably the most crowded time on the Monument so finding a parking spot could possibly be hard and your entire photos will likely produce other people in them.

In the event you visit within the winter, you could possibly find the colourful hills buried under feet of snow.

The shoulder seasons might be sufficiently cool and you’ll encounter less people and dogs.

3) When Is the Best Lighting for Photos?

Most photographers agree that sunrise – and the hour after – and sunset – starting an hour prior when the sunshine turns golden – are the most effective time to take photos.

After I visited Painted Hills, I personally thought that sunrise was the higher time, based on the angle I desired to take pictures and the direction the hills were facing.

Other times which are great for photos are:

  • On cloudy days when the sunshine is softer (I wish to call clouds nature’s soft box)
  • Just after rain when the saturated soil of the hills produce more vivid colours

4) Preserve the Monument for Others

You’ll be able to reach out and touch these soft clay mounds from some trails but please don’t.

Also be certain your dog stays on the trail (especially the boardwalk section of the Painted Cove Trail).

These mounds took hundreds of years to form and are very fragile.

While we were there, we saw dog footprints within the mud and someone had carved a stick figure right into a mound right off the trail.

It’s idea to follow Leave No Trace Principles for Dogs any time you might be visiting natural places.

5) The Painted Hills Unit is Not That Big

The Painted Hills Unit is small and might easily be seen in a day. There are MANY photo opportunities packed right into a small place though.

Trails you possibly can explore along with your dog are:

  • Painted Hills Overlook Trail (0.5 miles)
  • Caroll Rim Trail (1.6 miles miles)
  • Painted Cove Trail (0.25 miles)
  • Leaf Hill Trail (0.25 miles)

You can even stop along the road, where there may be room to drag over without impeding traffic, and luxuriate in the scenery from there.

6) You Can’t Post to IG O Call Your Mom From There

I even have Verizon, which has pretty good coverage on distant places. There was no cell reception at Painted Hills.

I couldn’t even get any within the nearby “town” of Mitchell.

I drove an hour to Prineville so I could text a friend who was trying to satisfy up with me.

If you’ve a satellite messenger for mountaineering, I’d bring that in case you must get ahold of somebody in an emergency.

7) Where to Eat, Sleep and Refuel

In the event you are making Painted Hills an overnight stop, there are places to camp nearby.

Painted Hills Oregon Camping:

A lot of the places to camp near Painted Hills are positioned on BLM land, are accessible only by dirt road, need to amenities (except the occasional vault toilet), are free, allow dogs, and are first-come-first-served.

These campgrounds include:

  • Priest Hole Recreation Site
  • Burnt Ranch and Lower Burnt Ranch Campgrounds
  • Hidden Springs Campground
  • Service Creek Campground (sites are walk-in only)
  • Barnhouse Campground (USFS)
  • Ochoco Divide Campground (USFS – there may be a fee for this one)

While these sites are technically open all-year, please check road conditions before you go. Some are inaccessible in winter resulting from snow.

There may be one nearby campground with RV hookups – the Mitchell City Park Campground – but, from the looks of it, there isn’t any privacy and parts of it are mainly a car parking zone.

This campground does charge a fee. Check ahead to ensure it’s open should you’re traveling in winter.

Hotels Near Painted Hills Oregon

If camping isn’t your thing, there are hotels is in Prineville, 50 miles to the south, and John Day 80 miles east.

There also seem like a pair AirBnB rentals available in Mitchell.

Where to Eat near Painted Hills Oregon

There are, after all, restaurants and grocery stores in John Day and Prineville.

Mitchell is the closest town, should you can call it that. Tiger Town Brewing Co and Bridge Creek Cafe there serve food.

The brewing company looked extremely popular. I’ll definitely be eating there if I’m going back.

8) Fuel Up Well Before Painted Hills

Mitchell looks to have one gas pump on the feed store. It looks like the type which will or may not have gas, depending on the season.

You 100% should fill your gas tank as you go through Prineville, Fossil, or John Day on the best way there.

And return for gas once you only have a 100 mile range left in your tank… because it’s possible you’ll need most of that to get back to a gas station.

9) Resolve Ahead of Time If Painted Hills Will Be Destination vs. Pit Stop

Being within the North Central Oregon desert, there isn’t the rest of note near Painted Hills. Not that I’m aware of anyway (I’ll look harder next time).

The opposite units of the Monument are 1‑3 hours away.

I suggest either making Painted Hills a pit stop on the approach to some other place, although you’ll likely need to extend your path to pass by this out‑of‑the‑way place, or stay nearby and take several days to explore all 3 units.

The opposite two units within the Monument – The Clarno Unit and Sheep Rock Unit – are price exploring but do remember they’re a big distance away from one another.


The Painted Hills is price seeing at the very least once in your lifetime. The views rival those of National Parks BUT dogs are allowed on trails here.

You’ll be able to see the most effective parts of the Painted Hills Unit in a couple of hours or you possibly can spend several days exploring and taking photos in numerous lighting conditions.

You can even make a multi‑day vacation out of visiting the opposite two units and exploring nearby areas (the John Day river, at 284 miles long, is the 4th longest free‑flowing river within the contiguous United States).


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