One of the many jewels of Oregon, the Painted Hills is a masterpiece of nature. The colors that run through the rock formations often seem out of this world as you tour the park. The contrasting colors represent different periods of paleo environments. Yellows indicate cooler arid era, while reds indicate warmer, wet, sometimes swampy environments.
Over a period of millions of years this area has seen environmental changes from dessert to swamps. Some of these changes were caused by volcanic activity. This volcanic activity helped encapsulate some of these fossils and create more accurate dating. The environmental variances caused a wide variety of plants and animals to both thrive and dwindle to extinction over the years. I strongly recommend a stop at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center to learn more. The center hosts a large collection of fossils dating back 50 million years, informative exhibits, ranger hosted talks, and science laboratories. You can actually watch paleontologists work on fossils from a large viewing window in the lobby. We enjoyed a ranger talk during our visit and had the opportunity to handle some of the fossils.
Stop at the visitors center near the park’s entrance and pick up a map before you enter the park. You will find several hikes off the main road. The hikes are all relatively short with little elevation gain. Many of them make a loop. If you are not up for walking, have no fear many of these beautiful rock formations can be seen from the road. It can easily be a driving tour.
This a park you will not want to skip. The colors in the hills are so vibrant it doesn’t feel real as you tour the park. The thing I loved most about this park is how quite and remote it is. We visited on a Saturday morning and still found places to sit and enjoy the pure silence that only very remote locales can provide. Do remember to be respectful during your visit and stay on the designated path, the ecosystem is delicate.
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The weather is HOT in the summer. We got up at dawn and headed out to the park. We reached it about 7:30am and temperatures were already pushing 80 degrees. There isn’t any access to water out here. I strongly recommend bringing water with you.
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