The John Day Fossil Beds, Part 1: The Painted Hills

The John Day Fossil Beds are three separate areas in central Oregon managed by the National Park Service. Where there are fossils, there are usually interesting rocks and with that, I headed towards the Painted Hills Unit. The area was formed by ancient deposits of ash and pumice from the erupting Cascade volcanoes and each color shows a different predominant mineral: red shows the presence of oxidized iron, yellow the oxidized magnesium and iron, and the black manganese. These deposits over the years have been chemically altered into porous clay and then subject to geological lift and erosion from rain, distorting the layers.

I started at the Painted Hills Overlook and took the short trail to get closer to some of the main formations:

The Painted Hills from the overlook, John Day Fossil Beds , Oregon

The Painted Hills from the overlook, John Day Fossil Beds , Oregon

Painted Hills from Overlook Trail, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon

Painted Hills from Overlook Trail, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon

Layers of the Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon

Layers of the Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon

I then travelled the Painted Cove Trail around smaller reddish hills that gave a closeup view of the cracked clay surface of the hills and took the short Leaf Hill Trail that highlighted the location of large fossil deposits.

Close view of painted hills from boardwalk of Painted Cove Trail, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon

Close view of painted hills from boardwalk of Painted Cove Trail, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon

Finally, I hiked the Carroll Rim Trail about an hour before sunset to catch a view of the whole area from above.

The Painted Hills from the Carroll Rim Trail, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon

The Painted Hills from the Carroll Rim Trail, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon

Painted Hills, Carroll Rim Trail, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon

Painted Hills, Carroll Rim Trail, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon

Painted Hills from afar, Carroll Rim Trail, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon

Painted Hills from afar, Carroll Rim Trail, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon

Sunset over the back side of the Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon

Sunset over the back side of the Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon