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“Breathtaking” 5 of 5 stars
Review of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
John Day, OR
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Ranked #1 of 5 Attractions in John Day
Type: National Parks, Cultural
Activities: Biking, Hiking
Attraction details
Versailles, France
Top Contributor
111 reviews 111 reviews
30 attraction reviews
Reviews in 53 cities Reviews in 53 cities
94 helpful votes 94 helpful votes
“Breathtaking”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 10, 2010

Another reviewer has described the three units. Lack of time meant that I only visited the Clarno and Painted Hills units. Oh wow. Mid-September on a Wednesday, almost no one else there, an unforgettable experience. Clarno: majestic with desert smells and sounds. Painted Hills: incredibly beautiful landscape. Just sit on the bench and take it all in. Fantastic.

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151 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
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  • Any
English first
coralville
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“a different place out of no where”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 12, 2010

The john day fossil bed national monument is not in one place. its 3 parts and is in 3 diffrent places. they are more than an hour away from each other.
there are trails in the blue basin( sheep rock unit), palisades, painted hills. the trails are easy to walk. nice place to explore over the weekend.

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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Alabama
Top Contributor
106 reviews 106 reviews
12 attraction reviews
Reviews in 57 cities Reviews in 57 cities
65 helpful votes 65 helpful votes
“very interesting and well run”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 25, 2010

Interesting place. The museum is excellent and it was interesting to look at the paleontology lab. We didn't have a lot of time and I'd like to go back

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Oregon Coast
Top Contributor
795 reviews 795 reviews
286 attraction reviews
Reviews in 218 cities Reviews in 218 cities
2,073 helpful votes 2,073 helpful votes
“Well worth seeing: Painted Hills & Sheep Rock”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 26, 2010

John Day Fossil Bed National Monument consists of three separate sections, called "units". These are the Painted Hills, Sheep Rock and Clarno Units. We visited Painted Hills and Sheep Rock.

Painted Hills: Truly unique! There is a paved road that goes about 6 miles off the main Hwy 26 and leads to a picnic area and restrooms. From there the road is graded gravel for about another mile or so. It is suitable for smaller RVs. There is parking at the top and an easy trail (which used to be a road many years ago) follows the ridgeline slightly uphill to provide a great overview.

The hills are just splashed with colors -- red, pink, tan, yellowish, near-black -- all in "stripes". The colors are caused by various minerals weathering over the eons - pick up a free brochure and it explains it in much more detail. The view is very impressive.

Drive a little farther on to the Painted Cove Trail. This is a much smaller area where you can get right up close to the hills. There is a boardwalk suitable for wheelchairs that goes part way around, then the easy trail continues for a total of about 1/4 mile. In this area, the small hills are bright red.

As you drive in and out of the Painted Hills, you'll see hundreds of acres of rich bottomland farming, mostly alfalfa fields. Some of these farms and ranches have been in the same families for 150 years
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Sheep Rock: This is where the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center is... but don't let that dry-sounding title deter you from visiting!

The visitor center is very interesting, even for children. There are several rooms with hundreds of items on display and beautiful, colorful wall size murals depicting all sorts of extinct animals. You are given a notebook to read as you go along, which provides more information about the displays. There is also a short movie.

Outside, there are dramatic rock formations and trails to walk along for nice views. The trails vary from short and easy to a more strenuous 3 mile overlook trail. The pretty John Day river winds through this area.

Just a short distance down the road is the James Cant Ranch, a restored 1917 ranch house that houses cultural and historical displays.
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Although quite different, both these units are well worth visiting. Allow enough time to see them both!

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Rocky Mountains
Senior Contributor
41 reviews 41 reviews
Reviews in 33 cities Reviews in 33 cities
47 helpful votes 47 helpful votes
“A refuge for the independent traveler, while exploring this area”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 29, 2010

I love the landscape between John Day, Fossil and Mitchell. It is truly a "Journey through time", and the Visitor's Center of the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument is excellent. The area is not for everyone - this is not a place of action and entertainment. For the purpose of appreciating the solitude of this vast landscape, and if someone is an independent traveler who would like to stay in the area for a few days, I recommend "www.paintedhillsvacations.com" as a base. These are two cottages in Mitchell, and while Mitchell is a hamlet that does not look like much upon arrival, the cottages of "painted hills vacations" are truly a safe little refuge, surrounded by a beautiful garden.

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